01 November 2006

The Methodist Council, 31 October-1 November

Major papers discussed include senior leadership structures, grant making and urban mission.

The Methodist Council met yesterday and today at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire. For the first time ever, the reports and papers to be discussed were made publicly available before the meeting on the Methodist web site.

The Methodist Church is currently reviewing many of its decision-making bodies and processes, and is also looking at the future structure and role of the Connexional Team, the staff who provide services and support to the Church. As a result, much of the Council's business focussed on these areas.

Nonetheless, Council also gave a lot of time to other matters. These included the response to the Church of England's Commission for Urban Life and Faith (CULF). Although CULF's report Faithful Cities was produced to address issues affecting Anglican churches, it was chaired by Revd. Kathleen Richardson, former President of the Methodist Conference and many its recommendations also apply to the Methodist Church.

The differences between Methodist and Anglican structures and traditions mean that some further work is needed to implement the relevant recommendations of Faithful Cities. Nonetheless, the Council welcomed the report as highlighting the issues relating to urban mission. The Methodist Church funds, in conjunction with the Evangelical Coalition for Urban Mission, Erica Dunmow as Urban Mission Development Advisor. Based in Sheffield, she works to develop networks of people and groups involved in urban mission both locally and nationally.

Council welcomed and encouraged further work on a proposed provisional pattern for the future leadership and senior management of the Connexional Team. This proposed pattern envisages a small group of senior leaders working under the General Secretary, replacing the current Coordinating Secretaries Group who currently are responsible for both strategic leadership and managing the Connexional Team.

All of the work of the Connexional Team is currently being reviewed with a view to producing a Team that is more flexible and better able to serve the needs of the whole Church. This new Team will also cost less, in order to leave more resources in the hands of districts and circuits.

Another major item being reviewed in this process is the allocation of grants. In the current budget year the Connexional Team alone will give grants totalling £9.8 million, with decision-making held in several places. The goal of the review is to put all grant-making into one place, with the exception of emergencies under a single coordinated range of procedures. This will make for a simpler, quicker system for grants that will be more flexible and more accountable. Different types of grants will still need different means of applying, but because of the coordinated approach it will be easier for churches and other groups to make the right applications at the right times.

The Revd. David Deeks, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, said "in 2004 we agreed the Priorities for the Methodist Church, which recognised that we cannot do everything we would wish to. We are now putting those priorities into practice, and this will lead to a Church with the flexibility and strength to be part of God's mission to 21st century Britain."

Other issues discussed included a process to review the 1993 resolutions on human sexuality. The 2006 Conference repeated its commitment to the earlier resolutions, but also asked for a group to study whether or not the Church membership wants to revisit them at a future Conference. Another matter under consultation is the question of what a Methodist understanding of Bishop. Council heard an update and appointed members to a group to review the responses received to date and to make recommendations on taking the process forward.

The Methodist Council meets three or four times a year. It is responsible for preparing business for the annual Methodist Conference, and for continuing work overseen by the Conference. It has a membership of about 65 drawn from across the Methodist Church.

All the papers for the Council are online at http://www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=information.content&cmid=130

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