A glimpse inside Methodist Conference 2019

Sheridan PengellyCircuit News

It has been a privilege to be one of the Cornwall District representatives at Methodist Conference for the second time.

The President Barbara Glasson and Vice President Clive Marsh have taken as their theme – What’s the story? They have invited us to share our God stories with one another and with others.

So, what’s the story of Methodist Conference this year?

The Conference began for lay representatives on Saturday with opening worship when the new President and Vice President were inducted. On Sunday, there were ordination services for presbyters and deacons. This was a highlight of conference for me as my colleague Rev Paul Parker from the St Austell Circuit was ordained, together with Rev Mo Wills also in the Cornwall District. The ordinands simply glowed (not literally) with the Holy Spirit when the people declared ‘they are worthy.’

I may, in the past, have accused my husband of being ‘away on a conference jolly,’ but having been a rep myself I now know that the days are very, very long beginning at 9.15am and sometimes not ending until gone 7pm. Most of the day is spent dealing with agenda items and takes a great deal of concentration and focus. (There is the occasional bit of fun too before you feel too sorry for me.) Business begins on Monday and continues until Thursday lunchtime. The Methodist church talks about being in a connexion and I want to make sure that people in our local churches are aware of, and engaged with, decisions that have been made at Conference. So here are some of the headlines.

Did you know that by submitting a ‘memorial to Conference’ a Circuit or District can highlight a particular area of concern or something they would like changed? This year there were memorials on subjects ranging from car parking to single use plastic. In a reply to a memorial from the Bristol Synod, the Conference voted to recognise a climate emergency.The Liskeard and Looe Circuit submitted a memorial this year which was sadly dealt with ‘en bloc’ but you can read the reply to that and the other memorials here

For those of us without accountancy expertise, the financial reports can seem puzzling but the Treasurer began his report with ‘What’s the story?’ Behind the numbers there is a story of God’s mission – and we are all part of that story. You can read more here

A day and a half of Conference was devoted to discussing the report of the Marriage and Relationships Committee. A new set of principles outlining the qualities of good relationships has been commended by the Methodist Conference for prayerful discussion and response across the Church over the next year.
The report, “God in Love Unites Us”, makes a number of proposals, including:
• principles or qualities of good relating
• an understanding of cohabitation
• to allow same-sex couples to marry in Methodist churches
• providing resources and liturgies to celebrate civil partnerships
• prayers for when marriages end in divorce

As you can see there were several proposals, but the one which will no doubt be most discussed is to allow same sex couples to marry in Church. Much work has been done between those who hold contradictory views to bring a way of moving forward that holds the church in unity despite having contradictory convictions. The proposal states clearly that no minister or church will be forced to perform or hold a same sex marriage if it goes against their conscience and clauses protecting those in that situation were strengthened. Conference held these conversations and votes in what I believe was a spirit-filled way, showing love and grace to one another, a witness to the love and grace God extends to us. You can read the full report here on page 58.

Nothing has been decided yet – these are only a proposals, it is now for the Circuits and Districts to prayerfully consider and feedback before Conference makes a decision next year.

You can watch the debates – go to the Conference pages on the website here

Thank you for the opportunity to represent the Cornwall District at Conference.