20 June 2002

Islands pastor prepares to take the seat of John Wesley in anniversary year

One of the leading Christian ministers in the Channel Islands, the Rev Ian White, is making his final preparations before taking the seat of John Wesley to preside over the 2002 Methodist Conference. He will be inducted as President of the Methodist Conference on Saturday 29 June.

In doing so, the Jersey-based minister takes on the most senior office in the Methodist Church in Britain for the next 12 months - during which the Church will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Wesley, the renowned preacher and spiritual leader of the 'Methodist revival'.

At the end of his ministry, John Wesley founded an annual conference of preachers to continue his work. Today the annual Methodist Conference is the main decision making-body of the Methodist Church for Britain's 320,000 Methodists.

The President of the Conference - who must be an ordained Methodist minister - is elected annually to preside over the business of the week-long Conference. The President then acts as ambassador for the Methodist Church for civic functions and church events during the following year.

Ian White has been Superintendent Minister for Jersey as well as being Channel Islands District Chairman since 1998. Before then, he was Chairman in the Bristol District for 11 years, giving him the rare distinction of having been Chairman in two separate districts. He was Secretary of the Bristol District Synod between 1978-87. His early ministry was spent in Hull and Retford, before he moved to Bristol. He is currently 'chair of chairs', looking after the joint meetings of the District Chairs.

Ian has been a regular media contributor on radio stations around the Bristol region and more recently on Radio Jersey and Channel Television. He relaxes by walking, going to the theatre, candle making and rug making. He is 62 and is married with two daughters.

He said: "I am delighted and challenged to be taking on this role of service to the Methodist Church. In the year in which we mark his 300th birthday, I am looking forward to reflecting on John Wesley's ministry as well as encouraging the Methodist people as they seek to live out their Christian faith in the 21st century."

Leeds Professor set to become Vice President

Ian White will be joined in leading the Church by one of Leeds University's leading academics, Professor Peter Howdle, who becomes Vice President at the Methodist Conference. In doing so, the doctor at St James' Hospital, Leeds, takes on the most senior office open to lay people in the Methodist Church in Britain.

The Vice President of the Conference - who must be a lay person - is elected annually to assist the President in presiding over the business of the week-long Conference and throughout the year.

Professor Peter Howdle is a member and local preacher at Roundhay Methodist church in Leeds. He is Consultant Gastroenterologist at St James's Hospital and Professor of Clinical Education at Leeds Medical School. He has been based at St James's for his whole career. He has undertaken research into immunology and is medical advisor to the UK Coeliac Society.

A native of Pontefract, West Yorkshire, he is 54. Peter completes an unusual partnership in Methodism, his wife Susan having been Methodist Vice President in 1993/4. They are the first married couple to have both held the most senior office open to lay people in the Church. His hobbies include playing cello and piano and he has handmade a clavichord.

The 2002 Methodist Conference, Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Saturday 29 June - Friday 5 July

High on the Conference's agenda will be relations between the Methodist Church and the Church of England. Representatives will be asked to welcome a report that recommends the establishment of a national covenant between the two Churches for the first time.

Also due to be discussed are proposals for the leadership structures of the Church - which may see the forming of a General Secretary for Methodism. There will also be debates on several issues currently in the public eye - including schools with a religious character, domestic violence, marriage and gambling reform.

Among guest speakers will be the Prime Minister's envoy to faith groups, John Battle MP; the Anglican Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Peter Selby; and the Methodist Bishop of Bombay, north India, the Right Rev Baiju Gavit.

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