17 February 2006

Highlights of the February meeting of the Methodist Council

The Methodist Council met at All Saints Pastoral Centre near London on 16-17 February. With only one more meeting scheduled before the Methodist Conference meets in June, the Council had a lot of business on a range of topics from Church organisation and governance to disability justice, evangelism and ethical investment.

Council enthusiastically discussed the report Evangelism and Speaking of God and Faith, the first of a series of major reports on the work of the Church's Connexional team. After discussion in small groups, the Council welcomed the report, which calls for: increasing evangelism across the whole Church; to enable more lay people to speak of their faith while still being lifelong seekers themselves; to discover gifts and release resources for evangelism; to encourage churches to become more welcoming; and to identify and appoint more people for the work of evangelism and apologetics.

The Council received a draft report on the use of funds in relation to conflict in Israel and Palestine, written in response to a motion passed at the 2005 Conference. The draft report will, after further work, go to the 2006 Methodist Conference.

The Council also received the first consolidated financial accounts of the Methodist Council, drawing together several different areas of the Church's work, including for the first time the Connexional Advance and Priority Fund. The accounts also adopt and implement some new accounting guidelines for charities.

The consolidated accounts give total income for the Methodist Council and the funds it controls of £35.3 million for the year to 31 August 2005. Total expenditure for the same period was £34.6 million, of which the biggest component was the grants programme of £18.7 million (£15.1 million from unrestricted funds). Of this, 64% went to projects in the UK. In addition, £5.1 million went to support Formation in Ministry training, while £4.9 million went to Direct Mission & Ministry and £614,000 on Advocacy and Education. These accounts do not cover all of the Church's income and spending, as much of this takes place within Districts and Circuits.

The Church is currently undertaking a widespread review of the annual Methodist Conference. The review group recently launched a consultation document available to all from the Methodist web site. Its recommendations point towards a smaller Conference that is better suited to discerning the will of God and then applying that to the oversight of the Church.

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