Anglia Ruskin University
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This is our body: Pioneer ministry in the Methodist Church

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posted on 2023-08-30, 18:49 authored by Hannah Bucke
This thesis is focused on the experiences and conceptualisations of pioneer presbyters working in the Methodist Church of Great Britain (MCGB). The MCGB has, throughout its history, sought to reach out to those beyond existing church communities. In recent years it has experimented with new forms of community and ministry through the Fresh Expressions initiative in 2004, the Venture FX pioneer scheme in 2008, and now Methodist Pioneering Pathways. Such initiatives seek to provide a framework for lay and ordained people to connect with those the church is not currently reaching. The MCGB conducted a review of the Venture FX scheme in 2011, however there has been no dedicated research into the experiences and conceptualisations of presbyters -those ordained to a ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral oversight -who express their ministry primarily in pioneering contexts. I wanted to discover how pioneer presbyters understand their ministry in relation to these charisms and explore their experience of exercising an unusual form of ministry. I devised the following question in order to frame my research: What are the experiences and conceptualisations of pioneer presbyters and what are the implications of these for the life and mission of the MCGB? Appropriate to the discipline of practical theology and to the meaning-making focus of the research question, I have adopted an inductive, social constructivist approach and used qualitative methods, conducting semi-structured interviews with four pioneer presbyters. Alongside this data I have included data from my own experiences as a pioneer presbyter. The data revealed the importance of the body in ministering word and sacrament, and the significance of identity and vocation, both as presbyter and pioneer. However the most significant finding was the ambivalent relationship between pioneer presbyters and the MCGB, and the sometimes painful experiences of pioneer presbyters in relation to church structures and processes. The research challenges the way in which the MCGB supports its pioneer presbyters. It also raises questions about the connectedness of pioneers to the church and the quality of relationships within the MCGB, ultimately with consequences for our missional endeavours.



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