Global issues, poverty the needs of children and ecumenical cooperation for mission were high on the agenda when the Methodist Council, which oversees the work of the Church in Britain, met from 16-17 February 2009 at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire. This is the second of three meetings planned for the current Church year.
In what it described as "a ground-breaking new initiative", the Methodist Council approved the appointment of three "companions" to work with particular international partner churches. The Companions are the first to be appointed in a pilot scheme that will seek to strengthen the Church in its relationships with partner churches around the world.
The Rev Jennifer Potter (who is at Wesley's Chapel, and formerly worked in an international affairs post for the church), the Rev Ward Jones and the Rev Conrad Hicks will specifically work with churches in Zimbabwe, Korea and Guatemala, respectively.
The Rev Ken Howcroft, Secretary of the Methodist Council, said: “We are really pleased to have made these appointments and hope that this scheme will develop and strengthen the international work of the Church. The Companions will be able to offer a greater presence in specific areas than has previously been possible, offering the support of the British Methodist Church to our partner churches in some of the areas of greatest need.”
The Council also pledged support for the Stamp Out Poverty campaign. Stamp Out Poverty is a network of organisations including Christian Aid and Oxfam which campaigns for additional sources of finance to help bring the world’s poorest people out of poverty. It urges UK and international decision-makers to introduce a stamp duty on sterling currency transactions, setting aside proceeds for international development objectives.
Children’s charity Action for Children featured on the agenda, with Council members approving a strategy for closer working between Action for Children and the Methodist Church on international issues. The Church’s World Church Relationships team will seek to identify areas in which Action for Children might be able to offer specific expertise and support, and will seek to include them in relevant work with partner churches around the world.
Closer to home, Council members discussed the development of the Church’s ecumenical vision for working with other British denominations, including how local churches might be encouraged in such partnerships. As a practical expression of the Church’s commitment to ecumenical working, the Council also pledged to invite a representative from the United Reformed Church’s Mission Council to attend future meetings as a participative observer. A representative from the Methodist Council will also attend Mission Council meetings and the two bodies will explore the possibility of a joint meeting to be held in 2010.
Christine Elliott, Methodist Secretary for External Relationships, commented: “This development in our relationship with the United Reformed Church enables us to be more intentional about finding new and practical ways of engaging in mission together.”
Other topics discussed at the Council included the Methodist Church’s engagement with the media, the need to support local churches in fostering discipleship and the Church’s pension schemes for ministers and lay employees.
The Methodist Church is the third-largest Christian denomination in Britain, with nearly 265,000 members and regular contact with over 800,000 people. It has some 5,800 churches, and also maintains links with other Methodist churches totalling a worldwide membership of 70 million.