We want to begin by thanking all our members for their love and support that has enabled us to be present and very visible at this Conference. We now have 225 members signed up and many more promises. We hosted our first Conference fringe event and over fifty people turned up. And some of our members led confidently and passionately on the Marriage and Relationships debate at Conference.
When we heard that the Task Group had not completed their task and so wouldn’t be bringing concrete proposals to this Conference, all of us were deeply disappointed and frustrated. After a quarter of a century, we feel we have waited long enough for justice and equality. In light of the delay, some of our members decided to bring Notices of Motion to the floor of Conference that would enable the Church to move to the Mixed Economy faster. Thanks to Mark Rowland and Delyth Liddell who worked for many hours behind the scenes to make sure it got onto the Order Paper, Conference were presented with some options for change. The debate which followed was measured, compassionate and deeply moving. The atmosphere in the hall was one of deep listening.
Those who resisted the Notice of Motion mainly did so on the grounds of lack of consultation. We find it perplexing that this is still being used as a reason for delay. For the past 25 years and more, again and again the Methodist people have been consulted on issues of sexuality and relationships. We may have to conclude that those who have not been part of a conversation have either chosen not to engage, or have been badly served by their leaders who were charged with helping consultation to happen. For instance, in the last major consultation the Conference resourced, one District refused to send anyone to the connexional training exercise. This sort of behaviour must be called out. Choosing not be consulted is not the same as not being consulted.
Many have been perplexed by the collective action of the District Chairs. As far as we know there is no precedent for this group acting in this way. What was most disappointing was that it appeared to have been decided upon before a single word in the debate was uttered. The strong language of division and polarisation was simply absent from the hour of debate that had happened, and so it felt that the Chairs were not prepared to listen to the voice of Conference. We are especially grateful to those from the Conservative Evangelical tradition who spoke in support of the Mixed Economy.
Some of our members have already contacted us to say that they will be asking for a meeting with their Chair to ask why they took this action, and we would encourage all members to do likewise.
Where to from here? Ken Howcroft, the Chair of the Task Group confirmed that consultation can begin now, and we are gearing up to be part of that. We will be writing to all District Synods to offer to kick-start a conversation in September and ensure that all have been consulted. We will also be putting together resources to use at a local level to get conservations underway. Please, please offer your services to lead those conversations in your area!
We are already in conversation with people from the evangelical tradition in Methodism to ask for more dialogue and collaboration. We are so grateful for those who call themselves conservatives, who have already travelled with us and have offered support and genuine love; we cannot do this without them. We are not interested in name-calling or causing division, quite the opposite. In all that we do to prepare for Conference 2019, we will strive to model the Beloved Community as we get to the Mixed Economy.