Poorest are losers in 'Big Society', Methodist leaders hear

By staff writers
11 Apr 2011

The Methodist Council discussed the issues of UK poverty and the Big Society when it met at Royal Holloway College this past weekend.

Council members gathering in Surrey from 9-11 April 2011 heard that while the Government is speaking of a 'Big Society', the poorest in society are losing out most from public spending cuts.

Rachel Lampard, Public Issues Team Leader, commented: “Methodism has always been about partnership and mutualism. Our response to the Big Society requires us to keep a focus on social justice while helping our society to visualise a community where relationships matter. We need to continue to speak truth to power and talk about the impact of decisions around spending cuts."

She continued: "Churches need to be encouraged to find new ways of working for their communities, and we need to be cautious about substituting enthusiasm for the need for professional services.”

The Methodist Council resolved that local churches should be encouraged to continue to speak powerfully about what it means to live in community and to highlight the local impact of public spending cuts.

Council members were also concerned to address issues of inequality within the Church and to consider how its own resources are deployed so that inequalities are not reinforced.

The Council additionally discussed the early findings of a new research project on the 18 to 30 age range, also known as the ‘Missing Generation’ in today’s churches.

These findings highlighted the fact that conventional church does not fit easily into modern life, either socially or spiritually, and the importance of small groups to this generation, the Council heard.

The ‘Missing Generation’ project will offer a fuller report to the Methodist Conference - its governing body - in July 2011, and will explore further research links with other Christian denominations.

This Methodist Council meeting was the Rev Ken Howcroft’s last before he becomes minister at Ponte Saint Angelo Methodist Church in Rome and the Methodist representative to the Vatican, after seven years as the Assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference.

He was thanked for the dedication, expertise and great humour he has shown in fulfilling his role over the years. The Rev Gareth Powell has been nominated to succeed him in this post.

Other matters discussed by the Methodist Council included a report on the Church’s involvement in the 'Bible Fresh' project, a funding commitment for four of the Church’s key heritage sites and joint work with the United Reformed Church on the use of church buildings.

The Methodist Council meets three times annually to undertake ongoing work on behalf of the Methodist Conference, which is the governing body of the Methodist Church.

The Methodist Conference 2011 will take place in Southport from 30 June to 7 July.

The Methodist Church is one of the largest Christian denominations in Britain, with nearly 241,000 members and regular contact with over 550,000 people. It has 5,237 churches across the country, and also maintains links with other Methodist churches with a total worldwide membership of 70 million.

[Ekk/3]

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