Methodist Council October 2017

The Methodist Council, the body which undertakes workon behalf of the Methodist Conference, met at High Leigh ConferenceCentre, Hoddesdon, on 16 and 17 October 2017. 

As usual, a wide range of reports was received by the Council buta particular focus of this meeting was further discussion of theStatistics for Mission report received by the Methodist Conferenceearlier this year. This informed discussion of other matters,including a strategy to ensure that the property owned by theChurch is used in the most effective way to further itsmission.
Statistics for Mission - collated responses fromDistrict discussion groups 
During the 2017 Conference, Districts were invited to considertheir response to the Statistics for Mission report which revealeda 3.5% year-on-year decline in membership over the past decade,with membership now at 188,000. 
The Methodist Council was presented with the feedback from thediscussions held at the Conference with most Districts beingunsurprised by the decline. However, Districts expressed the viewthat the figures alone did not truly reflect the wider work oftheir churches.  
The Council heard a presentation from the President of theConference, the Revd Loraine N Mellor, the Secretary of theConference, the Revd Canon Gareth J Powell, and the ConnexionalSecretary, Doug Swanney, reflecting on the discussions held at theConnexional Leaders' Forum in September, and re-emphasising theneed to respond to the challenges shown by the statistics and toreturn to Our Calling as the basis of the Methodist Church'swork. 
The Council split into groups to discuss the state of the workof God, including what Circuits and Districts need to bettersupport them as they pursue Our Calling. The groups also discussedwhat would support Districts in fulfilling their mission plans, andthe role to be played by the Council itself and the Church's otherdecision-making processes in this.

Developing a connexional strategy for the use of Methodistproperty
A report outlining the principles of a connexional strategyfor the use of Methodist property was received by the Council. Thereport, in the light of the Statistics for Mission report'sfindings, emphasised the need for property to be used to fulfil theMethodist Church's calling and for this to be underpinned by astrategy for the use, development, acquisition and disposal ofproperty. It was also recommended that the role of DistrictProperty Secretaries be clarified to ensure that the post isappropriately resourced.  
The Council directed the Property Development Committee tobring the proposed strategy back to the Council no later than April2018. Separately, it also directed the Committee to draftMemorandum and Articles of Association for establishing a whollyowned trading subsidiary company to undertake future propertydevelopment projects on behalf of the Committee and theCouncil. 
Connexional Grants towards Mission and Ministry inBritain 
A new policy for the work of the Connexional Grants Committeewas agreed by the Council. The policy and the refreshed criteriafor grants reflect the wish to encourage new ideas for mission andthe development of capacity, leadership and infrastructure at alocal level within Methodist bodies and ecumenical institutesworking in Britain. The policy emphasises that any grants must berelated to Our Calling and the Priorities for the Methodist Churchand be a response to a clearly identified need. 

Building closer relations between the Methodist Church and All WeCan 
A report on developing closer relationships between theConnexional team and All We Can, the Methodist relief anddevelopment organisation, was received by the Council. The Councilrequested that a new Memorandum of Understanding be written todefine the future relationship of the organisations. The paperreported that a merger between the Connexion's World ChurchRelationships team and All We Can would not be advantageous, andthat greater mutual understanding and joint working was the bestway to fulfil the Methodist Church's international callings.

The Methodist Diaconal Order as a ReligiousOrder
It was agreed by the Council that the timeline for the workinggroup considering the Methodist Diaconal Order (MDO) as a religiousorder be amended and for the report to be received in April 2019,prior to the Conference of that year.

Corporate Risk Register 
The Council was asked to consider the Corporate Risk Registerin small groups, noting in particular the addition to the registerof a risk of breach of data protection law. The Council engagedfully with this and a range of suggestions was made, with the viewexpressed that the register should be linked to the clearstrategies which seek to take forward the mission of the Church inthe light of Our Calling. An updated risk management policy wasapproved and the risk register adopted, with an assurance that theregister will remain a live document. Further updates incorporatingsome of the comments which had been made will be brought back tothe next Council. 

Safeguarding and Network Committees 
The Council heard that significant progress had been made onthe process for reviewing the Safeguarding Committee, its terms ofreference and its membership. The committee will meet to discussproposals in November this year and these will be brought to theCouncil in January 2018.
Separately, the Council recommended that the Network Committeebe disbanded at the end of the current connexional year, with itsresponsibilities being absorbed into other bodies.

The role of the Church in opposing racism 
The Council was updated on the response to a Memorial acceptedat the Conference this year, suggesting an event on the role of theChurch in opposing racism. It was agreed that, while there wouldnot be a conference on this topic, the issues of racial justicewill continue to be a priority and that the spirit of the Memorialwould be expressed in other ways.

Marriage and Relationships Task Group
The Council received a report from the Marriage andRelationships Task Group on the progress of its work towardsbringing material to the 2018 Conference. The Council did not seeor discuss the content of that material.
The Council affirmed the processes by which the task groupwill bring a draft statement to the Conference for consultationthroughout the Connexion. That consultation will lead to a finaldecision in 2020, as required by the Conference of 2016.

Chair of the Council
With the Revd Ruth Gee completing her term as Chair of theMethodist Council at the end of this connexional year, a resolutionwas passed that a panel be established to undertake theresponsibility of nominating the next Chair to the April 2018Council. The Council also recommended to the Conference that theterm of office of the Chair of the Council be extended from threeyears to four, in line with the length of service of otherrepresentatives on the Council.