We’ve seen a few queries in recent days about the way the consultation process on God in Love Unites Us is supposed to work. This aims to explain it simply and concisely.
In the report that went to the Conference there are two aspects that call for consultation with the wider Methodist Church in Britain. The first is that the report as a whole was commended to the connexion for study and prayerful discussion. This is something that happens with many reports that relate to the teaching and practice of the church although people don’t always take it up. Nevertheless, the Conference has encouraged us all to think and pray about this, whatever part of the connexion we’re in.
The second aspect is more formal which is that the Conference passed some of report’s resolutions as provisional resolutions. Standing Order 122 says that the Conference can do this when it thinks some of its decisions are significant enough that the Synods should consider them too. It’s not something that happens very often so the fact it has happened here demonstrates the importance of this consultation.
The bare minimum requirement of Standing Order 122 is that each District Synod votes on each of the resolutions that the Conference passed as provisional resolutions. However, the Standing Order doesn’t limit the involvement to Synods. It says:
The district Policy Committee may arrange for such consultation within the District as it thinks fit before the Synod expresses its judgment.
Methodist procedures often have this kind of flexibility so that people can adapt to their local realities (what works in Scotland might not be the right thing for London, for example). Districts can each make their own arrangements for how local churches and circuits feed into their Synod’s debate.
When the Synods vote on the resolutions, they can affirm them, amend them or reject them. The results of the Synod voting will be collected together by a small group (which was appointed by the 2019 Conference) and they will write a report presenting the results to the Conference. It is then up to the 2020 Conference to pass the resolutions (with or without amendments) or to vote them down. Whatever the Conference then passes (if anything) will be what comes into force.
It’s important that as many of us as possible play our part in these conversations. In Dignity and Worth, we think that learning how to live together well with people with whom we disagree is one of the most important aspects of this. We can do that as part of conversations in any part of the connexion. We hope that a spirit of love, care and respect will mark them all and that whatever decision we reach, we reach together.