Thursday, 9 July 2009

Wednesday at Conference

We started the day with the announcement of the election for next years President and Vice-President. Alison Tomlin and Eunice Attwood will follow David and me. It seems strange in a way to be just starting our year of office to know that someone else is already starting to prepare to take over.

The morning business focused on the proposals not to roll out the annual development review pilots in their current form. It was agreed that lessons should be learnt from the pilots and changes made to the process before a revised scheme is introduced in 2011.

The Methodist Youth Conference report brought a series of resolutions that had come out of the last Youth Conference. The Youth Conference itself is changing and we will visit the first Youth Assembly later in the year. Their business started with a short but well produced video inviting us to consider how the church will involve young people over the next 10 years. This linked very strongly with the developing youth participation strategy being rolled out at the moment.

As always they brought to Conference 6 challenging motions for debate, including a focus on training for local preachers to enhance their abilities to lead worship for young people, making local preacher training resources more accessible, the desire to see dual church membership, particularly for students, as well as a request for greater clarity about the Methodist Church position on human sexuality.

It was noticeable that many of the issues raised have been raised before in recent years, which suggests that we ought to get better at re-telling our history and reminding the whole Church of the wealth of resources we have already developed at previous Conferences. We are also however often accused of discussing things at length but not taking action. One member said very powerfully they were tired of hearing the same issues raised year after year, “it’s time to do it, it’s time to act” she said.

Another main focus for the morning business was a helpful reflection led by David Walton on the world of business and ethical practice, with the brief opportunity given to Conference members to discuss the issues raised with their neighbours.

The morning concluded with a brief update on the Anglican-Methodist covenant, and a report making a statement on “our ecumenical calling”, a vision statement for ecumenical work which it is hoped will be used by local churches and circuits.

We concluded the Youth Conference business in the afternoon and then returned to the revised standing orders for property legislation which had by now been reviewed by a reference group. As part of these changes circuit advance funds are to be replaced by circuit model trust funds.

We dealt with the business before us is such a way that it created a reasonable amount of time to do justice to a number of the notices of motion proposed this year. These included the serious issues of supporting the work of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and setting up a Israel/Palestine working group, calling for a meeting with the Home Secretary to challenge the way the President of the Methodist Church in Benin had been refused a visa to come to Britain to attend the Conference, and recognising the valuable contribution made by the older members of our church.

Following the close of business David and I were able to join Stephen and David, the ex-President and ex-Vice-President for a pleasant evening with members attending from the Irish Methodist Conference. I look forward to joining them at their newly restructured conference in Belfast next year.

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