The Methodist Council, March 2023, Leamington Spa

12 April 2023

The Methodist Council met at Woodland Grange, Leamington Spa between the 25 and 27 March 2023 to discuss matters relating to the life of the Church including the Walking with Micah project, the Anglican / Methodist Covenant and the composition of the Methodist Conference.

President and Vice-President Reflections
In his reflection to the Methodist Council, the President of the Methodist Conference, Revd Graham Thompson, considered the work of the Church to support those impacted by the cost of living crisis and the need to focus our work to ensure we do what we can in an exemplary way. The Vice-President, Anthony Boateng, reflected on the need to ensure that we are a church working towards revival, while acknowledging the challenges of decline in membership and church buildings.

Anglican/Methodist Covenant
Meetings between the President and Vice-President of the Conference and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, as well as senior staff of both churches, have resulted in a mutual commitment to moving forward with the Covenant relationship.

The Council directed the Faith and Order Committee to explore with the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England the most suitable next steps in considering Mission and Ministry in Covenant and to work with that Commission to draft such liturgical, legislative and other texts as may be needed.

Composition of the Conference
The Council agreed to recommend the distribution of the 225 seats which will make up the full voting membership of the Conference. The Conference had previously decided that Synod-elected members should be no less than 70% of the overall body.

The report recommends that the category of Conference-elected be abolished and replaced by members of the Connexional Council. The Connexional Council will be represented by seven of its members plus its Chair. The remaining non-District categories will represent those groups within the life of the Church.

While the aim is for the overall number of voting members to reduce to 225 at the 2024 Conference, there will need to be some transitional arrangements before the Connexional Council is established and other changes can come into effect.

Review of Safeguarding Policy and Procedures
The Council received a report on the rationalisation of the length of the Church’s safeguarding documentation. The review followed consultation with key stakeholders and has reduced the document by almost one third in length. Responses indicate that practitioners welcomed the concise version of the policy with intricate procedural details moved to the appendices.

Positive Working Together
The Council recommends that the Conference adopts a 5-year programme, in partnership with Place for Hope, to offer the integrated approach in support of Positive Working Together and extending the Reconciliation and Mediation Team to become a Connexion-wide programme.

Methodist Schools Committee

The report detailed further work undertaken as part of the Transforming Lives strategy, growing their presence and influence in children’s education as an expression of the gospel. 

The first International Methodist Schools Conference, ‘Transforming Lives’, will be held in April 2023, as a joint venture between the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities. A second Multi Academy Trust is to be formed, known as Inspiring Lives Education Trust, to support Methodist schools that become academies. This will be operational by early autumn.

The schools group has worked to equip Methodist churches to develop positive working relationships with the community schools in their circuits.

David Humphreys was thanked for his eight years as General Secretary of the Methodist Independent Schools Trust. His successor will be Judith Fenn.

Revising the Methodist Worship Book
The Council received a report from the Faith and Order Committee, including the suggestion that there should be consultation in order to develop proposals for a fundamental revision of the Methodist Worship Book.  The Council engaged in conversation about the current use of the Methodist Worship Book and what future resources and formats might be desirable.  The Council agreed that a consultation process should be initiated by the Faith and Order Committee.

Report of the Mission Committee
The Mission Committee commended the Walking with Micah project report for presentation at the 2023 Conference. The Committee felt the report was powerful, exciting and challenging, and was particularly pleased with the level of participation and collaboration.

The Council also agreed to place a resolution before the 2023 Conference that “The Conference supports the call for a fourth UN Special Session on Disarmament at a future UN General Assembly.”

Strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity
The Council agreed the addition of Worship Leaders to the list of those roles who need to undertake mandatory EDI training. It was also directed that, as far as possible, and with consideration of personal preference, gendered titles which disclose the marital status of a woman should be avoided in all connexional meetings and correspondence.

Strategy and Resources Committee
The Council received a report from the Strategy and Resources Committee confirming a revised budget for the redevelopment of the building at Tavistock Place. This reflects the updated costs of delivering the project.