Partners in the Gospel, Partners in Europe

Partners in the Gospel, Partners in Europe


Partners in the Gospel, Partners in Europe


  1. The Europe project was established as a consequence of Team Focus. The Project Goal was to “review the work of the Europe Secretary and ensure an acceptable and thorough integration of priority roles to staff in the reconfigured Connexional Team and others in the Connexion, in a manner which will make the greatest impact when working in a multi-disciplinary and cross team environment.[1] The project was to be managed by the Europe Secretary and, all being well, would be completed by the end of April, when his post would close.
  1. At this stage it was assumed that when the embedding process was complete there would be no dedicated Europe person within the Connexional Team but a range of people would continue the work as part of their new responsibilities.[2] The project was to test out the implications of this as well as making other recommendations.
  2. A number of factors[3] had to be borne in mind in the project’s process. It sought to build on the previous strategy approved by the Joint Secretaries Group in 2004.[4]
  1. The project also had to bear in mind Partnership: Principles and Practice Framework and Notice of Motion 112 World Church Relationships.[5]

Narrative of Project Activities

Key stakeholders were identified who needed to be consulted and whose views could affect the outcomes of the project and the recommendations that might emerge. This was a critical listening exercise, and final decisions would be made in the light of evaluating what was heard.

The first consultation with stakeholders was held at the European Methodist Council (EMC), September 2008 in Rome. The Council were informed in writing (as part of the Country Report of the Methodist Church in Britain) of the project. The Council were aware of Team Focus from previous meetings.[6] Also, there were confidential meetings between the General Secretary, the Secretary for External Relationships and the Bishops of the United Methodist Churches in Europe, and conversations with the Secretary of Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland (MCI). In a number of respects the Europe Secretary acts on behalf of MCI. Sometimes this is forgotten within the Connexional Team.

The main points that emerged from these consultations were:

  • The huge value Continental European Methodists place on the role of the Europe Secretary, and the deep level of trust and achievement over the past few years.
  • The need for an identified Point of Contact within the Methodist Church in Britain (MCB).[7]
  • The commitment of British Methodism to a partnership approach to mission in Europe.
  • The leadership given by MCB with particular regard to ecumenical relationships in Europe, and giving a Methodist voice in ecumenical councils.[8]

In response, the General Secretary and Secretary for External Relationships agreed that the project process would be more open with regard to the staffing question. The conversation was reported to the Europe Project Steering Group (EPSG).[9]

This commitment meant the development of a renewed strategy for MCB in Europe needed to sit alongside the embedding process so that the staff resource question could be addressed.

Embedding Europe Perspectives within the Connexional Team

  1. The Europe Secretary met with the Strategic Leaders in November in order to test out the direction the project was taking, and in particular to test out the resource questions and how it should be approached. It was agreed to develop a number of scenarios, evaluating each in determining what could be delivered. [10]
  1. During this time the embedding process continued. In particular, conversations were held with the Joint Public Issues Team and the Ecumenical Officers. The main activity of embedding was for the Ecumenical Officers to visit the Conference of European Churches at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (Vienna), and for the JPIT to visit the Conference of European Churches Church & Society Commission in Brussels. Briefer discussions, to date, have been held with the Head of Children’s and Youth Work and with the Director of Learning, although Children’s and Youth Work is already embedded in some aspects of European work through its longstanding membership of the European Methodist Youth Council.

Second Consultation

  1. In January the most significant meeting of the project was held through a 24 hour consultation with Stakeholders.[11] This brought together 20 colleagues from Continental Europe and Britain. The paper that informed the participants and provided the basis for the discussions was a redrafted Strategy Document approved by the EPSG. Further drafts followed this consultation, and the final version is attached here. The consultation was chaired by the Secretary for External Relationships and attended by the Head of Projects and the Leader of World Church Relationships. It was arranged at relatively short notice, yet our Continental European colleagues included four Bishops (3 from the UMC) – Rosemarie Wenner (EmK, Germany), Hans Vaxby (UMC Russia) and Heinrich Bolleter (now retired but representing the UMC Central & Southern Europe), Sifredo Teixeira (Portugal) plus the Secretary of the European Methodist Council. These colleagues are named to indicate the great significance that they attach to their relationship with us, and the value that is placed on the growing collaborative activity in mission and learning, particularly in the light of some of the pan-European issues being faced by all the churches. They are outlined in the proposed renewed strategy.

8.From this meeting we received a number of very significant messages including the desire that MCB takes a significant leadership role among Methodists in Europe.[12]

9.As indicated earlier, the Project was feeding into the research phase of the WCR Staffing Review. In the EPSG it was agreed that the staffing scenarios, an early draft of which was shared with the Stakeholders Consultation, needed to be completed and presented to the Secretary for External Relationships so they could be considered alongside the other information that would be included in the report to the March meeting of Methodist Council.[13]

First Visit

10.A group of four visited the ecumenical organisations of which the Methodist Church is a member: Secretary for External Relationships, the Ecumenical Officer, a Media Officer and the Europe Secretary. In the five days excellent meetings were held with the Conference of European Churches, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe and the United Methodist Church Austria. In addition we had briefer meetings with the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the World Lutheran Federation. A considerable amount of learning occurred and again the Methodist Church was affirmed in the role it plays within the European institutions. When asked what was distinctive that Methodism brought to the table, the CPCE General Secretary, the Revd Dr Michel Bünker, replied: i. Methodism is not organised on ethnic lines so this opens up a new understanding of catholicity; ii. you have an ability to speak to other traditions (in addition to the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Churches); iii. for many of us, when new churches are built, the congregation is formed and then they ask “what shall we do?” – you put the two together, church development and social action are one; iv. Methodist Churches have strong links with each other, your connexional character.

Second Visit

11. The Europe Secretary and JPIT shared in a three-day visit to the Conference of European Churches, Church & Society Commission, and the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCM) in Brussels in June for the purposes of relationship building with CEC staff, and to visit some of the EU institutions. CEC and CCME are located in the Ecumenical Centre. All the Methodist members of JPIT were present, plus one person from the Baptist Union, and one from then United Reformed Church. The visit was organised by the Revd Matthew Ross, a C & S Executive Secretary who represents and acts as a conduit for Methodist Church interests in the Commission’s work. The group met with the Revd Dr Rüdiger Noll, the Commission’s Director, and with Mrs Doris Pesche, Director of CCME. The group were reminded that 2010 is the European Year on Migration. A number of staff members made presentations – Elizabeta Kitanovic, Dieter Heidtmann, and Peter Pavlovic. The themes included Religion in the Public Sphere, Human Rights, and Climate Change. There were individual meetings between members of JPIT and CEC C&S staff, depending on particular interests. Also, the group met the Revd Dr Gary Wilton, the Church of England’s representative to the EU institutions. He described his role as that of being “a spiritual partner to people involved in the EU political and policy processes”. The last meeting was with Señor Jorge Cesar de Neves, Bureau of Policy Advisors, European Commission. His role is to create a space for dialogue with churches and religious communities. He was very pleased to hear that our agenda was about society and not the church. The group shared in a very constructive discussion.

12.The group left Brussels feeling new relationships had been built, a new perspective which challenged UK isolation had been gained, and a broader understanding of the catholicity of the church had been learned. A renewed clarity and appreciation of what CEC does, the breadth of its work, how it does that and what it is seeking to achieve were the main positive outcomes of the visit.

Further Embedding Commitments

13. A meeting with Discipleship & Ministry is needed to discuss the E-learning Project, Ecumenical Formation, Lay Training and other theological education developments across Europe.

14. A symposium is planned for colleagues who carry the main responsibilities for ecumenical relationships.

15.No mention is made above of the embedding that is necessary within WCR where the bi-lateral relationships with Methodist and united churches will continue to be held. It became clear during the early stages of the project that there was no additional capacity among the Partnership Co-ordinators to manage the day-to-day relationship work with the European Churches. This was the main reason why it was agreed that the Europe Secretary post needed to be maintained by the current incumbent alongside the work of the Europe Project. The WCR capacity issue has been affirmed through the staffing review and the Methodist Council resolution being proposed to Conference.

16.Further points have become clear during the project.

  • If the embedding work is to be really effective and the staff time allocated to be fully utilised, the Europe strategy needs co-ordination through a link person to bring together all the various aspects and players, both inside and outside the Connexional Team.
  • The mission themes agreed in the strategy document need oversight by someone holding the relationships across the various churches, and to work with the other European churches in delivering good mission practice and outcomes. It does not mean the MCB is always the lead church, but as the largest and most resourced of Methodist Churches in Europe, it does mean we are the ones who can take significant responsibility.
  • Our European partners would see the loss of someone like the Europe Secretary very keenly indeed, and a setback to both relationship and mission development if a similar post is not secured. Ultimately, relationships would deteriorate and MCB and the Connexional Team would lose opportunities for learning and development as well as mission insights and opportunities for shared action. Further, contributing to the learning of others would also deteriorate. Assuming Conference approves the proposal re. WCR staffing this situation will be averted.


17.The attached finance paper[14] lays out the proposed budget for 09/10, as held by the Europe Secretary, for the Europe work as located within WCR. A summary is as follows:


Grants(Annual)£ 94,000[15]

Personnel£ 62,000[16]

Subscriptions£ 32,900[17] (EMC & EMYC)

MERG£ 1,000

WCR Programmes£ 64,200 (11 Nationals in Mission Appointments)[18]


18.Although this project began as an embedding of the current work of the Europe Secretary, it quickly became clear that as a European Church we cannot live in splendid isolation in Britain. We are not simply in relationship with other Methodist churches in Europe but are part and parcel of each other. As Methodist Churches in Europe we are partners with other churches throughout the world. We are partners in the gospel (Phil 1.5) (ref and the purpose of this partnership, together with others who share all or some of our mission aims, is the transformation of God’s world. Our relationships with each other, relationships which cross the boundaries of ethnicity, language, and culture, are a parable of the Kingdom of God, a microcosm of and a witness to the way God wants all people to live. Love for one another is at the heart of these relationships. Our commitment to mission together is in response to people’s needs. Our willingness to learn from each other is so that our insight into God’s being and action will grow and we become mature citizens of God’s Kingdom.

19.All this stands irrespective of the staffing issue. If Conference approves the recommendation of the Methodist Council with regard to WCR staffing, then the Europe strategy should be fully implemented over time. If a different decision is made then WCR could be restricted to ensuring the priorities as in recommendation (ii) are fulfilled.

20.Recommendations of the Project

i.That the Methodist Church adopts the Europe Strategy 2009 as in EP-02. (At its meeting of the 12th May, it was agreed by the Strategic Leaders that the final report did not need to go to SRC or Council for approval.)

ii.That within the strategy the following are accepted as being the key priorities:

  1. Working with partners on the mission programmes managed by WCR;
  2. Working with partners on a limited number of priorities of EMC;
  3. Developing the key pan-European mission focus People in Transition
  4. Supporting other members of the Connexional Team as their agendas are affected by the Europe strategy, in particular the work of JPIT and the Ecumenical officers.

iii.That a staff position in WCR is created which, while having broader responsibilities than the present Europe Secretary, continues to be the focus person for Europe and the link within the Connexional Team for partner churches in Europe.[19]

iv.That the final report is circulated to Heads of Clusters.

v.That WCR hold conversations with relevant clusters in order to discuss the level of staff involvement in implementing the Europe strategy.

Colin Ride MPhil BA

Europe Secretary

Methodist Church Britain Connexional Team


30th April 2009 / amended 30.6.09 / approved Strategic Leaders 24.6.09


[1] EP-03 See Europe Project Outline, 2nd September 2008

[2] EP-03 p3 Key Relationships within the Connexional Team

[3] EP-03 p3 Key Factors

[4] EP-04 Strategy for Methodist Church (Britain) engagement European Society beyond Britain and Ireland, July 2004

[5] EP-05 Notice of Motion No 112, Methodist Conference 2008.

[6] EMC meets each September.

[7] EP-06 Initial Point of Contact

[8] EP-04 Memo circulated to Strategic Leaders and Managers, 29.7.08

[9] EP-08 Notes by Christine Elliott of a meeting between herself, Martyn Atkins and UMC Bishops at EMC in October 08

[10] EP-09 Some Outcomes of the meeting with Strategic Leaders

[11] EP-03 List of Stakeholders p3

[12] EP-02 Strategy Document para 3.2

[13] EP-10 Interim Report for the Secretary for External relationships, 6.3.09

[14] EP-13 Financial report

[15] To be agreed by the WCR Grants Stream

[16] Not WCR staff but includes costs of minister stipend, Ponte St Angelo MC, Rome & grant towards European Evangelism Enabler, Cliff College

[17] Includes £11,000 for Conference of European Churches & Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe, budget held by Secretary for External Relationships

[18] Appointments as at 1.6.09 only. Does not include any new appointments for 09/10 which will be determined in July 09.

[19] This was agreed under the WCR Staffing Report, presented to Conference as the response to Notice of Motion 112. See Conference Agenda Vol 2 p431.