New look for London Methodist districts is considered

The geography of Methodism in south east England may look verydifferent in the next decade, under plans for a reorganisation ofthe four London Methodist Districts.

The Methodist Conference is to be asked to recommend that theshape of the current four districts of London be redrawn asregional districts. This would be allow the Church in the southeast of England to relate more effectively to civic and socialbodies in the region, tackle social issues more effectively andbetter express the distinctive nature of the Church'smulti-cultural membership in London.

One part of the proposals is a plan to create a new Londonregional Methodist district covering a similar area to thatgoverned by the Greater London Assembly (GLA). This promises afocussed leadership for Methodism in the London region that will bebetter placed to relate to London Mayor Ken Livingstone and othercivic leaders.

The plans are spelt out in a report of the Working Party onLondon Methodism that will be considered by the MethodistConference in July. If the Conference accepts the outlineproposals, further consultation will be undertaken to draw up thedetailed financial and practical implications of the changes. Thereis at present no definite timetable for the creation of the newdistricts.

The proposals are designed to make the Church more responsive tothe new civic bodies that have emerged in south eastern England inthe past few years. In particular, the working party said that theChurch needs to find better ways of relating to the GLA and theother two English regions that the current London districts fallwithin - the East of England and the South East of EnglandRegions.

Currently there are four Methodist districts - London NorthEast, London North West, London South West, London South East.Under the plans these would be reborn as three districts - one forthe greater London area only, one for the parts of London NE andLondon NW outside greater London, and one for the parts of LondonSE and London SW outside greater London. Each of these districtswould have a membership of between 17,000-20,000 Methodists.

The working party, chaired by MP Tony Colman and includingrepresentatives of each of the four current districts, was set upin January 2001 after calls by the four districts to consider theeffectiveness of the Church in relating to the new regionalstructures. Consultation with churches, circuits and synods in thefour districts, revealed a majority in favour of a new model ofregional districts.

The Rev Stuart Jordan, a member of the working party andSecretary of the Methodist London Committee, said: "The election ofa Mayor and the Greater London Assembly in 2000 was a trigger forthe churches to consider their own institutional patterns acrossthe region. The process of regionalisation offers the faithcommunities new opportunities to engage constructively with thepublic agenda." He stressed that, regardless of any change toMethodist districts, there would need to be significant ecumenicaland inter faith co-operation to properly represent faith communityinterests with civic bodies.

The working party noted that the current district boundaries,which divide London into quarters, leaves "the centre of gravity ineach of the London districts outside the M25. As a consequence, thespecific concerns of London are likely to be minority interestswithin any one district despite their significance for the southeast of England as a whole". The opportunities to recognise andcelebrate the success story and distinctive character of London'sgrowing, multi-ethnic Methodist churches are also weakened by thecurrent district model.


1. Districts are the regional groupings of Methodistchurches that are most closely related to the dioceses of theChurch of England or Roman Catholic Church. Their purpose is to'advance the mission of the church in a region' and relate to the'wider society of the region as a whole and address its concerns'.(Methodist Standing Order 400A). Policy in each district is decidedby a district synod overseen by a district chair.

2. The current London Methodist Districts cover thefollowing areas:

  1. London North East - consisting of the north east Londonboroughs, Essex, Thurrock, Southend, southern and centralCambridgeshire and parts of eastern Hertfordshire
  2. London North West - consisting of the north west Londonboroughs, central and western Hertfordshire, Luton, most ofBuckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes, and a small partof eastern Oxfordshire.
  3. London South West - consisting of the south west Londonboroughs, Surrey, the western part of East Sussex, the eastern partof West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, Windsor and Maidenhead, Slough,Bracknell and the north eastern edge of Hampshire.
  4. London South East - consisting of the south east Londonboroughs, Kent, Medway, and the eastern part of EastSussex.

3. The proposed new look districts would cover the followingareas:

  1. A London regional district covering a similar area to theGLA
  2. A 'Home Countries' district covering the areas of theLondon NE and London NW districts outside the GLA area.
  3. A 'Southern Countries' district covering the areas of theLondon SE and London SW districts outside the GLA area.