Council was a difficult affair. This ought not to be a surprise given the outcome means some people will loose their jobs; no one should delight in pain. It was also difficult to see where the future might be and where agreement lay.
After some disquiet and soul searching Council agreed to the main elements of the futures proposals. First, to create Association Partnerships for the regional distribution of Home Mission money. Second, to change the structure of the Central Resource so in place of the current departments there are three key teams (Church and Society, Ministry and Support Services). Third, to work to develop an integrated leadership team (though most of the details were not agreed).
Leaving aside my belief that Association Partnerships are an unnecessary waste of resources and that we are not planning a robust enough reduction in expenditure, how are we to understand this? I think there are three options:
1. It is an abject failure of vision by BUGB Council. The opportunity to radically reshape our collaborative life to prioritise mission, encourage entrepreneurial pioneers and release life has been sunk by the shackles of institutional inertia, critically compromised by the politics of power and drowned in detail by navigational neglect.
2. People’s cry for cultural change and a missional movement is heard and that the changes Council agreed to are the things necessary to sweep away the barriers and move to a more flexible future; this week being the first step on a journey not a destination. It will take time to see the new emerge but there is now no going back
3. Council doesn’t really understand what it is doing, but knows significant money needs to be saved and errs towards the decisions which reduce its anxiety by agreeing to proposals put before it without agreeing or owning the implications.
I think there is truth in all three. Personally I’m in the disappointed camp and feel that if we have started to alter the foundations it is like clearing a river blockage enough to allow water to trickle through. I think the lessons of our recent (20yrs) history is that we can write a good report, talk a good talk, but then fail to agree or implement most of the changes before adding to our excellent library resources. Thereby condemning us to repeating the exercise again in a few years time. The one ray of hope lies in the creation of a national leadership team because it gives a chance for a new pattern to emerge.
No doubt the BUGB website will soon carry a report about how Council worked hard with difficult issues, discerned what God was saying and helped to move us forward; and that with the support of Churches, in particular generous giving to Home Mission, we will continue to keep mission at the heart of what we do. This may well be true and the few people on Council I've spoken with since we finished are more positive than I am. But, if it is, the future is arriving faster than our ability to adapt to it!