Methodist Council discusses the Big Society

The Methodist Council discussed the issues of UK poverty and theBig Society when it met at Royal Holloway College in Surrey, on9-11 April.

Council members heard that while the Government is speaking of theBig Society, the poorest in society are those who are losing outmost from public spending cuts.

Rachel Lampard, Public Issues Team Leader, said: "Methodism hasalways been about partnership and mutualism. Our response to theBig Society requires us to keep a focus on social justice whilehelping our society to visualise a community where relationshipsmatter. We need to continue to speak truth to power and talk aboutthe impact of decisions around spending cuts. Churches need to beencouraged to find new ways of working for their communities, andwe need to be cautious about substituting enthusiasm for the needfor professional services."

The Council resolved that local churches should be encouraged tocontinue to speak powerfully about what it means to live incommunity and to highlight the local impact of public spendingcuts. Council members were also concerned to address issues ofinequality within the Church and to consider how its own resourcesare deployed so that inequalities are not reinforced.

The Council also discussed the early findings of a new researchproject on the 18-30s age range, also known as the 'MissingGeneration' in today's churches. These findings highlighted thefact that conventional church does not fit easily into modern life,either socially or spiritually and the importance of small groupsto this generation. The project will offer a fuller report to theMethodist Conference in July and will explore further researchlinks with other denominations.

This Council meeting was Revd. Ken Howcroft's last before hebecomes minister at Ponte Saint Angelo Methodist Church in Rome andthe Methodist representative to the Vatican, after seven yearsserving the Church as the Assistant Secretary of the MethodistConference. He was thanked for the dedication, expertise and greathumour he has shown in fulfilling his role over the years. Revd.Gareth Powell has been nominated to succeed him in this post.

"It has been a privilege to serve the Council and help it in itsrole of discerning the will of God and deciding how to respond."said Mr. Howcroft. "I shall be sorry not to be part of it in thefuture. But I am excited about the new opportunities to which I ambeing sent, and I am delighted about the nomination of mysuccessor. The Council will be in safe hands."

Other matters discussed by the Council included a report on theChurch's involvement in the Bible Fresh project, a fundingcommitment for four of the Church's key heritage sites and jointwork with the United Reformed Church on the use of churchbuildings.