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About Methodist Conference

The President of the Methodist Conference Revd Loraine Mellor and Vice-President Jill Baker

The Methodist Conference meets annually in June or July, hosted by a different district or group of districts each year.

It first met in 1744 under John Wesley, who gathered together his assistants (both ordained ministers and itinerant lay preachers) to confer together about ‘what to teach, how to teach, and what to do, i.e. how to regulate our doctrine, discipline and practice.’

The contemporary Conference is a gathering of representatives from each Methodist district, along with some who have been elected by the Conference and some ex officio members and respresentatives of the Youth Assembly.

There is a mixture of lay people, ordained presbyters and deacons. Presbyters and deacons also have their own separate gatherings before the main, decision-making session.

The Conference is the body that agrees policy for the Methodist Church.

Business for the Conference to decide upon is prepared by the Methodist Council, an elected body that meets regularly. Memorials to Conference may be sent by districts ahead of time, and representatives to Conference may introduce Notices of Motion.

It is a strong feature of Methodism that ordinary lay people play a major part in the running of the Church. A recent survey of Methodist congregations revealed that three out four individuals who responded held some sort of church role.

Local lay people called ‘stewards’ take responsibility for the fabric of church buildings and manses and for the handling of money. They share with ordained ministers the role of setting direction for the churches in a particular area or ‘circuit’.

Worship each week is not always led by an ordained minister, but often by a local preacher – a lay person who has been trained and authorized to lead worship and preach. Every ordained minister in the Methodist Church was first a local preacher.

At all levels of the Methodist Church, lay people are involved in decision making, and the vice-president of the Conference is always a lay person.

This emphasis goes back to the roots of Methodism. John Wesley was very much a folk theologian who wanted to speak ‘plain truth to plain people’. He took seriously the working people of his day. He addressed his preaching to them, and drew great crowds in the street or on hillsides.

He also trusted them with responsibilities. In building the local Methodist groups or ‘societies’, he trained many lay people who then maintained the meetings and gave pastoral care and challenge to the members. He also trained preachers, who led worship locally, rather than travelling the country like himself.