11 April 2011

Methodist Council discusses the Big Society

The Methodist Council discussed the issues of UK poverty and the Big Society when it met at Royal Holloway College in Surrey, on 9-11 April.

Council members heard that while the Government is speaking of the Big Society, the poorest in society are those who are losing out most from public spending cuts.

Rachel Lampard, Public Issues Team Leader, said: "Methodism has always been about partnership and mutualism. Our response to the Big Society requires us to keep a focus on social justice while helping our society to visualise a community where relationships matter. We need to continue to speak truth to power and talk about the impact of decisions around spending cuts. Churches need to be encouraged to find new ways of working for their communities, and we need to be cautious about substituting enthusiasm for the need for professional services."

The Council resolved that local churches should be encouraged to continue to speak powerfully about what it means to live in community and to highlight the local impact of public spending cuts. Council members were also concerned to address issues of inequality within the Church and to consider how its own resources are deployed so that inequalities are not reinforced.

The Council also discussed the early findings of a new research project on the 18-30s age range, also known as the 'Missing Generation' in today's churches. These findings highlighted the fact that conventional church does not fit easily into modern life, either socially or spiritually and the importance of small groups to this generation. The project will offer a fuller report to the Methodist Conference in July and will explore further research links with other denominations.

This Council meeting was Revd. Ken Howcroft's last before he becomes minister at Ponte Saint Angelo Methodist Church in Rome and the Methodist representative to the Vatican, after seven years serving the Church as the Assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference. He was thanked for the dedication, expertise and great humour he has shown in fulfilling his role over the years. Revd. Gareth Powell has been nominated to succeed him in this post.

"It has been a privilege to serve the Council and help it in its role of discerning the will of God and deciding how to respond." said Mr. Howcroft. "I shall be sorry not to be part of it in the future. But I am excited about the new opportunities to which I am being sent, and I am delighted about the nomination of my successor. The Council will be in safe hands."

Other matters discussed by the Council included a report on the Church's involvement in the Bible Fresh project, a funding commitment for four of the Church's key heritage sites and joint work with the United Reformed Church on the use of church buildings. 

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