Methodist Council, October 2005

The Methodist Council met on 17-18 October at All SaintsPastoral Centre, London Colney. This was the first Council meetingsince the Methodist Conference in June.

A major topic was the use and future of Methodist buildings. TheChurch owns thousands of buildings across Great Britain, many ofthem dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Councilagreed to make positive use of this rich architectural heritage byagreeing to include 300 churches in the 2007 Heritage Open Daysscheme run by the Civic Trust. This scheme, allowing members of thepublic to visit important buildings or see areas normally closed tothe public, has been a popular initiative in recent years. Councildecided that 300 church buildings should take part since 2007 marksthe 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley.

Council also initiated a major piece of work relating to Methodistproperty. The Revd David Deeks, General Secretary of the MethodistChurch, said, 'our buildings are a visible sign of our presence inpeople's communities. But our property must be at the service ofcontemporary mission, and we cannot afford to have buildings in thewrong place or that are not suitable for modern Church mission.'The recent DVD resource, Beyond the Wood and Stone, aims to helpchurches to make better use of their buildings, and this newCouncil initiative aims to continue to encourage the Methodistpeople to do so.

A new Methodist London Regional District comes into existence on 1September 2006, and as a result two other new districts are beingformed in the South-East of England covering the areas aroundLondon. Council agreed to recommend to the Conference that the RevdJohn Hellyer will be Chair of the new South-East District, whichcovers the southern areas surrounding London, and that the RevdAnne Brown shall be Chair of the Bedfordshire, Essex andHertfordshire District. John is currently a Superintendent ministerBirmingham, while Anne is currently Chair of the London North-WestDistrict, one of the four that will cease to exist when the newLondon Regional District comes into being. Council also agreed torecommend to the Conference that the current Oxford and LeicesterDistrict will in future be known as the Northampton District,reflecting the changes to its boundaries as a result of the changesin the South-East of England.

Council also received a report from the Working Party continuingthe work of the Pilgrimage of Faith on human sexuality. The WorkingParty was charged by the 2005 Methodist Conference to produceguidelines concerning the appropriateness or not of blessing CivilPartnerships when they become legal in December 2005. The WorkingParty will report to the 2006 Conference, and will not issue anyinterim or provisional guidelines, nor set any precedent that couldundermine the decision of the Conference.

As a result, Council agreed a statement clarifying current goodpractice if a couple registering a Civil Partnership sought to haveit blessed by a Methodist minister between the change in the law inDecember and Conference's decision in June 2006.