Outgoing Methodist leader: let's have a longer term President

The President of the Methodist Conference would be a moreeffective leader for Britain's Methodist community if he or shewere able to stay in office for longer than one year, says theoutgoing holder of the most senior office in the Church.

The Rev Ian White, who has been Methodist President since June2002, has today called on the Church to reform the role. This wouldenable Methodism's leadership to use its experience better for themission of the Church and to foster stronger ecumenical, social andpolitical relationships.

In the President's traditional farewell speech - a pastoraladdress to Methodist ministers gathered ahead of this weekend'sMethodist Conference in Llandudno - Mr White asked: "What is therole of the President to be in the 21st Century? Has the annualchange of person run its course? How is the Presidency to evolvewithin the life of the Methodist Church?

"In terms of making a full contribution to the leadership of theChurch, I believe the holder of this office - and that of the VicePresidency - should be appointed for a period longer than one year.As I began the year there was no doubt in my mind that an annualappointment was the right pattern for us. In the Autumn I underwenta conversion.

"This reflection comes out of my experience ecumenically andfrom conversations across the political, commercial and socialconcerns of the community. This is a question to which I believeConference will need to return during the next two or threeyears."

Elsewhere in his pastoral address, the President reflected onworldwide energy use. He issued a warning to countries andbusinesses not to abuse energy resources: "Energy has within it theseeds of conflict where the demands of large nations could outstripfuture supply and the vulnerable suffer in consequence. The use ofenergy, therefore, becomes both a theological and a social issue,which engages all of us." The Methodist Conference next week willconsider guidelines for how it invests in mining companies. A newMethodist pack is also to be launched on Energy and ChristianResponsibility.

Mr White looked back on major world events during his year inoffice. The conflict in Iraq raised for him "some fundamentalquestions," he said. "One of the challenges of the 21st Century istheological exploration with other faiths, without denying thecentrality of Christ. Out of this exploration will come a clearerrelationship across the faiths and firmer community relations."

The Rev Ian White steps down as Methodist President on Saturdayat the start of the Methodist Conference. His successor, the Rev DrNeil Richardson, will be installed as the new President during theopening of the Conference at the North Wales Theatre,Llandudno.

The President and Vice President of the Methodist Conference areelected annually by representatives at the Conference. ThePresident is always an ordained minister, while the Vice Presidentis a lay person or deacon.

Read the full text of the pastoraladdress

Methodist Conference 2003 index