General Secretary challenges Church to take tough decisions for growth

Setting out a positive vision for the future, Revd Dr MartynAtkins spoke of tough decisions ahead and his belief that theChurch must change to fulfil its calling in contemporarysociety.

General Secretary Dr Atkins spoke of his hopes for the life, work,worship and mission of the Church in a report to the annualMethodist Conference, taking place this week in Southport.

"As disciples of Jesus we are called to become the Church God wantsus to be," said Dr Atkins. "This will involve making some toughdecisions. We don't have all the resources we would like to havebut God has not given up on us. We must work hard to become aChurch that demonstrates our faith through a commitment to justiceand serving our local, national and internationalcommunities."

The wide-ranging report, entitled 'Contemporary Methodism: Adiscipleship movement shaped for mission' addresses issues fromchurch buildings to evangelism and the nature of localministry.

On property, Dr Atkins said: "We unquestionably have too manychurch buildings: too many in the wrong places, too many unfit tosustain our life as a discipleship movement shaped for missiontoday. We too readily associate the sustaining of the life of ourchapels with the work of God's kingdom - these often overlap butthey're not the same thing. A more sacrificial, strategic approachis needed. Our churches must not exist simply to perpetuate thestatus quo, but to provide a place where people can come to faithand be nurtured in their journey with Christ."

The report was warmly received by the Conference, which commendedit to the whole Church for study, response and action. Workinggroups will now address some of the issues raised in the report, tobring concrete recommendations to a future meeting of the MethodistConference.