Methodist Church to have 'new look' General Secretary

The Methodist Church is to have a 'new look' General Secretaryfrom 2003.

The Methodist Conference, meeting in Wolverhampton, decidedtoday to endorse a proposal that its two essential elements ofleadership - as a faith community and as a mission organisation -should be held together in the role of a General Secretary of theChurch.

But the Conference rejected a move to increase the length ofoffice held by its President to five years. The President of theConference is the most senior ordained minister in the MethodistChurch in Britain and is elected annually.

The Conference accepted a report, 'Leadership in the MethodistChurch', which recommended the appointment of a General Secretary.The report says: "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 new role will replace current office of Secretary of theConference. The current Secretary, the Rev Nigel Collinson, is dueto retire in August 2003.

The first appointment as General Secretary will be a Methodistminister, although the report opens up the possibility of a layperson being appointed to the role in future. The report"acknowledges that it may not always be possible for a Presbyter tofill the role of General Secretary, and we recommend that theMethodist Council Executive should undertake a carefulinvestigation of the implications for the role of Secretary ofConference if a lay General Secretary should be appointed".

The General Secretary is to be given the responsibility ofleading a unified management and leadership team incorporating thework currently undertaken by the Methodist Conference Office, theCo-ordinating Secretaries and the Methodist District Chairs.

The Conference also decided to appoint a second AssistantSecretary of Conference to take on some of the considerableresponsibilities of the Conference Office, and allow more time forthe new General Secretary for his new roles.

The annual Methodist Conference is to be held, if possible, on aresidential site, with the aim of being completed within oneweek.

The Conference began its debate on the Church's leadershipstructures by considering a Notice of Motion for a longer-termPresident, saying:

"The Conference, noting the extensive support by DistrictSynods and Church Councils for a longer term Presidency; and thecontinuing need for visionary leadership in the Methodist Church;directs the Methodist Council to bring to the Conference of 2003proposals for instituting a 5-year Presidency to commence notearlier than 2005."

This Notice of Motion was defeated by 193 votes to 142.

In proposing the Notice of Motion, the Rev Ermal Kirby, Chairmanof the London North East Methodist District had said: "Our Churchneeds someone as a leader who has the time and the space to seekGod's purpose for the Church, someone who can dream dreams and seevisions."

Mr Roger Dawe, Chair of the Methodist Council Executive, saidthat the Methodist Council strongly supported keeping thePresidency as a one-year appointment because with a move to afive-year term of office there would be a "danger of losingdiversity" in the breadth of leadership currently offered by morepeople each holding a one year term of office.

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