Report from the Methodist Council - February 2023

22 February 2023

The Council meeting was held online 25 - 26 January. It opened with worship led by the Chair of the Council, the Revd Sonia Hicks. Council members received reports from the Strategy and Resources Committee and the Connexional Team.

Amalgamation of Districts

Plans to amalgamate the Bolton and Rochdale, Cumbria, Lancashire and Liverpool districts to form a single district were presented to the Council by Peter Gregson (Cumbria District) and the Chair of the Liverpool district, the Revd Sheryl Anderson. Council members heard that the districts have been prayerfully considering a future together and discussing how to free up time for mission and provide effective leadership while being a part of a bigger district. Three hubs are being planned which will serve the whole district which Mr Gregson explained would revitalise people and free up time for mission. The consultation process is now underway in order to bring proposals to the Conference so that the new district can come into being in September 2024.

The Council received the report and voted in favour of the amalgamation of the four districts.


Warm Spaces

The Head of Mission, Jude Levermore, gave a presentation on the Warm Spaces initiative and how the Methodist Church has engaged so far. It aims to offer people somewhere warm to go and was set up in response to the cost of living crisis around heating costs. So far, over 450 Methodist warm spaces have been registered on the Warm Spaces website, with the Connexional Team giving out more than 20 grants to groups towards the costs associated with the set-up. Council members went into groups to discuss their experience of Warm Spaces and the opportunity that this initiative offers.

See how one church has offered a warm space: Providing a warm space for the people of Epsom | Cost of living crisis - YouTube


Forces Board

The Council received a report on the Forces Board which was presented by the Connexional Secretary, Mr Doug Swanney. He explained that work has been continuing without the Secretary of the Forces’ Board because of illness and paid tribute to the continuing work and support of the Board’s Project Officer, Mr Phil Maltby. Mr Swanney told Council members that while there are aspirations for changes, it is not possible at the moment so they will be re-visited in the future.


Justice Dignity and Solidarity

The Council received a report from the Revd Delyth Liddell, acting Chair of the JDS committee. Members heard that the committee is excited about the amount of work that has happened in the past 18 months including the take-up of the user guide (which has been re-printed) and the Inclusive Language guide. Ms Liddell told members that the strategy is the work of the whole church and not just the Committee and the work is now flourishing across the Connexion.


Interim Nominations Committee

The Council received an update on the Interim Nominations Committee from the Secretary of the Conference. The Conference had requested the Committee be established in order to appoint a more diverse range of people to various roles. Members heard that it has been difficult and time consuming to find people for the interim committee, and after two rounds of advertising, two names have been put forward. The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler told members that this is the situation in which the church finds itself, with not as many people around as we think we have. Dr Hustler explained: “we still have a lot to learn about how we bring things to people’s attention and how we persuade them of their talents for certain roles.”

All resolutions were carried and the Council agreed to appoint the Revd Dr Nicola Price-Tebbutt and Ms Verity Wild to the Committee.


Annual report and accounts

The Connexional Treasurer and the Director of Finance and Resources presented the annual report and accounts to the Council. The Revd Tim Swindell told members that everyone had a responsibility to look after the finances of the church. Mr Matt Tattersall presented the accounts explaining to members that income has gone up significantly, largely driven by the pension appeal and the additional levy income as a result of property sales. He said the investment loss of £12m was not entirely unexpected and was partly due to the divestment from oil and gas investments which have done well over the past year. Mr Swindell concluded by telling members that we need to be courageous and imaginative, but there is little use discussing justice and the Justice, Dignity and Solidarity plans if we do not ensure there is money to pay for this work.