Leadership in the Methodist Church comes under scrutiny

The Methodist Conference, meeting at the start of July, is toconsider a proposal that its two essential elements of leadership -as a faith community and as a mission organisation - should be heldtogether by a 'new look' General Secretary.

A report entitled 'Leadership in the Methodist Church', on whichdecisions will be made, is being brought to the Conference by theMethodist Council. This report was prepared by a specially-convenedLeadership Task Group.

The report says of the proposal to create a new GeneralSecretary role: "We believe it is now right to give to that personthe distinctive role and task of unifying these elements, holdingthe circle, becoming the crucial link between the Methodist Churchas a faith community and as a mission organisation."

The office of the General Secretary, if accepted by theMethodist Conference, would combine the current role of Secretaryof the Conference together with management of the Church'sConnexional Team. The General Secretary would be the 'executiveleader' for the Church - co-ordinating the leadership, managementand oversight of Methodism's senior officers, including working inpartnership with the Chairs of the 33 Methodist Districts aroundBritain.

The first appointment to the office would be a Methodistminister for a five-year term, but during the period of thatappointment it is proposed to consider whether future appointmentsmight be open to lay people. The current Secretary of the MethodistConference, the Rev Nigel Collinson, is set to retire in summer2003 - at which point it is proposed that the new office would comeinto being.

Among other recommendations going before the MethodistConference in the report are:

  • That the President of the Methodist Conference remains aone-year appointment as ambassador around the Church and policycontributor. This "underlines the representative emphasis ofMethodism. Each office holder brings a particular emphasis whichthe Church can take up either in part or as a whole as it sees fit.Thus the Church is given the opportunity to benefit from a widerange of gifts and experiences" every year.
  • That the practice of the recently-founded Connexional LiaisonGroup - which brings together the President, Vice President andConference Secretariat, representatives of the District Chairs andthe four Co-ordinating Secretaries of the Connexional Team - beextended for a year to allow proposals which would cement itsgrowing importance.
  • That a second Assistant Secretary of Conference be appointed tohelp with the development of the Church's new discipline proceduresintroduced two years ago.

The report stresses that "the Methodist people are looking forspiritual and moral leadership as well as leadership in the mosteffective way of managing the resources available to us for ourmission. The Methodist Church is both a faith community and amission organisation".

Leadership must learn from the leadership structures of secularorganisations or other Churches without copying them in ways thatwould be inappropriate to the needs of the Methodist people.

The Chair of the Leadership Task Group, the Rev David Reddish,said that a new model General Secretary, if accepted by the Church,would be "answerable to Conference and have responsibility forleading the Connexional Team as its Senior Officer". He explainedthat the General Secretary would continue to work co-operativelywith the President and Vice President of the Conference as well asthe 33 Methodist District Chairs to lead and manage the affairs ofthe Methodist Church.

The Leadership Task Group was set up by the Conference in 2001to make concrete proposals for improving the effectiveness ofleadership in the Church. This took place after motions brought tothe previous Conference had "sensed a lack of clarity and certaintyin the leadership of the Church".