Saturday, 21 May 2011

Church to spend thousands on Medieval mumbo-jumbo case

The British Methodist Church, which is always claiming to be facing serious financial difficulties, is about to launch an expensive legal case, the sort that will cost someone in the region of £250,000 to prove that Methodist Ministers are "office holders" rather than employees.

Rather strangely they have issued a press release boasting about this legal extravagance.

It arises out of a case in Cornwall earlier this year when a judge ruled that "all the indications point one way" that a Minister is an emplyee and remitted the case to an employment tribunal.

The Methodist high command appear to be terrified of an employment tribunal (which they should be, because believe me, throw up all sorts of things) and are taking the case to the Court of Appeal. I gather that the "office holder/employee" in this case has the backing of Unite, her Union, and from my experience they can have very deep pockets. If the Church looses the case they may have to pay costs, which will be very expensive.

If anyone at Church House had picked up the phone and asked me I would have told them to settle the case for about £30,000 and to get a confidentiality clause. "Compromise agreements" are wonderful legal inventions and avoid so much unnecessary hassle. I know that other denominations have expressed concern about the ruling, but let the Anglicans take it up, they have far more money than us.

Ken Howcroft, assistant secretary to conference (normally I note on the side of the angels) is quoted as saying  "A minister’s role is one which is traditionally based on the ethos and laws of the Church rather than on a secular ethos. Our ministers have legal rights of redress under Church procedures. The Methodist Church cares for all who serve it, whether lay or ordained, paid or volunteer, and we want to ensure that we treat everyone fairly and properly.”

Well as some one who has seen the church's procedures up front and personal, I just don't accept that an aggrieved party has any realistic rights of redress. Seeing a thoroughly decent Minister trashed, opens your eyes to the favouritism and sheer vindictiveness that  are apparent in our processes.

In a secular situation the victim I know could have sued an emplyer for a considerable settlement. Thankfully for the Church, the victim is a thoroughly decent person who has put the reputation of the Methodist Church before......sorry I can't go on. I get so angry about it and can't stand to even be in the same room with those who vacated their duty of care to a really good person and then stand up at Conference and talk about "justice" as one did last year.

The sooner we forget all this mumbo jumbo about office holders employed by God, the better. Then we will all know where we stand. We shouldn't spend another penny on this case. 


Robert said...

I think it would be a very good thing for the church - which is, of course, the people, not the structure or the hierarchy - if they lose the case. I don't know why they have to waste so much money just so that they can go on abusing people.

Rev Tony B said...

Our reinvitation process stinks. I have been told so many times that the interests of all are taken into account, including the needs of the family - what utter rot. I know of cases where children have been uprooted from schools where they were doing well, at key stages of their education, because of political machinations within the circuit meeting. I also know of a past President who advised the ministers in his District to join a union because he had seen ministers sacrificed on the altar of expediency. 'Office holder' means little - a Baptist colleague has recently been made redundant by his church because they can no longer afford to pay him. If he had a contract of employment he'd be entitled to redundancy. As an office holder, he gets nothing. As things stand, he'd be homeless and jobless now if it weren't that he can try to find work as a teacher. At least our system with all of its faults isn't as bad as that.

There is a case involving a Pentecostal pastor which has just run through the courts, in which he has been defined legally as employed by his church. There isn't the slightest difference between his relationship to his church and a Methodist minister's to the Connexion. We are employed in everything but name. The sooner the Conference wakes up to that, and gives it the proper attention it deserves, the better.

PamBG said...

I agree that ministers should be treated as employees. It's not just lay people who get hurt by the current system.

Ian G said...

Of course, if such an employee could be shown to have deserted her post for weeks on end, abused her powers, the lay workers and other colleagues, mismanaged the finances and repairs of the church, set people against each other etc. etc. (not you PamBG) such a person could have been sacked instead of becoming a Bishop. Obviously not in Britsh Methodism - entirely - and purely hypothetical.....

It cuts both ways.

Rev Tony B said...

There are complaints processes for such eventualities, Ian. If one of my staff behaved as you suggest, I would expect disciplinary processes to result in at least a curtailment if not resignation under charges.

We might not be employees, but there are certain obligations inherent in the position.