31 January 2007

The meeting of the Methodist Council, January 2007

The Methodist Council met on 30-31 January at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire. The Council, which serves to carry forward the work of the annual Conference, addressed a wide range of topics, which were mostly looking at internal matters.

The biggest items of business related to the Team Focus process. This is the process to produce a Connexional Team - the officers and servants of the Church - that is more responsive to the needs of the local churches, and to give more flexibility and resources to local church bodies. Some of the work currently undertaken centrally by the Connexional Team will in future be done by circuits and districts, allowing them to act in ways that take into account local conditions and needs. The Team is required by Conference to cut 30% of its budget between 2005 and 2008.

Council endorsed the general direction of the proposals, although it raised some areas of concern that will be addressed at the March council. All the Team Focus proposals will be decided by the Methodist Conference in July.

The Revd. Ken Howcroft, Coordinating Secretary for Conference and Communication said "although the Team Focus will sadly lead to job cuts, at its heart is a move to liberate the energy and imagination of individual Methodists in carrying forward the Church's mission in their communities. We do not want our structures to get in the way of new ideas, and we are moving to a vision where the Team supports local churches in ways that suit them."

The Council also discussed a report on the consultation on What Sort of Bishops? This follows a report received by the 2005 Methodist Conference, which opened a discussion on whether or not the Methodist Church should adopt bishops, and if so in what form. That called for a widespread consultation, the results of which are now available. The consultation report says that there is at this point no call to take further steps towards creating Methodist bishops of any kind. As a result, there is no need for a major debate on this at the 2007 Methodist Conference. However, given the Methodist Church's Covenant relationship with the Church of England, it is not possible to say that the issue will not arise again at some point in the future.

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