09 June 2005

Highlights of the 2005 Methodist Conference

The 2005 Methodist Conference takes place 25-30 June at the Riviera Centre, Torquay. Below are details of some of the key debates.

The annual Conference is the ruling body of The Methodist Church, and the 384 voting members come from across Great Britain Ð from Shetland in the north to Cornwall in the south. In addition, representatives of the Irish Methodist Church are members of the Conference, and ecumenical partners and other Methodist churches from around the world send associate members. Conference members represent the full range of Methodism in Britain: ministers, deacons and lay members; retirees, students and working professionals.

The Pilgrimage of Faith (Wednesday, 29 June, 4:45) This is the first major report on human sexuality since the passage of the Derby Resolutions in 1993. The report shows a Church that still contains a wide range of opinion on human sexuality, but which is also committed to inclusivity, and to on-going dialogue on the subject.

What Sort of Bishops? (Wednesday, 29 June, 11:30 Ð please note that this debate has moved from Thursday) The Conference will consider a detailed report looking at the theological, historical and practical basis for bishops in the Methodist Church of Great Britain. If passed, the 2007 Conference will be asked to make a definitive decision following a detailed consultation.

Methodist-Anglican Covenant (Monday, 27 June, 6:00) The first report into the practical and theological results of the 2003 Covenant will go to both Conference and the Church of England General Synod. The report looks in depth at examples of how the churches are already working together, and suggests ways to increase this.

Domestic Abuse (Tuesday 28 June, 11:45) Surveys show that domestic abuse is as common within churches as in society as a whole. This report calls domestic abuse 'unacceptable and incompatible with the Christian faith and a Christian way of living.' In practice, this means that the Church will commit itself to not seeing domestic abuse as just a matter for the police and courts, but also one that raises issues of repentance and forgiveness.

Prayer Without Ceasing (Tuesday, 28 June, 3:45) At the 2004 Conference, the Methodist Church committed itself to a year of prayer without ceasing. This 'year' will begin at Conference, and in fact run until 31 August 2006. All of the 33 Districts will take turns in maintaining prayer throughout the year, and a number of events at Conference will mark the start of the year of prayer.

Make Poverty History (Thursday 30 June, 10:15) The Make Poverty History campaign reaches a high point at the G8 summit in Edinburgh just a few days after Conference finishes in Torquay. Conference will officially send off a group of representatives who will make the 462 mile journey to join the thousands of others in Edinburgh calling for fair trade, better aid and an end to crippling debt for developing countries.

Review of Conference and the Methodist Council (Monday 27 June, 2:15) The annual Conference is the ruling body of The Methodist Church, but it is important for the Church to ensure that the current structure, timing and membership of Conference is the best and most cost-effective way for the Church to run. Any changes to Conference would also have to take into account possible changes to the Methodist Council, which meets four times a year.

Time to Talk of God (Saturday, 25 June, 4:45) A major report considering how Methodists can best talk about their faith. The report looks at the cultural context, and contains sample resources to enable people to practice discipleship through conversation.

Selected Fringe events (Please note that the Methodist Church is not responsible for the content or organisation of fringe meetings and other events around Conference, and views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the Church.)

Saturday 25 June. The Black Methodist Forum meets at 7pm. Throughout the day a number of events will mark the 60th birthday of the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs.

Monday 27 June. The Beckley Memorial Lecture: Rt Hon the Lord Archer of Sandwell, QC will speak on 'Politics And Theology In A Globalised World' from 7:30. At 8pm the Interfaith group will discuss 'Diluting The Truth Or The Only Way Forward?' with contributions from Rabbi Jonathan Romain, Jonathan Marshall (Buddhist) and Mrs Kauser Ahmed (Muslim), chaired by Revd Dr Christina Le Moignan.

Wednesday 29 June. From 7pm, the Ethical Investment Forum will discuss how churches can influence the behaviour of multinational companies through investment and other means. The Church's Central Finance Board has over £900 million invested as part of pension funds: how does it use this in an ethical and scriptural way? At 7:30 the Black Methodist Lecture brings Mrs Sydia Ndina, World Council of Churches to speak on 'Uprooted Peoples Programs' Work and Migration.'

To see the Conference Agenda and read the full reports click here.

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