The Conference of 2022 has certainly met the needs and expectations of all who gathered here in person in the impressive Assembly building. Our incoming President, the Rev David Nixon, set the scene last evening when he described the reckless overwhelming never ending love of the Father to both his sons. Set in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the President expanded his theme in the reflection, worship and prayer of the early morning. We were invited to imagine the elder son ‘slaving away’ and feeling that his father had treated him badly. In fact, the elder son had already distanced himself from his father. There was no joy of partnership and he did not know his father’s heart of love. The question to us was, ‘Is this true of our relationship with God?’
The Father had given his younger son the freedom to walk away. So in fact both sons were distanced from their father – both sons had to learn the unforced rhythm of grace. So do we and we too need to hear God’s invitation to ‘walk with me, work with me, learn from me how to live freely and lightly.’
It was in this spirit of worship and prayer that the reports to Conference began. Tony O’Connor, Chairman, gave a succinct presentation to Conference on the work of the Governance Board in its first year. He emphasised:
- The Methodist Church is a Church not a business or a fund-raising charity.
- All the volunteers in the Boards and Committees are deeply appreciated.
- The Connexion is the very important thing and will enable us to get through all these changes.
Conference approved the report and thanked the Governance Board for its excellent work.
After lunch the Conference had 15 minutes of praise and worship which centred on genuine wholehearted thankfulness to our God who keeps his promises.
The Rev Sam McGuffin, Chair of the Working Group, presented the report on the role of the President and Lay Leader. He stressed that the proposal of a three-year term was necessary, was well thought out and would work. A good and varied response from Conference members was heard and their points noted. With an amendment from the Secretary of Conference that further work needed to be done by the Working Group before bringing a report to Conference 2023 the report was accepted.
The second report was from the Faith and Order Committee chaired by Gillian Kingston. She told Conference that the Methodist Belief booklet had been updated in language but not in substance. She expressed disappointment that only six circuits had used the booklet on ‘Human sexuality: Conversations on difficult topics’. Many members came forward to speak to this report, reflecting a wide range of views. Conference accepted the recommendation that the Committee produce further study material to further local discussion during the coming year.
The MWI President, Joan Strong, presented a short report and the Rev Janet Unsworth presented the Ministries Team report which was accepted.
Everyone adjourned to a delightful afternoon tea – a gift to the Conference.