Islands pastor prepares to take the seat of John Wesley in anniversary year

One of the leading Christian ministers in the Channel Islands,the Rev Ian White, is making his final preparations before takingthe seat of John Wesley to preside over the 2002 MethodistConference. He will be inducted as President of the MethodistConference on Saturday 29 June.

In doing so, the Jersey-based minister takes on the most senioroffice in the Methodist Church in Britain for the next 12 months -during which the Church will celebrate the300th anniversary of the birth of Wesley, therenowned preacher and spiritual leader of the 'Methodistrevival'.

At the end of his ministry, John Wesley founded an annualconference of preachers to continue his work. Today the annualMethodist Conference is the main decision making-body of theMethodist Church for Britain's 320,000 Methodists.

The President of the Conference - who must be an ordainedMethodist minister - is elected annually to preside over thebusiness of the week-long Conference. The President then acts asambassador for the Methodist Church for civic functions and churchevents during the following year.

Ian White has been Superintendent Minister for Jersey as well asbeing Channel Islands District Chairman since 1998. Before then, hewas Chairman in the Bristol District for 11 years, giving him therare distinction of having been Chairman in two separate districts.He was Secretary of the Bristol District Synod between 1978-87. Hisearly ministry was spent in Hull and Retford, before he moved toBristol. He is currently 'chair of chairs', looking after the jointmeetings of the District Chairs.

Ian has been a regular media contributor on radio stationsaround the Bristol region and more recently on Radio Jersey andChannel Television. He relaxes by walking, going to the theatre,candle making and rug making. He is 62 and is married with twodaughters.

He said: "I am delighted and challenged to be taking on thisrole of service to the Methodist Church. In the year in which wemark his 300th birthday, I am looking forward toreflecting on John Wesley's ministry as well as encouraging theMethodist people as they seek to live out their Christian faith inthe 21st century."

Leeds Professor set to become VicePresident

Ian White will be joined in leading the Church by one ofLeeds University's leading academics, Professor Peter Howdle, whobecomes Vice President at the Methodist Conference. In doing so,the doctor at St James' Hospital, Leeds, takes on the most senioroffice open to lay people in the Methodist Church inBritain.

The Vice President of the Conference - who must be a layperson - is elected annually to assist the President in presidingover the business of the week-long Conference and throughout theyear.

Professor Peter Howdle is a member and local preacher atRoundhay Methodist church in Leeds. He is ConsultantGastroenterologist at St James's Hospital and Professor of ClinicalEducation at Leeds Medical School. He has been based at St James'sfor his whole career. He has undertaken research into immunologyand is medical advisor to the UK Coeliac Society.

A native of Pontefract, West Yorkshire, he is 54. Petercompletes an unusual partnership in Methodism, his wife Susanhaving been Methodist Vice President in 1993/4. They are the firstmarried couple to have both held the most senior office open to laypeople in the Church. His hobbies include playing cello and pianoand he has handmade a clavichord.

The 2002 Methodist Conference, Wolverhampton Civic Hall,Saturday 29 June - Friday 5 July

High on the Conference's agenda will be relations between theMethodist Church and the Church of England. Representatives will beasked to welcome a report that recommends the establishment of anational covenant between the two Churches for the first time.

Also due to be discussed are proposals for the leadershipstructures of the Church - which may see the forming of a GeneralSecretary for Methodism. There will also be debates on severalissues currently in the public eye - including schools with areligious character, domestic violence, marriage and gamblingreform.

Among guest speakers will be the Prime Minister's envoy to faithgroups, John Battle MP; the Anglican Bishop of Worcester, the RtRev Peter Selby; and the Methodist Bishop of Bombay, north India,the Right Rev Baiju Gavit.