February meeting of the Methodist Council

The Methodist Council met at High Leigh Conference Centre on 6-7 February. Although the Council had a full agenda, it had fewer papers to consider compared with recent meetings, and so had more time to spend on each.

A major piece of work currently underway is looking at Equalities and Diversity. A working group has been exploring this issue and developing an equal opportunities policy for the Church. A parallel paper looking at diversity and Methodist identity pointed out that widely varying national and cultural backgrounds are found in the Church today, from long-established Chinese Methodist congregations in Epsom, London and Birmingham to Urdu-, Punjabi- and Parsee-language Methodist groups elsewhere. The reports call for equality and diversity to be seen as core Methodist identities, and more than just the concern of special-interest groups.

The Fresh Expressions joint initiative between the Church of England and the Methodist Church will come to the end of its initial five-year period in 2009, and proposals are being formed for its second phase. The Council heard plans for the next phase, which will include the aim of integrating Fresh Expressions into the ongoing life of the churches.

The Revd Ken Howcroft, Coordinating Secretary for Conference and Communication, says "Fresh Expressions has been a great success and we are pleased with the plans for its next phase. It represents a great challenge to the churches, but also wonderful opportunities to meet people in different ways, and to share our faith with them."

The Council also approved spending plans for new ways of meeting the training needs of the Church. A new training framework, called Extending Discipleship and Exploring Vocation (EDEV), aims to support the training and development needs of all Methodists, including lay staff and volunteers. Also, the new Regional Training Forums will be supported in their early years by the release of funds originally raised by circuits and districts to support ministerial training. Due to an under spend of those funds in recent years, Council heard that there is now the money available to thoroughly set up the new training schemes and to cover the transitional costs from the current schemes.

The Council will meet again in April, which will be its final meeting before the annual Methodist Conference meets in Scarborough on 5-10 July.

All of the Council papers (apart from those marked confidential) can be read at www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.content&cmid=1943.

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