New Methodist President takes office - and calls for a 'self-confident' and 'self-critical' Church

Rev Christina Le Moignan has taken office as the new Presidentof the Methodist Conference - the most senior position in theMethodist Church in Britain.

After being inducted as President during the opening of theMethodist Conference 2001, Christina Le Moignan gave her keynotespeech to more than 360 Conference Representatives as well as otherguests gathered at the Corn Exchange at Ipswich Town Hall.

She made an appeal to Britain's Methodists to be part of a more'self-confident' and 'self-critical' Church. She spoke of theChurch as being radically different from its neighbours in the waythat it thinks of its health and well being. For the Church, deathor loss is not a disaster. But natural ends, within the providenceof God, are often caught up in new beginnings elsewhere.

As a result, the Church "can be more up front about thepossibility of ceasing to exist at some time in the foreseeablefuture as a separate denomination - and having named thepossibility, be freer to concentrate on living in the present. Youcan name the fact of decline more openly, but not regard it as ameasure of your spiritual health".

Christina went on to suggest that notions of sacrifice andself-denial are considered by society as "outmoded, if notpositively disreputable. This you have to resist". She offered acritique of an affluent society which put up with economicdeprivation and "suffering caused by other people's pursuit ofself-fulfillment".

Because of its different standards, Methodism has much to offera needy society: "Your societyneeds to overcome its fear ofdeath, which cripples many lives, and it needs to recovera sense of the importance and value of people independent ofstatus. Your society needs to recover a sense ofthe unimportance of money, when the relentless pursuit of itleaves the winners less than happy and inflicts huge damage on thelosers. Your society needs a community that believes inforgiveness, for what other way is there in the end to come toterms with injury?"

"Blame and claim no doubt has some satisfaction in it, but itdoesn't heal much. Your society needsa community whichbelieves in long-term investment in people, long-term loving withno immediate returns on the balance sheet; for people are notquickly fixed."

The Methodist Conference 2001 takes place at Ipswich Town Hallfrom 23-29 June.