28 October 2021

The Methodist Council: 21st and 22nd of October

The Methodist Council met on the 21st and 22nd of October at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick. The Council meeting opened with a report from the Strategy and Resources Committee, a report from the Connexional Team and update on work from the Conference.

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, Cop 26, Joe Lambert the Scotland District representative gave an update on events centred at Woodlands Methodist Church in Glasgow during the talks. The church will host a hub which will be open from 0830 – 2000 every day. Art exhibitions and concerts have been organised. Timetable: www.scotlandmethodistscop26.org

District Reviews
The Council received a report on the conversation at the Connexional Leadership Forum on the District Reviews and approved the terms of reference for the Task Group which will look at regional and district Planning. The Group will report to the Council in April 2022 and to the 2022 Conference.

Looking to the Future and Ways of Working
The Council broke into groups to consider a number of questions about the future including its own ways of working, the funding of ministerial appointments, the impact of its and the Conference’s decisions on employees, those in circuit ministry, districts and others, and how we express our Methodist identity in collaboration with others who bear the name Methodist.

After feedback from the groups the following day, the Council agreed that only one of its meetings in a Connexional year shall be in person and agreed that for the Connexional year 2021/22 the Council meets in person for October and online in January and April. It is suggested that in future years it is the April meeting which is held in person since this is the longer meeting.

The group work highlighted the importance of hearing from the Methodist Charities in a way which highlights how their work helps the Church to fulfil Our Calling (and how they are responding to that). A resolution radically to rethink the relationship between money and stationing was carried, establishing a Task Group to rethink the funding of circuit ministry in further detail.

The Methodist Conference
The Assistant Secretary of the Conference, Revd Michaela Youngson presented a paper to the Council about the work of a Task Group to review the size of the Conference. The Terms of Reference for the Group will include ways of working including conferring and representation: what is an appropriate size of Conference, what is the appropriate balance of ex-officio members and others to District representatives, and what weight should be given to the advantages of a smaller Conference?

Chair of the Methodist Council
This is the final year of Mrs E Jill Baker’s tenure as Chair of the Methodist Council. The Council approved the process of choosing the next Chair of the Council, directing that a nomination panel be established with the responsibility of bringing a nomination of the next Chair of the Council to the Council in April 2022.

Pensions
The Director of Finance and Resources, Matt Tattersall presented a paper on the Pension Schemes to the Council. He started by explaining the statutory requirement to agree the valuation with the Methodist Ministers’ Pension Schemes (MMPS) and the Pension and Assurance Scheme for Lay Employees of the Methodist Church (PASLEMC) which needs to be done by November 30th 2021.
The Council approved the parameters for concluding the pension valuation discussion with the pension scheme trustees and a number of enabling measures.

Safeguarding
An update on the Safeguarding Policy was presented by the Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler who gave a short update to the Council on the IICSA report which included reference to the Methodist Church and he acknowledged that in the past there had been “egregious failings by the Methodist Church.” He told the Council that many of the things asked for in IICSA’s report are already up and running in the Methodist Church. He stressed the need for constant vigilance saying “we are only as strong as our weakest point.”

Dr Hustler gave more details about the updated Safeguarding Policy which included the importance of training for those involved with people who are on a safeguarding contract and a simplification of the Safer Recruitment policy. Dr Hustler told representatives that a considerable amount of work has been done over the past year on the anti-bullying policy and the Council approved its addition to the Policy; he stressed that we are in the midst of a culture change, saying “It’s not just about eradicating bad behaviour; it’s about cultivating excellent behaviour.” The Secretary of the Faith and Order Committee, the Revd Dr Nicola Price-Tebbutt presented a report on resources for the Theology of Safeguarding which were also supported by the Council.

Leasing property at undervalue
The Council heard from the Conference Officer for Constitutional and Legal Practice, Joanne Anderton, and adopted a resolution to allow property to be leased to Afghan refugees at less than the market value, a practice already in place for Syrian refugees.

Action for Hope – a path to net zero
The Head of Mission, Ms Jude Levermore presented the Action for Hope paper which responds to the Conference’s aspirational target of net zero emissions by 2030. She began by talking about how, as Methodists, we should live sustainably and lightly. Quoting from ‘Hope in God’s Future’ Ms Levermore said ‘Hope is thus a reason for bold action in the world in accordance with God’s will for creation, not an excuse for inaction’.

Recognising that there is much to do, the paper proposes we start by looking at 3 themes: Faith - consistent use of assets which will contribute towards MCB’s aim of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030; Wisdom – with worship, discipleship and theological reflection at the heart of a Methodist response to the climate crisis and Lifestyles – dovetailing with work on discipleship and A Methodist Way of Life. The Council agreed to the direction of travel for this work.

The Council meets next on the 26th and 27th of January 2022.

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