Methodist Council, October 2005

The Methodist Council met on 17-18 October at All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney. This was the first Council meeting since the Methodist Conference in June.

A major topic was the use and future of Methodist buildings. The Church owns thousands of buildings across Great Britain, many of them dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Council agreed to make positive use of this rich architectural heritage by agreeing to include 300 churches in the 2007 Heritage Open Days scheme run by the Civic Trust. This scheme, allowing members of the public to visit important buildings or see areas normally closed to the public, has been a popular initiative in recent years. Council decided that 300 church buildings should take part since 2007 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley.

Council also initiated a major piece of work relating to Methodist property. The Revd David Deeks, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, said, 'our buildings are a visible sign of our presence in people's communities. But our property must be at the service of contemporary mission, and we cannot afford to have buildings in the wrong place or that are not suitable for modern Church mission.' The recent DVD resource, Beyond the Wood and Stone, aims to help churches to make better use of their buildings, and this new Council initiative aims to continue to encourage the Methodist people to do so.

A new Methodist London Regional District comes into existence on 1 September 2006, and as a result two other new districts are being formed in the South-East of England covering the areas around London. Council agreed to recommend to the Conference that the Revd John Hellyer will be Chair of the new South-East District, which covers the southern areas surrounding London, and that the Revd Anne Brown shall be Chair of the Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire District. John is currently a Superintendent minister Birmingham, while Anne is currently Chair of the London North-West District, one of the four that will cease to exist when the new London Regional District comes into being. Council also agreed to recommend to the Conference that the current Oxford and Leicester District will in future be known as the Northampton District, reflecting the changes to its boundaries as a result of the changes in the South-East of England.

Council also received a report from the Working Party continuing the work of the Pilgrimage of Faith on human sexuality. The Working Party was charged by the 2005 Methodist Conference to produce guidelines concerning the appropriateness or not of blessing Civil Partnerships when they become legal in December 2005. The Working Party will report to the 2006 Conference, and will not issue any interim or provisional guidelines, nor set any precedent that could undermine the decision of the Conference.

As a result, Council agreed a statement clarifying current good practice if a couple registering a Civil Partnership sought to have it blessed by a Methodist minister between the change in the law in December and Conference's decision in June 2006.

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