11 July 2022

Conference Report on Strategy `Justice, Dignity and Solidarity

The implementation of the Strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity has begun to affect the life of the Methodist Church according to a report received by the Methodist Conference, which met in Telford, 23rd to 30th June.

The report detailed the work undertaken since last year when the Methodist Conference pledged for the Church to prioritise justice and dignity for all and to stand in solidarity with those who are excluded.

The Conference was made aware that this strategy is led by Methodist values, shaped by the Biblical mandate for social justice, and puts mechanisms in place to eradicate discrimination and ensure justice.

As part of the implementation of the strategy, an Equality Impact Assessment has been published to assist all Methodists in discussing, learning and developing cultures and mechanisms that ensure greater consultation takes place and all can participate fully in the life of the Church.

The Conference heard that mandatory EDI training is being prepared for all ministers and lay workers, district and Connexional staff. This will include unconscious bias training, the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 (for England and Wales) along with equality legislation across the British Isles and how to apply this to situations where people are excluded from accessing the Gospel and living a full life within the Church.

A Discrimination and Abuse Response Service is being piloted ahead of its anticipated roll-out across the Connexion, this hopes to reduce the risk of individuals suffering in silence and enable incidents to be professionally investigated with suitable resolutions and reconciliations explored.

The Shadow JDS Committee had been appointed ahead of the appointment of the full committee in September 2022. The committee gives support and guidance to the Methodist Church in matters of justice, dignity and solidarity, including its equality, diversity and inclusion responsibilities. This includes all policies and procedures in the Church’s life as well as the ongoing development and implementation of the Strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity.

The analysis of data will be used to measure the impact and success of the Strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity. The Committee will consider what data needs to be collected and develop guidance on how these data are to be used in line with GDPR requirements.

The Revd Charity Nzegwu, co-chair of the Shadow JDS Committee, commented, “It is important to acknowledge the JDS work that is underway across the Connexion. The Conference has given its unequivocal support to both the strategy and its implementation.

“It has been a year since the Conference received the report. The nation is just emerging from the strict Covid regulations, and alongside other priorities, a significant amount of work has been completed. This points to a Church that is being intentional and committed to change in a grace-filled way. While there is still a lot of work to be done, we embrace the Chinese saying, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Every report submitted to Conference pointed to the centrality of both Justice and the Justice, Dignity and Solidarity strategy in all that we do.

“A number of districts have identified EDI officers who will champion the implementation of the strategy in their contexts. Other districts are developing communities of practice with a special focus on JDS. All this work is encouraging!”

Co-chair, Revd Sam McBratney, commented, “One of the hardest parts of this strategy is for the Church as an institution to admit that it has failed to live up to its own standards and values, causing hurt and further injustice to those within and beyond its membership.

“In Telford on Wednesday 29th June, the Conference held an Act of Repentance and took the first step in the brave journey to a full apology. In acknowledging the Church’s sin and seeking God’s forgiveness, we know that we must also apologise to those we have wronged and seek to make amends. In the coming year, Methodist communities across the country will be invited to be part of this process of apology, repentance and making amends.”

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