02 July 2002

Methodist Church to have 'new look' General Secretary

The Methodist Church is to have a 'new look' General Secretary from 2003.

The Methodist Conference, meeting in Wolverhampton, decided today to endorse a proposal that its two essential elements of leadership - as a faith community and as a mission organisation - should be held together in the role of a General Secretary of the Church.

But the Conference rejected a move to increase the length of office held by its President to five years. The President of the Conference is the most senior ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Britain and is elected annually.

The Conference accepted a report, 'Leadership in the Methodist Church', which recommended the appointment of a General Secretary. The report says: "We believe it is now right to give to that person the distinctive role and task of unifying these elements, holding the circle, becoming the crucial link between the Methodist Church as a faith community and as a mission organisation."

The new role will replace current office of Secretary of the Conference. The current Secretary, the Rev Nigel Collinson, is due to retire in August 2003.

The first appointment as General Secretary will be a Methodist minister, although the report opens up the possibility of a lay person being appointed to the role in future. The report "acknowledges that it may not always be possible for a Presbyter to fill the role of General Secretary, and we recommend that the Methodist Council Executive should undertake a careful investigation of the implications for the role of Secretary of Conference if a lay General Secretary should be appointed".

The General Secretary is to be given the responsibility of leading a unified management and leadership team incorporating the work currently undertaken by the Methodist Conference Office, the Co-ordinating Secretaries and the Methodist District Chairs.

The Conference also decided to appoint a second Assistant Secretary of Conference to take on some of the considerable responsibilities of the Conference Office, and allow more time for the new General Secretary for his new roles.

The annual Methodist Conference is to be held, if possible, on a residential site, with the aim of being completed within one week.

The Conference began its debate on the Church's leadership structures by considering a Notice of Motion for a longer-term President, saying:

"The Conference, noting the extensive support by District Synods and Church Councils for a longer term Presidency; and the continuing need for visionary leadership in the Methodist Church; directs the Methodist Council to bring to the Conference of 2003 proposals for instituting a 5-year Presidency to commence not earlier than 2005."

This Notice of Motion was defeated by 193 votes to 142.

In proposing the Notice of Motion, the Rev Ermal Kirby, Chairman of the London North East Methodist District had said: "Our Church needs someone as a leader who has the time and the space to seek God's purpose for the Church, someone who can dream dreams and see visions."

Mr Roger Dawe, Chair of the Methodist Council Executive, said that the Methodist Council strongly supported keeping the Presidency as a one-year appointment because with a move to a five-year term of office there would be a "danger of losing diversity" in the breadth of leadership currently offered by more people each holding a one year term of office.

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