Methodist Church elects 'Vicar of Dibley' campaigner as President

By agency reporter
July 8, 2009
Eunice Attwood (left) and Alison Tomlin

A campaigner who has supported actions against the arms trade, rights for destitute asylum seekers and marched on Downing Street in a 'Vicar of Dibley' style action to highlight issues in the developing world, has been elected as the new Methodist President.

The Rev Alison Tomlin has been elected President Designate of the Methodist Conference for 2010-2011, and Deacon Eunice Attwood has been elected Vice President Designate.

The election results were announced at the annual Methodist Conference in Wolverhampton.

Alison Tomlin is currently Chair of the Northampton Methodist District, having previously chaired the Oxford and Leicester District. In September, she will become co-Superintendent of the Thames Valley Methodist Circuit with her husband Dave. She has served the Church as a minister for 25 years, having originally been ordained in Wolverhampton in 1984.

Alison was part of a group of female clergy and ministers, led by Dawn French, which marched from Trafalgar Square as 'real-life Vicars of Dibley' to Downing Street as part of the year-long the Make Poverty History campaign, pressing for structural change to aid, debt relief and trade policies.

She has also supported initiatives such as Church Action on Poverty's Living Ghosts campaign, which draws attention to destitute asylum seekers, and signed statements calling for the closure of the government arms sales unit, the Defence Export Service Organisation (DESO).

Alison said: "It is a great privilege to be elected as President Designate and I am humbled to be trusted with this role by the Conference. In my year of Presidency I will seek to help the Church be more receptive to go where God is inviting us. The Church has not always been very good at risk-taking but it’s easier to take risks when we are confident in God’s love and listening for God’s voice.’

Central to Alison’s ministry has been the imaginative use of the Bible in prayer. She said; "The Church has designated 2011 as the Year of the Bible and this will be very important and exciting for me in my year of office."

Eunice Attwood works as part of a team of lay and ordained ministers in a busy city centre church in Newcastle. She has been instrumental in establishing the Newcastle Street Pastors Project and supports work with asylum seekers, street workers and teenage runaways. Eunice spent 12 years working as an Intensive Care Unit nurse and brings experience of hospital chaplaincy and 10 years of serving the Church as a member of the Diaconal Order. She is a Methodist Local Preacher and a part-time diaconal tutor at the Wesley Study Centre in Durham.

Eunice said: "As a member of the Methodist Diaconal Order it’s a real honour to be elected Vice President Designate. I am passionate about enabling the people of God to reach out to and better engage with their communities. In my year as Vice President, I hope to inspire God’s people to reconnect with the servant ministry to which we are all called and celebrate the rich contribution of the Diaconal Order to the life and work of the Church."

Alison and Eunice will be inducted as President and Vice President as the first items of business at the 2010 Methodist Conference, which will meet in Portsmouth, 24 June -1 July.

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