Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Methodist URC Joint Resolution Progress Report

This is the first of a series of excerpts from the Methodist Conference 2011 Ecumenical Report.  This first excerpt covers material relating to relations between the Methodist and United Reformed Churches.

Further report on progress in response to the Joint Resolution of the Methodist Conference and the United Reformed Church Assembly in 2008

1.1 Background to the Joint Resolution

In 2008, the URC Assembly and Methodist Conference approved a joint resolution which had been proposed by the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District of the Methodist Church and the West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church. Full details of the resolution can be found on the Methodist Church website [2008 Resolution 62/2]. Its main points are as follows:
  • to explore further joint working for the sake of shared mission;
  • a structure that minimises ecumenical meetings but facilitates diversity;
  • exploration of joint structures at synod/district level;
  • effective use of resources.
1.2 Joint Meeting of the United Reformed Church Mission Council and the Methodist Council

A report on this first joint meeting can be found in the report of the Methodist Council elsewhere in this Agenda.

This report is buried in the Methodist Council report and so it is reproduced here in full.  These links are to reports of the joint councils meeting, Better Together, on this blog.

One major development in the life and work of the Council this year was the first joint meeting of the Methodist Council and the United Reformed Church Mission Council. For many years there has been, and continues to be, a Methodist-United Reformed Church Liaison Committee. In 2008 the Methodist Conference and the URC Assembly both adopted resolutions committing themselves to closer working together. Following that a Strategic Oversight Group of a few senior staff and officers of both Churches was established. That in turn led to the proposal that the two Councils should meet together.

The joint meeting took place at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, in October 2010. The normal one day meeting of the Methodist Council was lengthened to a 48 hour meeting to make this possible. During the time the two Councils met separately for a number of sessions to conduct their own business and complete their own formalities. Interspersed among these were nine sessions where the two Councils met together. These included an opening session exploring the history, context and characteristics of the two Churches within a framework of worship; a Bible Study on the need to welcome all people whatever their status into the embrace of the Church; and discussion groups on the key challenges facing Churches both locally and denominationally. There was a presentation on “Fresh Expressions” by Bishop Graham Cray, the Bishop responsible for that work in the Church of England, a work in which the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church are partners. The General Secretaries of the two Churches gave an outline of the pressing issues and current initiatives in both Churches, which led to the recognition of how many themes were common to both. There was then a series of workshops developed in response to requests from the discussion groups.

The final joint plenary sessions then received presentations and engaged in discussions of a number of issues which led in turn to the making of some shared decisions. The report of a joint Church Buildings Think Tank led to a call for the Strategic Oversight Group to look at the possibility of forming a follow-on group to facilitate the next stage of this work. A document on work with children and young people led to the staff teams being directed to bring plans for joint working to future meetings of the Councils. A paper on Poverty in Britain 2010 led to a commitment to challenge the causes of poverty and inequality inherent in our society. A report on the Review of the Methodist/United Reformed Church National Rural Officer Post led to a commitment to continue the joint post and accept the recommendations made in the report.

During the joint meeting members of the Methodist Council were introduced to the United Reformed Church’s way of making decisions by consensus, and this was tried in a number of cases. In general, the making of decisions prompted interesting reflection. The two Councils do not have exactly equivalent responsibilities, powers or ways of working. In effect the two Councils made separate but parallel decisions in each other’s presence. This will need further attention in any follow-up event. Feedback from the Councils of both Churches has suggested that the joint meeting was worthwhile and worth doing again. A second joint meeting is therefore being planned for autumn 2012.

1.3 Other developments

A senior officer of the Methodist Conference now attends the United Reformed Church Mission Council as a participant observer, and a senior officer of the United Reformed Church attends the Methodist Council in a similar capacity. The Strategic Oversight Group continues to meet regularly.  Its membership is currently: from the United Reformed Church, the General Secretary, the Deputy General Secretary and the Treasurer; and from the Methodist Church, the General Secretary, the Secretary for Team Operations and the Secretary for External Relationships [nb the offices of Treasurer of the United Reformed Church and Secretary for Team Operations in the Methodist Church are currently held by the same person]. Conversations are beginning about how the Methodist-United Reformed Church Liaison Committee’s work can interact productively with that of the Methodist-Anglican Panel for Unity in Mission.

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