February meeting of the Methodist Council

The Methodist Council met at High Leigh Conference Centreon 6-7 February. Although the Council had a full agenda, it hadfewer papers to consider compared with recent meetings, and so hadmore time to spend on each.

A major piece of work currently underway is looking at Equalitiesand Diversity. A working group has been exploring this issue anddeveloping an equal opportunities policy for the Church. A parallelpaper looking at diversity and Methodist identity pointed out thatwidely varying national and cultural backgrounds are found in theChurch today, from long-established Chinese Methodist congregationsin Epsom, London and Birmingham to Urdu-, Punjabi- andParsee-language Methodist groups elsewhere. The reports call forequality and diversity to be seen as core Methodist identities, andmore than just the concern of special-interest groups.

The Fresh Expressions joint initiative between the Church ofEngland and the Methodist Church will come to the end of itsinitial five-year period in 2009, and proposals are being formedfor its second phase. The Council heard plans for the next phase,which will include the aim of integrating Fresh Expressions intothe ongoing life of the churches.

The Revd Ken Howcroft, Coordinating Secretary for Conference andCommunication, says "Fresh Expressions has been a great success andwe are pleased with the plans for its next phase. It represents agreat challenge to the churches, but also wonderful opportunitiesto meet people in different ways, and to share our faith withthem."

The Council also approved spending plans for new ways of meetingthe training needs of the Church. A new training framework, calledExtending Discipleship and Exploring Vocation (EDEV), aims tosupport the training and development needs of all Methodists,including lay staff and volunteers. Also, the new Regional TrainingForums will be supported in their early years by the release offunds originally raised by circuits and districts to supportministerial training. Due to an under spend of those funds inrecent years, Council heard that there is now the money availableto thoroughly set up the new training schemes and to cover thetransitional costs from the current schemes.

The Council will meet again in April, which will be its finalmeeting before the annual Methodist Conference meets in Scarboroughon 5-10 July.

All of the Council papers (apart from those marked confidential)can be read at www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=opentogod.content&cmid=1943.