Newsletter Prepared by
Representatives from York and
Revds Sue Pegg, Andy Lindley, Mark Haynes, Dr Stephen Leah, Mrs Kate
Woolley, Mrs Tricia Mitchell, Mr William Swires and Mrs Heather Shipman. All
Chairs of District are members of Conference so our Chair Revd Stephen Burgess
was also with us.
Southport is a very attractive place with a wonderful marina and an adjacent
Conference Centre. York and Hull District representatives were staying in a
Premier Inn and just in case you think we had a lovely relaxing week I have to tell
you it is hard work during the Representative Sessions. A 9.00am – 7.00pm day
in a Conference Hall even if the sun is shining outside, but it is also good fun and
fellowship and very exciting worship.
On Thursday, Conference meets in Ministerial Session and on the Friday they
remember those who have died during the year in a moving service. As Lay
representatives we joined our colleagues for the Communion Service on the
Friday afternoon. And then it was into the weekend’s services and celebrations.
We heard addresses from the new President and Vice President and Sunday was
devoted to the Reception into Full Connexion of the ordinands, and their
ordination at various venues during the afternoon. This year we were delighted to
support Sally Coleman in her ordination in Liverpool Cathedral. Sally was also
well supported by friends and colleagues from the Snaith & Selby and Goole
This very brief newsletter can only give you a flavour of some of the discussion at
Conference. We will all be at Synod in September with red badges on and will try
to give you a further update on Conference matters. Please do contact us.
Joint Ethical Investment Advisory Committee (JACEI)
This committee was set up in 1983 to advise the Church on the ethics of its many
investments and how we can encourage Corporate Responsibility. It reports to the
Conference each year and its report in 2011 demonstrated the huge breadth and
importance of its work. Amongst the areas addressed this year were Armaments,
trafficking of children, Caste Discrimination and the extraction of Oil Sands. The
Conference accepted the report overwhelmingly, but in the debate two other areas
reported on were discussed.
One was to congratulate JACEI on its ethical investment policy regarding
Palestine/Israel and the criteria it will use to judge whether to invest in companies
that profit from Israel’s illegal activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
This policy has been accepted by the Central Finance Board and amongst other
things, will involve the CFB ensuring companies they invest in have addressed
human rights concerns and international law in their dealings. A concern was
raised however, over its initial implementation regarding Veolia which it has been
suggested has been involved in several business dealings in the West Bank
including the building of light railway and bus services between illegal settlements.
JACEI agreed that these were serious concerns that needed to be addressed.
The other concern that was expressed was over Executive Pay on which JACEI
has also done much work. How is it reasonable that some companies pay their
Executives 75 times what they pay their lowest rank workers? What are the ways
in which JACEI is engaging with companies to help them moderate these
One of the saddest decisions that were made during the Conference was to close
the Epworth Press publishers. For over a year, no new books have been
published and the only sales have been from back-listed titles. A Review Group
has been meeting to discuss the future of the Epworth Press, and their initial hope
was that it could be maintained as a going-concern and assist with the deepening
of discipleship and learning. However, it was also recognised that if this were to
occur, additional investment would be needed.
It was initially hoped that a strategic alliance with a third party publisher might be
the way forward, however, during this year, this was tried but without success. As
a result, Conference decided that keeping the publisher going was not its priority,
so it reluctantly took the decision to close Epworth Press.
Faith and Order – Re-affirmation of baptism vows?
Conference agenda included a suggestion from the Faith and Order Committee
that a liturgical rite using water for the re-affirmation of Baptism vows could be
useful. This was particularly in the case of those who were Baptised as babies
and then later, as adults, had a conversion or renewal of faith experience. There
were several speakers in the debate including one who made the further
suggestion that a rite could also be useful in some pastoral situations. These
included babies born prematurely and baptised in hospital sometimes without their
families present and also in the case of older adopted children. Conference gave
permission for the rite to be written and the Faith and Order Committee will seek
approval of it at next year’s Conference
One more year to await the review of the Youth Participation Strategy, but already
three of the 16-23 year olds employed thus far are now pursuing vocations in the
church. It was also clear to see that the Youth Assembly, which has now replaced
‘Breakout’, is a huge success and continues to develop confident and talented
young leaders. What is also clear is our young people want action, not just
reflection, unlike much of our proceedings, which often leaves Conference off
balance. This year youth assembly asked us to support the simple idea, that sport
shouldn’t be a distraction from church, but a part of what we do as Church. It
sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at the arguments! They reminded us again
that our worship leader training isn’t good enough…we wait for 2012 for that to
deliver! Finally they wish us all to respond better to those with mental health and
drug issues…no easy task, but absolutely right as usual!
Statistics for Mission
This year Conference was also given the opportunity to divide up in order to
address several topics in more depth, and perhaps surprisingly, one of the most
popular and exciting sessions was Statistics for Mission. Each year we send off
our October figures, details on ceremonies and church groups, but until this year
all we’ve had back is tables. This year we’ve seen the start of something new –
statistics visualised for mission, not just tables, but graphs and maps. Our data,
not just presented back to us, but against a backdrop of census data, from
population density to deprivation, in order that we might ask the simple question –
is our mission focussed in the right place! Normal non-geeky people were heard to
say it was ‘sexy’ and ‘exciting’. Watch this space - more developments to come!
See www.methodist.org.uk for the present offerings.
President Designate - Revd Dr Mark Wakelin
Vice President Designate - Mr Michael King
What is worth More Than Gold?
Are you an armchair sportsperson? Did you miss out on tickets for the Olympics?
Are the Olympics only really of concern to those living near London, or with a
particular interest in sports? At Conference we were inspired by Lord Mawhinney
and invited to take another look at the opportunities the London Olympics offers to
Churches. More than Gold was set up to help Churches to use the Olympic
Games as a means to engage with local communities and to share God’s love
beyond our Churches.
What can we do? As Olympic fever sweeps the nation we need to be ready to link
in. From Easter onwards Children’s holiday clubs and sports events might link to
the Olympic theme. A big screen could be a community focal point to come and
share the games together. Churches could organise sports events of all sorts for
their community linking to the Olympic enthusiasm – from athletics and football to
table tennis, bowls or beetle drives. How about a quiz with a range of questions
but a sports theme? Whatever the event Churches can reach out through
hospitality and friendship and touch the lives of our communities. The More Than
Gold team offer advice and ideas so please look at their website:
www.morethangold.org.uk. Think of the impact we can make if every church
reaches out just once during the Olympics and Para-Olympics in 2012.
The Theology of Pastoral Care
Revd Leo Osborn’s theme throughout his Presidential year will be “Pastoral Care
as Disciples of Jesus”. The Statement on the Theology of Pastoral Care engages
with the scriptures and current practical issues. It identifies caring as being the
fundamental spirituality where loving attention focuses on humbly serving others.
It characterises Christian care as disciples of Jesus prayerfully working together,
each contributing particular gifts and experience, to enable others to flourish,
always being sensitive and respectful to other lifestyles and faiths and engaging
with individuals and groups. The statement recognises that much can be learned
about caring from dialogue with external organisations that deliver care. Whilst
every Christian has a ministry of pastoral care it is the lay and ordained leaders
and pastoral visitors who share the responsibility for encouraging care and
discerning best pastoral practice. The statement emphasises the importance of
good listening and the sharing of personal testimony in releasing possibilities for
mutual support and bridge building between church and society. Pastoral
conversations are just as likely to begin in the coffee shop or walking the dog as in
a formal pastoral visit which often only happens when an emergency arises. The
President expressed concern that the Church does not always live up to its high
calling and that many still feel uncared for. The Conference therefore directs that
further work is done to support the various pastoral ministries and that the
statement is discussed in local meetings for further comment.
Contemporary Methodism: a discipleship movement shaped for
mission The General Secretary’s Report 2011
Revd Dr Martyn Atkins presented his Report to Conference.
He says, ‘I share with many Methodist people a desire to grow in Christian hope,
passion and witness and kingdom focus – a more effective vessel for use by a
missionary God and that includes, ‘turnaround’. I believe God has made our
direction of travel clear, to be the best we can.’
The report states that there is always a fertile period for making hard choices
which must not be missed rather than wait until resources and energy to
implement them are no longer available. This means permitting God to reshape
and renew us, and travelling with God. Faith means that we trust God for our very
life as a Church, in profoundly real and concrete ways.
Patterns of ministry: discipleship and mission
A key theme is that ‘the ministry of the whole people of God’ must increasingly
shape the way in which we actually use and prioritise our resources.
The size of many new Circuits and the changes this will bring about
suggests that ‘pastoral charge’ is also necessarily ‘missional charge’.
Greater team building, collaborative working and multiple partnerships are
indispensible often requiring dedicated training for new ministries
Circuit ministry/leadership teams must take seriously the commitment to
be outward-facing, world transforming, beginning in their own locality -
resulting in a host of healthy ministries, projects and initiatives.
Greater investments in small group leadership - to discern, identify, train
and help those so called.
Seeking to respond positively to the insights and challenges posed by the
‘Missing Generation’ report including children and young people.
A review of Local Preacher learning, training and continuing development
is integrated into the wider challenges and opportunities of the project,
Fruitful Field. This also includes Worship Leaders and one of the
questions the report asks is, ‘How can both these lay ministries best relate
to each other, presbyters and deacons in leading worship?’
God’s ‘worthship’ and our worship
Worship is everything that the Church offers to God in response to God’s love: its
‘wonder, love and praise’ and therefore its ministries, property and resources – all
is an offering to God.
God’s properties and our stewardship: resources of discipleship and
An overall roll call of 582,000 people
About 8500 local preachers (active and sat down)
Active presbyters – 1750
Active deacons 125
There are in excess of 5200 church properties
We are at our best when we regard our ‘plant’ as resources for God’s mission
rather than an inheritance to be preserved at all costs. We need to consider the
sacrificial, strategic approach – ‘What kind of space do we need to be the
discipleship, missional movement God wants us to be?’
A fluid’ mixed economy’
Many fresh expressions of Church and new communities are emerging and new
patterns of ministry and new policies regarding our premises must be enabled to
grow and flourish. Ministry and property are the two main factors in finance and
challenges us ‘to change a mind set,’ that we use our giving, budgeting and
spending to prioritise what we feel God is calling us to become.
Evangelism….making more disciples of Jesus Christ
Of the Regrouping for Mission initiative. Martyn goes on to say, ’We Methodists
openly acknowledge that making new disciples in ‘appropriate’ and ‘apt’ ways is
what we feel least good and confident at.’ He then asks some ‘outcome’
questions: what do I expect to happen? What will the person who says ‘yes’ to
Jesus be expected to become like? A Christian discipleship movement inevitably
includes a commitment to making new disciples of Christ, and as the weakest
‘health indicator’ throughout the Connexion we are being urged to make this a key
The Ministries Committee, Faith and Order Committee and Methodist Council
were directed by Conference to establish working groups to report on several of
these sections and the issues raised in them and to report back to Conference as
soon as possible.
Throughout Conference a highly significant number of speakers and presenters
referred to this report. Conference commends the report and its emphasis on the
Methodist Church as a ‘discipleship movement shaped for mission’ to the whole
connexion for study, response and action.
The Fruitful Field
I’m not sure how many people would rush to read a report on training, even if it is
called “The Fruitful Field project”. The name of this interim report comes from a
series of resolutions from 1820, but its impact will be felt in the future, and the
implications could be far reaching. The Higher Education Sector is currently going
through tumultuous change, and not only as a result of Lord Browne’s report on
funding and student finance. This will inevitably affect initial training in all
denominations. The uncertainties that must be felt in all the training institutions
should not be forgotten, decisions need to be made by conference 2012.
The Methodist Church is also in a period of change, and as the church positions
itself to become much more a “discipleship movement shaped for mission” the use
of training resources needs better to reflect what we seek to be and do. We are
encouraged to use our resources “to facilitate what we feel God is calling us to
become rather than adopting a default position of sustaining what we have”. The
greater part of the church’s training budget has previously been used to equip and
sustain presbyters and deacons. In the future as we seek to rediscover the
ministry of the whole people of God, as more diverse ministry teams are explored,
decisions will need to be taken about the training and budgetary implications.
“A healthy Connexion is consequently a community of learning where every
disciple is learning about their faith and telling the story of the faith, where every
minister is an educator and a reflective learner, and where every Circuit is a
The Big Society/Of Equal Value: Poverty and inequality
These two reports belong together. The former begins by asking “What is the Big
Society and how could churches respond?”. It is a balanced report which outlines
some of the main strands and components of the Big Society. There are critiques
of the Big Society and then some church responses to it, from the enthusiastic to
the cynical. The report quotes Archbishop Rowan Williams “two and half cheers
for the Big Society”. In its conclusion the report states that Methodists will have a
range of responses to the Big Society; that it is right that the church encourages
people to engage with critiques of the Big Society and that we should beware of
being seen to collude with a politically divisive agenda. “It is possible to remain
critical whilst seeking ways in which the church can be a good neighbour to
people in need and to challenge injustice”
Of Equal Value: Poverty and Inequality is filled with the results of much research.
There is the necessary theological underpinning and a reminder that “concern for
the poor has been central to the message and ministry of the Christian Church”.
Also that there is a gospel bias to the poor and the marginalized.
Over 9 million adults in the UK rely on state benefits as their major source of
income; of the £156bn spent by the Department of Work and Pensions each year
approximately 60% is accounted for by payments to people of state pension age,
13% by payments to disabled people and only 2% for those who are unemployed.
There are many hurdles for people living in low income families if they are to move
out of low income, money alone is not sufficient. Poverty affects health and life
expectancy. The poor are often misrepresented eg portrayed as scroungers.
However the government estimates benefit fraud to be £1.6bn per year while it
estimates underpayment to those who qualify but do not claim to be £16.8bn.
There are many practical and campaigning responses to poverty and inequality by
churches: Credit unions; Faith in Affordable Housing; Christians against Poverty;
homelessness projects; the Church of Scotland’s Priority Areas programme and
its church twinning programme.
At the end of the report there are a number of recommendations including a
commitment to a fair tax system where all income groups share fairly the tax
burden. The report calls upon the Methodist people to consider how best they may
play their part in bringing this about be it by prayer, charity, social action or
political action. The website of the Joint Public Issues Team contains many stories
in written and video format in part a response to the Methodist councils call to
listen to and tell the real stories of those who struggle on low incomes.
We have agreed to support the Robin Hood tax. What is it? Ask your
representatives or look at the report
Reports were also brought to Conference on: Safeguarding, Methodist Heritage,
Missing Generation Research Project, Youth Presidency and the Youth Assembly
Supporting Ministers who experience ill health, Moving Forward in Covenant
(more locally enabled opportunities agreed by Conference), Ministerial
Development Review (approved in the format we have looked at) as well as those
which are required at all Methodist Conferences
Leading and Presiding : Developing the Presidency
No change. Conference rejected the suggested change of title for the Vice
President to Co-President. Well, at least we have talked about it!
Please remember that any of your Conference Representatives will be very happy
to answer your questions or assist in any way in bringing the work of Conference
to the attention of Circuits and Churches.