19 October 2017

Methodist Council October 2017

The Methodist Council, the body which undertakes work on behalf of the Methodist Conference, met at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, on 16 and 17 October 2017. 

As usual, a wide range of reports was received by the Council but a particular focus of this meeting was further discussion of the Statistics for Mission report received by the Methodist Conference earlier this year. This informed discussion of other matters, including a strategy to ensure that the property owned by the Church is used in the most effective way to further its mission.
Statistics for Mission - collated responses from District discussion groups 
During the 2017 Conference, Districts were invited to consider their response to the Statistics for Mission report which revealed a 3.5% year-on-year decline in membership over the past decade, with membership now at 188,000. 
The Methodist Council was presented with the feedback from the discussions held at the Conference with most Districts being unsurprised by the decline. However, Districts expressed the view that the figures alone did not truly reflect the wider work of their churches.  
The Council heard a presentation from the President of the Conference, the Revd Loraine N Mellor, the Secretary of the Conference, the Revd Canon Gareth J Powell, and the Connexional Secretary, Doug Swanney, reflecting on the discussions held at the Connexional Leaders' Forum in September, and re-emphasising the need to respond to the challenges shown by the statistics and to return to Our Calling as the basis of the Methodist Church's work. 
The Council split into groups to discuss the state of the work of God, including what Circuits and Districts need to better support them as they pursue Our Calling. The groups also discussed what would support Districts in fulfilling their mission plans, and the role to be played by the Council itself and the Church's other decision-making processes in this.

Developing a connexional strategy for the use of Methodist property
A report outlining the principles of a connexional strategy for the use of Methodist property was received by the Council. The report, in the light of the Statistics for Mission report's findings, emphasised the need for property to be used to fulfil the Methodist Church's calling and for this to be underpinned by a strategy for the use, development, acquisition and disposal of property. It was also recommended that the role of District Property Secretaries be clarified to ensure that the post is appropriately resourced.  
The Council directed the Property Development Committee to bring the proposed strategy back to the Council no later than April 2018. Separately, it also directed the Committee to draft Memorandum and Articles of Association for establishing a wholly owned trading subsidiary company to undertake future property development projects on behalf of the Committee and the Council. 
Connexional Grants towards Mission and Ministry in Britain 
A new policy for the work of the Connexional Grants Committee was agreed by the Council. The policy and the refreshed criteria for grants reflect the wish to encourage new ideas for mission and the development of capacity, leadership and infrastructure at a local level within Methodist bodies and ecumenical institutes working in Britain. The policy emphasises that any grants must be related to Our Calling and the Priorities for the Methodist Church and be a response to a clearly identified need. 

Building closer relations between the Methodist Church and All We Can 
A report on developing closer relationships between the Connexional team and All We Can, the Methodist relief and development organisation, was received by the Council. The Council requested that a new Memorandum of Understanding be written to define the future relationship of the organisations. The paper reported that a merger between the Connexion's World Church Relationships team and All We Can would not be advantageous, and that greater mutual understanding and joint working was the best way to fulfil the Methodist Church's international callings.

The Methodist Diaconal Order as a Religious Order
It was agreed by the Council that the timeline for the working group considering the Methodist Diaconal Order (MDO) as a religious order be amended and for the report to be received in April 2019, prior to the Conference of that year.

Corporate Risk Register 
The Council was asked to consider the Corporate Risk Register in small groups, noting in particular the addition to the register of a risk of breach of data protection law. The Council engaged fully with this and a range of suggestions was made, with the view expressed that the register should be linked to the clear strategies which seek to take forward the mission of the Church in the light of Our Calling. An updated risk management policy was approved and the risk register adopted, with an assurance that the register will remain a live document. Further updates incorporating some of the comments which had been made will be brought back to the next Council. 

Safeguarding and Network Committees 
The Council heard that significant progress had been made on the process for reviewing the Safeguarding Committee, its terms of reference and its membership. The committee will meet to discuss proposals in November this year and these will be brought to the Council in January 2018.
Separately, the Council recommended that the Network Committee be disbanded at the end of the current connexional year, with its responsibilities being absorbed into other bodies.

The role of the Church in opposing racism 
The Council was updated on the response to a Memorial accepted at the Conference this year, suggesting an event on the role of the Church in opposing racism. It was agreed that, while there would not be a conference on this topic, the issues of racial justice will continue to be a priority and that the spirit of the Memorial would be expressed in other ways.

Marriage and Relationships Task Group
The Council received a report from the Marriage and Relationships Task Group on the progress of its work towards bringing material to the 2018 Conference. The Council did not see or discuss the content of that material.
The Council affirmed the processes by which the task group will bring a draft statement to the Conference for consultation throughout the Connexion. That consultation will lead to a final decision in 2020, as required by the Conference of 2016.

Chair of the Council
With the Revd Ruth Gee completing her term as Chair of the Methodist Council at the end of this connexional year, a resolution was passed that a panel be established to undertake the responsibility of nominating the next Chair to the April 2018 Council. The Council also recommended to the Conference that the term of office of the Chair of the Council be extended from three years to four, in line with the length of service of other representatives on the Council.

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