The Methodist Council, 31 October-1 November

Major papers discussed include senior leadership structures,grant making and urban mission.

The Methodist Council met yesterday and today at High LeighConference Centre in Hertfordshire. For the first time ever, thereports and papers to be discussed were made publicly availablebefore the meeting on the Methodist web site.

The Methodist Church is currently reviewing many of itsdecision-making bodies and processes, and is also looking at thefuture structure and role of the Connexional Team, the staff whoprovide services and support to the Church. As a result, much ofthe Council's business focussed on these areas.

Nonetheless, Council also gave a lot of time to other matters.These included the response to the Church of England's Commissionfor Urban Life and Faith (CULF). Although CULF's report FaithfulCities was produced to address issues affecting Anglican churches,it was chaired by Revd. Kathleen Richardson, former President ofthe Methodist Conference and many its recommendations also apply tothe Methodist Church.

The differences between Methodist and Anglican structures andtraditions mean that some further work is needed to implement therelevant recommendations of Faithful Cities. Nonetheless, theCouncil welcomed the report as highlighting the issues relating tourban mission. The Methodist Church funds, in conjunction with theEvangelical Coalition for Urban Mission, Erica Dunmow as UrbanMission Development Advisor. Based in Sheffield, she works todevelop networks of people and groups involved in urban missionboth locally and nationally.

Council welcomed and encouraged further work on a proposedprovisional pattern for the future leadership and senior managementof the Connexional Team. This proposed pattern envisages a smallgroup of senior leaders working under the General Secretary,replacing the current Coordinating Secretaries Group who currentlyare responsible for both strategic leadership and managing theConnexional Team.

All of the work of the Connexional Team is currently being reviewedwith a view to producing a Team that is more flexible and betterable to serve the needs of the whole Church. This new Team willalso cost less, in order to leave more resources in the hands ofdistricts and circuits.

Another major item being reviewed in this process is the allocationof grants. In the current budget year the Connexional Team alonewill give grants totalling £9.8 million, with decision-making heldin several places. The goal of the review is to put allgrant-making into one place, with the exception of emergenciesunder a single coordinated range of procedures. This will make fora simpler, quicker system for grants that will be more flexible andmore accountable. Different types of grants will still needdifferent means of applying, but because of the coordinatedapproach it will be easier for churches and other groups to makethe right applications at the right times.

The Revd. David Deeks, General Secretary of the Methodist Church,said "in 2004 we agreed the Priorities for the Methodist Church,which recognised that we cannot do everything we would wish to. Weare now putting those priorities into practice, and this will leadto a Church with the flexibility and strength to be part of God'smission to 21st century Britain."

Other issues discussed included a process to review the 1993resolutions on human sexuality. The 2006 Conference repeated itscommitment to the earlier resolutions, but also asked for a groupto study whether or not the Church membership wants to revisit themat a future Conference. Another matter under consultation is thequestion of what a Methodist understanding of Bishop. Council heardan update and appointed members to a group to review the responsesreceived to date and to make recommendations on taking the processforward.

The Methodist Council meets three or four times a year. It isresponsible for preparing business for the annual MethodistConference, and for continuing work overseen by the Conference. Ithas a membership of about 65 drawn from across the MethodistChurch.

All the papers for the Council are online at http://www.methodist.org.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=information.content&cmid=130