26 June 2003
Outgoing Methodist leader: let's have a longer term President
The President of the Methodist Conference would be a more effective leader for Britain's Methodist community if he or she were able to stay in office for longer than one year, says the outgoing holder of the most senior office in the Church.
The Rev Ian White, who has been Methodist President since June 2002, has today called on the Church to reform the role. This would enable Methodism's leadership to use its experience better for the mission of the Church and to foster stronger ecumenical, social and political relationships.
In the President's traditional farewell speech - a pastoral address to Methodist ministers gathered ahead of this weekend's Methodist Conference in Llandudno - Mr White asked: "What is the role of the President to be in the 21st Century? Has the annual change of person run its course? How is the Presidency to evolve within the life of the Methodist Church?
"In terms of making a full contribution to the leadership of the Church, I believe the holder of this office - and that of the Vice Presidency - should be appointed for a period longer than one year. As I began the year there was no doubt in my mind that an annual appointment was the right pattern for us. In the Autumn I underwent a conversion.
"This reflection comes out of my experience ecumenically and from conversations across the political, commercial and social concerns of the community. This is a question to which I believe Conference will need to return during the next two or three years."
Elsewhere in his pastoral address, the President reflected on worldwide energy use. He issued a warning to countries and businesses not to abuse energy resources: "Energy has within it the seeds of conflict where the demands of large nations could outstrip future supply and the vulnerable suffer in consequence. The use of energy, therefore, becomes both a theological and a social issue, which engages all of us." The Methodist Conference next week will consider guidelines for how it invests in mining companies. A new Methodist pack is also to be launched on Energy and Christian Responsibility.
Mr White looked back on major world events during his year in office. The conflict in Iraq raised for him "some fundamental questions," he said. "One of the challenges of the 21st Century is theological exploration with other faiths, without denying the centrality of Christ. Out of this exploration will come a clearer relationship across the faiths and firmer community relations."
The Rev Ian White steps down as Methodist President on Saturday at the start of the Methodist Conference. His successor, the Rev Dr Neil Richardson, will be installed as the new President during the opening of the Conference at the North Wales Theatre, Llandudno.
The President and Vice President of the Methodist Conference are elected annually by representatives at the Conference. The President is always an ordained minister, while the Vice President is a lay person or deacon.