Reaching out to London's economic life

The Methodist Church was a major participant at a recent conference investigating the links between the churches and London's economy. More than 90 people representing over 10 denominations, as well as observers form others faiths, attended the daylong conference organised by the South London Industrial Mission.

The Methodist Church was fully represented and is particularly well placed to think London-wide with the moves towards a London District from 2006. Harvey Richardson, the Chair of the London South-East District, Tony Barker, the Development Officer for London North-East District, and Tony Miles, a chaplain to the media based at Westminster Central Hall, all made helpful contributions to the day.

John Ellis, Methodist Secretary for Business and Economic Affairs, spoke at the conference. Afterwards he said, "it was encouraging to hear stories of the diverse work already being done in London. The contrasts within the London economy were illustrated by the contrasting contexts of those who spoke. Fiona Stewart-Darling is chaplain to some of the world's most powerful banks in Canary Wharf. Kevin Belcher told us how Christians in Peckham had developed a practical response to the needs of the long-term unemployed. A witness to Jesus Christ is needed in both settings."

At the end of the conference those present expressed commitments to work together closely, and to build deep and lasting relationships with the wide variety of organisations that work across the whole of London. The Rev Christine Hardman, Archdeacon of Lewisham, chaired the day and summed it up by saying "a new pan-London mission in the economy is needed, which is ecumenical, possibly multifaith, and which takes justice seriously."

John Ellis backed the calls for future work in this area to be ecumenical. "Given the Priorities statement of the Methodist Church," he said, "with its commitment to partnerships, and the Anglican-Methodist covenant, Methodism should seek to go forward ecumenically. The government structures for London want to speak to individuals who can properly represent all the Churches - and preferably all the faith communities - and we shall waste opportunities if we plough individual denominational furrows. We hope this point was heard clearly by other participants in the Consultation."

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