15 October 2020

Report from the Methodist Council

The Methodist Council met online from Monday 12 – Tuesday 13 October 2020

Council’s Objectives

The Connexional Secretary Doug Swanney outlined the Council’s objectives for 2020-21 noting that “given all that our world, our country and our Church has been through in the last few months we are all aware that the year ahead is one of ‘doing differently’.” The headline objectives have been revised so as to give the Council a clear view of the work it would need to do to respond to those things the Conference had asked of it alongside the ‘normal’ work. The Council heard that more prominence had been given to the work of the Inclusive Church. Mr Swanney also gave the Council an update on work from the Conference.

Nomination of the Assistant Secretary of the Conference

The Council voted to recommend the nomination of the Revd Michaela Youngson as Assistant Secretary of the Conference for an initial period of six years from September 2021.

Ms Youngson has been Chair of the London District since 2012 and will take over the role when the current Assistant Secretary, Revd Ruth Gee, steps down next year. The Assistant Secretary works with the Secretary of the Conference to undertake and deliver the duties and responsibilities of that office as well as overseeing the operation and the development of policy and processes relating to the ministers of the Church and their covenant relationship with the Conference.

Climate Change and Fossil Fuels

The Secretary of the Conference, the Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, reminded the Council that this issue has been brought to the attention of the Conference over the past 4 years and that Council members had spent time in August 2020 considering the issue and questions. Council members voted to request the Council’s advisory body (the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment or JACEI), to recommend disinvestment by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church (CFB) from all oil and gas companies which are not currently aligned with the Paris Agreement target of a global temperature rise of well below 2 degrees. 

Following the vote, JACEI will consider the request and report to the Methodist Conference in 2021 on advice it gives to the CFB which manages investment funds for the Methodist Church. The CFB receives ethical advice from JACEI, which reports each year to the Methodist Conference.

Global Climate Emergency

The Council also voted in favour of further work to be done across the Connexion towards reducing the carbon footprint of the Church. The Connexional Team will bring to the January 2021 Methodist Council a short report on studies underway in circuits, districts or among ecumenical partners to inform a response.

Property strategy

Council members broke into discussion groups to consider property matters, in particular issues relating to the CPF levy and sales of church property to other charities at less than best price. The groups gave feedback on their discussions which will help formulate an updated strategy for property stewardship, which will be presented to the Council at its meeting in January 2021.

Budget

The Connexional Team’s Director of Finance & Resources, Matt Tattersall, presented a revised Connexional Central Services Budget for 2020/21 in light of COVID-19. He told members that the Team has undertaken detailed budget-setting over the summer and identified savings of c£1.7m which largely offsets the loss of income from the income-generating centres and investments. The Council heard that these cuts are not without consequence, for example all committees have had a cut of 50% in their budget and no major travel is assumed before 2021. The Council received the report and voted in favour of no change to the previously agreed approach to setting the District Assessment.

Oversight and Trusteeship/Size of the Conference

The Secretary of the Conference reported on work on Oversight and Trusteeship. He reminded members of the resolutions the Conference had passed which include directing Circuit Meetings and Church Councils to undertake Unconscious Bias related training in order to ensure equality and diversity within the appointments process of the new trustee bodies. Dr Hustler told the Council that a review of the size of the Conference was required and members agreed to the membership of a working party to undertake the review. It will report with recommendations for any changes to the 2021 Conference. 

The Methodist Church in Wales

Members were told that in April 2018 the Council asked for a scrutiny group to look at the future of the Wales Synod and Synod Cymru. No decisions were made and members heard that the intention is to provide impetus to this work to decide the best way forward. The Council recognised that Synod Cymru cannot continue in its current form and agreed to ask the two Synods to debate the matter and to report back to the Council on possible new arrangements to be implemented in 2022-2024. It requested the two Synods to make proposals for the continuance of the Welsh language work in Wales and to report to the Council in October 2021 with outline arrangements.  

Inclusive Church

The Council received an update on the work of the Inclusive Church Implementation Group, and the 5 work streams underpinning this: a. Attitudinal Cultural and Systemic Change b. Building Trust and Confidence c. Minimum Standards d. Positive Action e. Scrutiny and Transparency. The Council also heard that because of the significance of implementing and embedding the Inclusive Methodist Church (IMC) it was recognised that an additional full time role (Inclusive Church Implementation Officer) is needed to work alongside the EDI Adviser.  

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