IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE 2002 GATHERING OF SICM MEMBERS DECIDED THAT AS WELL AS THE WITNESS LETTERS REQUIRED BELOW ALL APPLICANTS WILL BE REQUIRED TO PRODUCE A FULL POLICE CHECK
1. The society was founded at the rising of the sun on the first day of January in the year 2000 by Revd Jonathan Blake and the Rt Revd Richard Palmer. The founders have a lifelong role in guiding and directing the society as well as acting as spokespersons for the society. The Lord’s prayer is the founding prayer. Once an organisation has begun it is so easy for it to lose its vision. People begin to read into the words and the intentions of the founders things that were not there, even things that seem entirely contradictory to the initial hope and dream. Bishop Richard and Jonathan hope in their lifetime to be able to guide the society and to protect it from such contamination. However their hope and prayer remains that should the focus of complete openness and total unconditional love be ever lost, that another reforming movement will begin to ensure that the love of Jesus remains accessible to everyone always.
2. Membership of the society is open to anyone (The word 'anyone' is all inclusive. No person is excluded for any reason whatsoever. ) who;
- is willing to say: ` I will love the Lord my God, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength and I will love my neighbour as I love myself. ` - has been ordained and/or authorised for ministry, within the society (as explained further on). is committed to offering Christian love to all.
Christian love is unconditional love. The beauty of the Christian story is that there is nothing we can do to stop God loving us. Absolute peace, love and joy can never be attained if some are abandoned excluded or destroyed.
Jesus encouraged us not to judge or condemn, not to try to take the speck out of another`s eye, rather the mighty beam out of our own, not to try to play `God ` in our lives. We seem to find it so hard to heed those words.
The institutional churches have developed complicated systems of selection for sifting candidates for ordination. They often involve strangers making subjective assessments concerning people’s lives and their suitability for ministry.
I wonder how God feels when he calls a person to minister as a priest only to find that they are rejected by the church. Despite the best of intentions the selection process is vulnerable to mistakes and misunderstandings, to vested interests and prejudice, to likes and dislikes and to so many other human frailties that it is incapable of fulfilling what it sets out to do.
Founding principle 2 takes the bold position of accepting any one who believes that God has called them to ministry, who believes in the Great Commandment and who is willing to offer Christian love to all. We leave the selection process to God. We do not judge. The door to the society is made of unconditional love, it is wide open. There are no if`s or but`s. Let all those in the future know and understand that there are NO BUTS.
If we have to be specific let it be clear that the society welcomes all. Women and men, black and white, all shades from every continent country and culture, every social group, gay straight and transsexual, young or old, the `upright` and ex prisoners, traditional and alternative and because this list is not comprehensive all and every sub division and classification that there could possibly be, all are welcome if they can except the founding principles.
This does not provide licence for everything and anything, nor does it, condone anything or everything. It should be understood that Founding Principle 6 makes it clear that members have a responsibility in love for each other as well as for everyone and everything else. The atmosphere of the society is open and honest. The witness letters provide ground for confidence in the suitability of a person presenting themselves for ordination. No denomination ,we think, requires so many.
In addition, if any information comes to light about a person which has a bearing upon their request for ordination this will be discussed with them, their witnesses and the members of the society. It is in this environment of truth that people will undertake their journey to ordination.
If a person affirms their belief in loving God and loving other people as her/himself and if they declare their intention to offer Christian love to everyone, then as a Christian they are answerable to God. God the Holy Spirit then undertakes the process of sanctification that each and every one of us requires. A christian can never be satisfied if their behaviour is an offence to God and to society.
All who present themselves for ordination are sinners. All are reliant on God’s grace for forgiveness and for the call to ministry. All are on a journey to become better more holy more loving people.
3. The society will not vote or make pronouncements on issues of Christian doctrine or dogma or practice or ethics. The society must not become sectarian, nor must it reflect any particular approach to Christianity. The society provides the opportunity for those offering independent Christian ministry to meet and offer Christian love, support, friendship and advice to one another, as well as providing an ongoing network of support. Such support is intended to enable the members to go out and minister independently in a more effective way and to offer Christian love to all. This does not mean that the members of the society do not have strong views. Each member may well be passionate about their particular understanding of the Christian faith and the ministry that flows from it. However it is not the place of the society to find common ground or to make common pronouncements on any of the issues listed above.
Our gatherings do not include debates or discussions about dogma or doctrine or ethics etc. We meet with the clear intention of maintaining a personal focus on God, being willing to speak about our ministry and being willing to listen to others speak about their ministry.
There is no place for comment or judgement or censure. We meet as fellow pilgrims on the road of unconditional love. It is our calling to nourish and resource one another so that our understanding of and ability to offer unconditional love is enhanced.
Perhaps every Christian organisation in the past has suffered from the bickering and division that comes about when a group of people begin to argue over words.
The society will not make that same mistake. We are not here to argue, only to love as Jesus loved ,for in that love is life.
4. The society welcomes the leaders and members of any Christian denomination and movement, either as members of the society or as associate members (as explained further on).
The society is not a threat to any other Christian denomination or group. It is a marvellous resource for the wider church. Any person can still belong to their own Christian tradition yet be a part of the society. The society has no walls, no boundaries, no barriers.
5. The members are not obliged to obey the founders, the society, the other members or associate members.
It is important for us to obey God.
In the past when priests and ministers have been required to offer obedience to those in authority within their church, it has often been used as a means of control. The society believes that each priest and minister must have the freedom to express their ministry in the manner that is true to their heart and their calling.
Obedience can corrupt the one requiring it and the one offering it. The society does not want this to happen.
6. Members of the society remain ` independent `. The members of the society bear a spiritual and moral responsibility for each other and for all people and all of Gods creation, arising out of their calling to express Christian love in their ministry and lives, but the society will not exercise any judicial or disciplinary role in relation to its members. Each member is accountable to God, to their conscience, to the law, and to the public. Their ministry will succeed or fail according to its fruits.
It is important to understand the radical and creative approach the society is taking towards the testing of those ordained. The society does not believe in random ordination or in an irresponsible authorising of untrained or unsuitable people.
It does believe in trying to move away from systems that have developed in the other churches which have been shown to be ineffective and counterproductive.
Problems begin when people within the institution begin to try to monitor, supervise, censure or discipline its members. Often the people responsible for doing so are working to their own agendas and the approach is easily influenced by less desirable motives.
The true test of a priest or minister is the fruit they produce in their lives and their ministry. The people at the receiving end are in the best positions to comment.
In some church groups the authorities dislike a priest but the people love him/her, in others, a priest is in favour with the authorities but the people have no respect for him/her.
The integrity of a priest within the society is shown both by the way they act in regard to the other members and in the way they act to the world at large. If society finds them to be corrupt, that will soon be known to the advantage of all; equally, if their ministry flourishes, their ministerial status will have been affirmed by the true church of the people.
7. The society is part of the Christian church. It is not aligned with any one denomination or movement. It welcomes people from every Christian background and encourages them to minister in Christian love. It respects and encourages diversity. Membership does not imply agreement with the beliefs or practices of the founders, the other members or associate members.
It is very important for people to realise that they can be a part of the society and rub shoulders with other members in the society without it implying that they in any way agree with or condone the beliefs or practices of the other members.
In the same way that shopping in a supermarket or travelling on a bus or taking part in any other normal corporate activity does not imply you agree with the other shoppers or travellers etc
Peace begins to emerge when we learn the basic lesson that as we would want to be able to be ourselves so we must allow that same right and freedom to the next person. Nothing is lost by this and everything is gained. It is unconditional love in practice.
As a garden is full of different flowers, as a tapestry is full of different threads, as the world is full of different faces, so the church is full of different views and opinions.
Members of the society are as islands, intact in themselves but joined by a sea of love.
8. Those who have been ordained and/or authorised for ministry within the Christian church will be received into membership of the society and authorised for ministry through the society, at a gathering (as explained further on). They must be willing, by letter, to express their ability and intention to abide by the founding principles, and in the same letter confirm when and where they were ordained and/or authorised. Their ability to offer Christian love needs to be confirmed by any six witnesses who are over eighteen, chosen by the person concerned who are willing to submit letters of recommendation. If a person has difficulty in providing six witness letters, they should provide as many as they can, and not less than three. They can then try and make up the missing letters by meeting as many members of the society as they wish, to ask if any of them would be willing to submit a letter of recommendation for them. The person seeking membership of the society and authorisation for ministry through the society will provide an Enhanced Disclosure from the Criminal records Bureau. Anyone who can provide the above will be accepted. There will be no other requirements made of them nor questions asked of them. The letters will be available to be read by all the members.
9. Those seeking ordination and authorisation for ministry will be received into membership of the society and ordained and authorised for ministry through the society, if they;
- Are able to offer Christian love and believe they are called to minister.
A person’s ability to offer Christian love needs to be confirmed by any twelve witnesses who are over eighteen, chosen by the person concerned who are willing to submit letters of recommendation. If a person has difficulty in providing twelve witness letters, they should provide as many as they can, and not less than three.They can then try and make up the missing letters by meeting as many members of the society as they wish, to ask if any of them would be willing to submit a letter of recommendation for them. The person seeking ordination and authorisation for ministry through the society and membership of the society will provide an Enhanced Disclosure from the Criminal records Bureau. Anyone who is willing, by letter, to express their ability and intention to abide by the founding principles, and who in the same letter confirms that they feel called to minister and who can provide the letters of their twelve witnesses, will be accepted. There will be no other requirements made of them nor questions asked of them. The letters will be available to be read by all the members.
The society does not believe that it is possible for strangers or for people with whom you have had brief contact in the church to be able to make an assessment of you.
The process by which a person’s ability and willingness to show Christian love to others and in their lives is verified is by those nearest and dearest. In the case of those already authorised the requirement is six letters; in the case of those newly presenting themselves it is twelve letters.
The society believes that if there are twelve people in the community who are willing to stand by an applicant and testify by letter that the applicant is truly a Christian, then this is sufficient.
The principle of openness is throughout the operation of the society. All the files, the accounts, the meetings and the gatherings of the society are open to all. There is nothing to hide, nothing of which we are ashamed, everything of which we’re proud.
Even if and when there are difficulties, the same principle of openness applies. The fresh air of truth keeps the society in health.
10. The ordination and authorisation of new members will take place at a gathering. All the members of the community that are present will conduct it. The service of ordination and authorisation will involve a period of silence, within which those involved will recognise that they are being called by God to serve God and all people and all of God's creation, in Christian love. This will then be followed by all those present laying their hands on or towards each person being ordained and/or authorised and all those present saying the words,
` May N continue to receive and receive afresh, the Holy Spirit, for the work of a (members may suggest what description is appropriate for their ministry, such as priest, or pastor, or minister or pastoral carer etc,)… in your church, ` There will then be silence. There will be no other requirements made of them nor questions asked of them.
The process of ordination marks a radical new approach in the church while being faithful to the essential traditional elements within Christendom.
It is for each member to describe the manner by which they wish to be ordained, according to the tradition from which they come. Founding Principle 10 along with Founding Principle 11 allows the Society to provide either a simple form of ordination involving all members laying their hands upon the one to be ordained or to offer other forms of ordination.
This means the Society can invite a particular church or denominational body to come in and conduct the ordination.
For instance there have been members who wanted to be episcopally ordained within the apostolic tradition with the full rites of the One, Holy and Catholic Church. The Society then invited the Province for Open Episcopal Ministry and Jurisdiction to conduct an ordination service. Those ordained thus received the certificates of the Society and in addition Letters of Orders from the ordaining Bishop issued by the Province through the Society.
At any one gathering there may then be a number of different services of ordination, ensuring that the different christian traditions can be accomodated within the one Society.
11. There will be no other obligatory ingredients to the service, however, if other ingredients are included in the service, they can only be included, if every person involved in the service consents to them. Each person will be permitted to wear whatever clothes or robes they choose. Each person will receive a certificate of ordination and/or authorisation and membership of the society.
12. The society will have no fixed rites except for meeting together in silence followed by all members saying together the Lord's prayer, followed again by silence.
The society knows that the spirit moves where it wills and while it is the hope that we can gather together a resource book of manydifferent texts for worship there will never be an obligation to use them and there will always be a desire for spontaneity and innovation.
13. If any members at a gathering choose to worship together in addition to this, they must ensure that any words or symbols or acts used in worship, are acceptable to all those taking part in the service. This may result in there being a number of different acts of worship adopting different forms according to the preferences of those attending.
14. Once a person has been accepted as a member of the society they remain a member for life, unless the person concerned wishes to cease being a member. This is an expression of the Christian love and forgiveness, which remains, committed to a person eternally and which can never abandon any person, whatever their situation or predicament.
Christian groups in the past have often developed a strong sense of identity to which they have required new members to conform. Problems have arisen when they have resented or resisted this and the subsequent conflicts have often led to someone being ejected from the group or feeling they had to leave the group. Not so with the society.
There is no pressure to conform. Each person remains independent and is responsible for their ministry. Christian groups in the past have often encountered problems when one of the members has run into difficulty and they have been asked to leave to avoid embarrassment. Not so with the society.
The members are bound together by an unconditional love. Whatever happens in the future they will always enjoy the love, support and friendship of the society.
Even in difficulties and even if society should expose them for some misdemeanor, while the society will see this as the out working of founding principle six, it will be there to help restore and heal and enable the member in question to make sense of their circumstances and to discern the next step that God wishes them to take in their lives.
What is assured, is that they will never be abandoned or rejected by the society.
15, New members requiring training can be linked with existing experienced members as well as an agreeable and relevant training programme being set up for them.
Some church groups have an involved process of training prior to ordination. The society takes its responsibilities in terms of training very seriously. However it is also aware that much of what takes place in theological college can be seen as superfluous and irrelevant for ministry.
In trying to move back to basics and the experience of the first disciples, the society believes that the best training is conducted after ordination.
In fact many of the members are experienced in Christian ministry already having held positions of authority and ministry within their churches and having wide experience of life and people.
Those who are lacking in training in certain areas can select a `journey person` from among the members who will help and guide them over the first years and put them in touch with the people and places who will be able to provide the necessary training and experience. This may well involve a type of apprenticeship with an experienced priest or a correspondence course or whatever is deemed necessary.
However none of this is obligatory. The new member is in a position to choose what resources they wish to make use of in the society of how they wish to equip themselves for ministry.
It is our experience that no one sets out to do something unless they are confident in how to do it and there is such a wonderful array of experience within the society that nothing is lacking.
As such a new member has the best form of training which is theory and experience side by side as their ministry grows.
16. A gathering of the members will be called whenever need arises and at least once a year. The members of the society will try to attend at least one gathering a year.
17. The members at the first gathering will elect a Chair who will; - chair the gathering - arrange for the administration of the society - act as a spokesperson for the society - have executive authority to carry out any work arising from the gathering and in between gatherings. - Call the next gathering,
18. The chair will normally hold office for a minimum of three years, with there being no maximum. At the first gathering following every third year of the chair holding office, the chair must ask for nominations for the position of chair. The existing chair can be nominated as can any other member of the society. Any nomination must be seconded. If two members are nominated, there must be an election on the basis of one member one vote. If more than two members are nominated, there must be an election using a recognised and accepted form of proportional representation. The existing chair or any other member can be nominated in her or his absence if it is understood that he or she wishes to be nominated.
In the event of a tied vote; - if the previously elected chair has tied with another member, the chair will take precedence and continue in position. - If other members have tied, not including the previously elected chair, they will draw lots to find the one elected.
19. The chair is responsible for calling the next gathering, giving all members at least sixty days notice and preferably more than ninety days.
20. Significant items for discussion must be sent to the chair at least twenty-eight days before the gathering and the chair must circulate them to members at least fourteen days before a gathering.
The society does not expect there to be great amounts of business to be conducted at the formal meetings of the gathering, especially in the light of the earlier founding principles. The hope is to keep the society simple and streamlined, not to build an empire and to put all our resources towards enabling ministry.
21, Emergency gatherings can be called at the request of twelve members, giving all members at least seven days notice, and informing them of the reason for calling the gathering.
22. If the chair resigns or dies in office, then the secretary of the society (the election of the secretary is explained further on) is responsible for the calling of the next gathering and chairs the opening election for the position of the chair.
23. If the chair is unable to attend a gathering then the secretary will chair the gathering.
24. If the secretary does not wish to chair a gathering at which the chair is absent, then the secretary will ask for nominations to the position of the chair, for that gathering alone. Any nomination must be seconded. The election is conducted on a one-person one-vote basis, with the chair for that gathering alone being appointed on a simple majority. If the vote is tied they will draw lots to find the one elected.
25. At the first gathering, once the election for chair has been concluded, the members will elect a Treasurer.
26. The treasurer will normally hold office for a minimum of three years; with there being no maximum. At the first gathering following every third year of the treasurer holding office, the chair must ask for nominations for the position of treasurer. The existing treasurer can be nominated as can any other member of the society. Any nomination must be seconded. If two members are nominated, there must be an election on the basis of one member one vote. If more than two members are nominated, there must be an election using a recognised and accepted form of proportional representation The existing treasurer or any other member can be nominated in her or his absence if it is understood that he or she wishes to be nominated.
In the event of a tied vote; - If the previously elected treasurer has tied with another member, the treasurer will take precedence and continue in position. - If other members have tied, not including the previously elected treasurer, they will draw lots to find the one elected.
27. Any account shall require the signature of the chair and the treasurer and another named member of the society. Full details of the finances must be provided at every gathering and all accounts are open for inspection by any member on request.
28. At the first gathering, once the election for treasurer has been concluded, the members will elect a Secretary.
29. The secretary will normally hold office for a minimum of three years’ with there being no maximum. At the first gathering following every third year of the secretary holding office, the chair must ask for nominations for the position of secretary. The existing secretary can be nominated as can any other member of the gathering. Any nomination must be seconded. If two members are nominated, there must be an election on the basis of one member one vote. If more than two members are nominated, there must be an election using a recognised and accepted form of proportional representation. The existing secretary or any other member can be nominated in her or his absence if it is understood that he or she wishes to be nominated.
In the event of a tied vote: - If the previously elected secretary has tied with another member, the secretary will take precedence and continue in position. - If other members have tied, not including the previously elected secretary, they will draw lots to find the one elected.
30. All decisions of the gathering will be minuted by the secretary and will be made available to all members attending the next gathering at which the minutes must be amended if necessary and approved and kept for reference.
31. A gathering is quorate with any number attending, as long as members have been given the correct notice.
32. Emergency gatherings are quorate if more than 75% of the members are in attendance. Any proposal to alter the founding principles must be discussed at an ordinary gathering of members. First, the gathering must approve the proposal with a 75% majority. Then this vote must be followed by a postal vote concerning the proposal, involving every member, including the members who attended the gathering, with a 75% majority of the postal votes required to alter them.
Inevitably the great fear is that as the society grows the same problems that have arisen in other Christian groups will arise in the society.
People will want positions of power, elitism may creep in with regard to structures or status, moves to make the society more difficult to enter, various conditions being introduced for membership, empire building in terms of officers or personnel, policy statements and a general move away from the openness and unconditional love of the founding principles, all these are fears of what may happen in future.
Our hope and trust is that by having such a large voting majority required, and all of the membership involved by post, that the founding spirit can be protected over all the years to come.
34. Voting on all other issues and at all gatherings is by a 75% majority vote.
35. Not less than twenty-eight days prior to a gathering, any twelve members can ask for there to be an election held at the start of the gathering for the position of chair, treasurer or secretary. Their proposal must contain all of their signatures and must be sent to the chair, who must notify all the members that this will take place at the gathering.
36. The society can make further appointments, develop structures and evolve, as is necessary. Nothing is set in stone and the spirit will lead in the future and none of us understand the high calling, the implications, the broad vision and the beauty of unconditional love. There must therefore be the flexibility and the ability to discern where God is leading. This provides the means for such growth and development.
37, Associate Membership will be offered to anyone ordained and/or authorised for ministry within the Christian church who wishes to remain within their particular denomination or movement of the church but who yet feels an affinity with the society.
38. Associate members may be involved in the life of the society, but they are not able to vote or hold office in the society.