Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Monday at Conference

Monday morning started with a breakfast meeting at 7.15 to decide who would chair each session and plan how we would tackle the various sections. We then had to get to the venue early to we could do a photo shoot with MRDF and the Methodist Recorder.

Birmingham District led the opening prayers and then the first agenda item was the General Secretaries report. The report contains many challenges for the church but only 2 speakers responded. May be it was because it was right at the start of the business part of Conference and people hadn’t warmed up yet but it was a shame because there was much here to get us going and I hope it will be more widely read and used as a resource in local churches.

The Connexional Team report followed which led to a greater response, many focusing on the help desk, although it was acknowledged that it was getting better, as were other parts of the developing team. I took the chair for the first time when the budget was introduced, although the resolution will not be voted on until the end of the Conference. Concerns about the proposal to end the designation of the Training Assessment Fund were expressed. As was pointed out to me later, it was my intervention a few years ago in Conference that had led to the creation of the Fund in the first place. I expect this debate will continue later in the Conference.

We then discussed important issues relating to safeguarding. A notice of motion was proposed inviting work to be done on safeguarding vulnerable adults. An attempt to amend this was defeated and the notice of motion was passed.

At lunch time I went to the MHA lunch at Molineux, the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers, and had another photo shoot, this time with a Wolves scarf and an embarrassing woolly hat. The original idea had been to pose wearing a Wolves shirt but once we realised that it was sponsored by “sporting-bet” we decided this wasn’t a wise move for the President or Vice President of the Methodist Conference to do. Was it any wiser for a Leeds fan to pose with a Wolves scarf, I’m sure I’ll hear about that!

We heard about the excellent work being doing by MHA, including innovative schemes in Leeds.

The afternoon agenda went smoothly, working though business relating to the establishment of the new Methodist Heritage Committee, a series of special resolutions and the Law and Polity committee report, which included presenting 21 resolutions. A substantial item relating to redrafting property legislation gained very little response. In part this is because of the size of the report and its specialist nature. Fortunately a committee of reference has been established to scrutinise the report in more detail.

After tea David took the chair again and we had a 2 hour debate on the proposed new hymn book together with a rolling resource of new songs and hymns that would be available on the internet. After working through a long list of alternative motions that would have stopped or significantly curtailed the project, the original proposals brought by the Music Resource Group, were slightly amended but largely adopted. We will now have a new authorised hymn collection both as a book as well as in digital form.

Following the end of Conference I attended the Network meeting which was a Question Time style event. It turned out that almost all the questions were either ones I’d raised during my Saturday address, or would be areas I will tackle in my series of Methodist Recorder articles, women in leadership (why are there no women on the platform of Conference), where are the young men in our churches, the difficulties of breast feeding in public, women in medicine and the need for flexible working, as well as the situation of women in Palestine. It was a well attended meeting and it was heartening to know that some of the things I’ve said and will say are chiming with the questions women in the church are asking.

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