04 February 2022
After worship, the Chair of the Methodist Council, Mrs Jill Baker paid tribute to Mr Peter Pay, moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, who had attended the Council as an ecumenical observer who died in December. She described him as a ‘much valued participant in our Council meetings who we shall miss and we remain grateful for all he contributed.’ Mrs Baker welcomed the Revd Philip Brooks, Secretary for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations for the URC, who attended the meeting.
Mrs Baker updated the Council with the news that a building at 25 Tavistock Place has been purchased which will house the Connexional Team. The Connexional Secretary Doug Swanney gave more details about the move out of 25 Marylebone Road and how plans for a service to mark the closure of the current MCH are in progress.
The Council received reports from the Strategy and Resources Committee and the Annual Report of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee.
The Director of Finance and Resources, Matt Tattersall, introduced the consolidated accounts which in addition to Connexional Funds, include among others, All We Can, Cliff College, the London Mission Fund and The Wesley Hotel. He reported that while there had been a drop in income during 2020-21 there had also been a drop in expenditure and our fund balances at the end of last year compared with the year before were significantly better. The Connexional Treasurer, the Revd Tim Swindell presented a financial ‘state of health’ for the Methodist Church in Britain and reminded Council members of the commitment to a reduction in the assessment which will have an impact on amount of work that can be taken on. Mr Swindell said that despite a long term reduction in its income, the Church is wealthy, although the funds are not always in a place where they can be easily accessed. The Council received the reports and adopted the consolidated accounts.
The Connexional Secretary, Doug Swanney presented the Forces Board paper to the Council, which agreed to recommend to the Conference that changes be made including for the Board to be chaired by the Ex-President of the Conference, and for the Secretary of the Board to report to the Assistant Secretary of the Conference.
The Connexional Secretary Doug Swanney presented a paper on the work around Impact Assessment which was discussed at the last Council meeting. Members took part in small group discussions on how better decisions can be made about what work the Church does in the future.
Model Trust 14(2A)
The Conference Officer for Legal and Constitutional Practice, Mrs Joanne Anderton, presented the paper to the Council proposing changes to the conditions around sharing premises with other denominations by bringing in lease arrangements. Mrs Anderton told the Council that this is the first time we have considered offering leases and also there is still work to be done on ‘doctrinal differences’. The Council received the report, and adopted the policy recommendations, directing the Conference Officer for Legal and Constitutional Practice to work with the ecumenical officers and the Faith and Order committee in order to produce guidance.
The principles to be used in setting the 2022/23 budget were agreed by the Council. This included using the Mission in Britain Fund to support the Justice, Dignity and Solidarity strategy.
To date there have been 758 individual donations to the Pension Reserve Fund totalling £5.7m. However, some of these were on behalf of all the churches in a circuit so the number of churches, circuits and districts that have responded to the appeal is greater. Whilst this amount is significantly below the target set, the Pension Reserve Fund has benefitted from a recovery in investment values and additional income from property sales. A more detailed paper will go to the Council in April.
Justice, Dignity and Solidarity
The Council received an update on the progress of the Justice, Dignity and Solidarity (JDS) strategy from the co-chairs of the Shadow JDS Committee, the Revds Charity Nzegwu and Sam McBratney. The Council heard that good progress has been made with the work of the group with many pilot programmes taking place and that the group will be as transparent and open in its processes as possible. Draft Terms of Reference for the new JDS committee and future recruitment are being worked on. The Council received the report.
Oversight and Trusteeship
The Secretary of the Conference, Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler presented this update which he described as “multi-layered and complicated work”. He said significant progress has been made in a number of areas, the lynchpin is the introduction of the Connexional Council, which will replace both the Methodist Council and the SRC, and a considerable amount of work has been done to bring into being a smaller Trustee body with a clear and defined relationship with the Conference. Dr Hustler said the Strategy and Resources Committee and the Law and Polity Committee will be bringing proposed changes to the Deed of Union to this year’s Conference along with a review of the Committee structure of the Church.
Dr Hustler introduced proposals to reduce the number of districts in the Connexion by saying the current number shapes the oversight and governance bodies and has budgetary implications and an impact on the amount of work that needs to be done. He reminded Council members that much work has taken place to listen to each district and said the work needs to be ‘consensual, contextual and connexional’. Council members were invited to discuss the proposals in small groups. After an opportunity for feedback to the wider group, members voted in favour of beginning detailed work to work towards reducing the number of districts.
Former Youth President Michael Pryke presented a review of the Youth President’s role. Council members agreed recommendations that the role of the Youth President should be refocused on advocacy and involvement in decision making.
Complaints and Discipline
The Secretary of the Conference, the Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler presented an update on the review of Part 11 of Standing Orders, which set out the Complaints and Discipline processes. He explained that while considerable progress had been made with the work, it was not complete and there was still work to be done on the opportunities for reconciliation and reducing the numbers of complaints. Dr Hustler told Council members that the group needs to wait for the final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which may have a bearing on how the review is completed. The Council agreed that the review should now be brought to the Conference of 2023.
Action for Hope
The Head of Mission, Ms Jude Levermore presented a progress report on Action for Hope, the work to develop a Methodist Faith Plan to work towards net zero carbon emissions for the Methodist Church in Britain. Ms Levermore reported that several consultations have started with the plan’s three key areas in mind: assets, wisdom and lifestyles. The Council received the report.
Walking with Micah
Rachel Lampard joined the Council meeting to give an outline of the justice project, Walking with Micah, which she is leading. Walking with Micah aims to review our understanding of social justice to enable the Methodist Church better to speak and act on issues of justice in the future. After a presentation, members took part in group work examining the issues and fed back to the wider Council.
Audit of Safeguarding Practice
Safeguarding Policy Manager, Nicola Sylvester presented this paper to the Council which proposed an audit framework for safeguarding practice across the Connexion. This framework is designed to assess independently the effectiveness of safeguarding structures and processes across the Connexion. The Council received the report, and requested that there be full consultation and further work on the framework with District Safeguarding Officers and others. The Council will consider the framework at its next meeting.