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New Zealand Methodist Conference 2002

Summary of Conference 2002 held at Christchurch 2-7 November

Conference opened on Saturday November 2nd with a Powhiri at Durham Street Methodist Church where members and guests of Conference were welcomed by members of the Otautahi Rohe and North Canterbury District.. During the powhiri we remembered and honoured those who have given significant leadership to the Connexional church in the past year who have died: Alan Birtles, Graham Brazendale, Grace Clement, Wilfred Eisner, Maureen Giles, Eric Heggie, Alan McKerras, Ida McKerras, Jack Osborn, Gordon Parker, and Daphne Tregurtha. Tribute was paid to Robert Thornley who died the previous day. Rev Norman West and Mrs Heather Walls were inducted as President and Vice President respectively in the afternoon and President Norman urged the Conference and Church to seek ways of living and relating that were life-giving in his address.

Following services of worship throughout the District on the Sunday morning, Conference again gathered at Durham Street to ordain Alison Cable, Michael Diamond, Jan Fogg, and Peter Williamson as Presbyters in the church, they, together with Jaqui Cavit and Jan Calvert were then received into Full Connexion. Conference adjourned to high tea in the Town Hall and then moved to pay tribute to those Presbyters and Deacons who were retiring; Edwin Clarke, Lois Clark, Colin Leadley, Morehu (Buddy) Te Whare and John Bilverstone (Presbyters), and Edna Evans (Deacon). Tribute was also paid to Rob Fergusson and Chris Wood who have resigned during the year.

During their report on the morning of Wednesday 6th November Te Taha Maori presented Barry Whakaruru to Conference as a new Minita a iwi

At 3.30pm on Wednesday 6th November, Conference suspended business in order to hold a Memorial Service for Rev Robert Thornley who died in Auckland as Conference gathered. The timing of this service coincided with the funeral service being held in Auckland.

The business sessions of Conference opened daily with devotions led by Janet Marsh and Alex Webster focussing on "crises of faith" in the Hebrew Scriptures. On Monday, the Stationing Sheet was received before Conference broke into Committees of Detail to consider the reports and work of the Conference in detail. The two Treaty partners met in Tauiwi and Taha Maori meetings in the afternoon to consider business. The full Conference met to begin its business in the evening

INFORMATION SHARED

· Launch of the Churches Agency on International Issues during 2002

· Launch of the "Trade for People" Campaign

· Te Taha Maori shared with Conference that they have chosen the title "Tumuaki" for the leader of Te Taha Maori

· Tumuaki Diana Tana shared work that Te Taha Maori have undertaken in exploring theological shifts and "Being Maori and Methodist" during the year.

· Information and reflections were shared on meetings and discussions held between Te Taha Maori and Sinoti Samoa, Vahefonua Tonga o Aotearoa, and Bose Ko Viti Kei Rotuma Niusiladi which included discussions on partnership issues, Te Titiri o Waitangi, and the role of culture.

· During the Epworth Bookshop report note was made of the launching of the shop website www.epworthbooks.co.nz and the bookshop’s "ideas forum" at www.enquiringminds.co.nz

· Susau Strickland, outgoing President of the New Zealand Women’s Fellowship celebrated the formation of the Tongan District of the Women’s Fellowship and introduced the new national President, Mary West, to Conference.

· Information was shared on the Methodist – Roman Catholic Dialogue, now in its 20th year, in which points of commonality and common interest have been identified.

· Due to its ethnic composition, Bose ki Viti has included "Rotuma" to its cultural name which is now "Bose ko Viti kei Rotuma e Niusiladi"

· Owing to the fall in income from investments during the last 12 months, the Supernumerary Fund has been unable to increase the Supernumerary Fund benefit for retired members in the coming year.

MAJOR DECISIONS OF CONFERENCE 2002

· Rev Dr Lynne Frith (Wellington) was selected as President Elect, and Mr David McGeorge (Manukau) as Vice President Elect.

· Connexional Appointments:Jeff Sanders and Mrs Nicola Grundy were appointed as Directors of Wesley Community Action (formerly Wesley Wellington Mission) and Dunedin Methodist Mission respectively.

· Conference directed the President and Vice President to convey to the Prime Minister its support for the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services’ call for a summit to develop a strategy to end poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand and called for members to lobby their local MP’s as well.

· Conference agreed that appeals for funding from Partner Churches for Overseas Mission should be referred through the Mission and Ecumenical Desk

· Conference made statements in relation to the current threat of military involvement in the Middle East and Asia, supporting the position of the New Zealand government in relation to this and asking that government urge the governments of the United Kingdom and United States to avoid military involvement outside of UN Security Council authorisation.

· Conference agreed that when debate on matters of significant scientific and cultural concern occur, Conference members should be provided with a full range of informed material from a variety of perspectives in order that sound decisions be reached.

· Conference established a "Network of Methodist Lay Preachers and Worship Leaders" which is to oversee training and accreditation, maintenance of records, liaison and support.

· Position Descriptions for the Director Mission Resourcing, and Principal, Trinity College were approved as both John Murray and John Salmon have indicated that they will be moving from their respective positions.

· Conference agreed that exploration should be undertaken to secure funding for the continuation of the position of Deacon of Diaconal Development until at least January 2004.

· Conference approved a new liturgy for Adult Baptism for trial use by, and feedback from, the church.

· Conference agreed that proposed models for the organisational life of parishes with links to Sinoti Samoa be circulated to the church for comment.

· That Bose ko Viti, Mission Resourcing, Wellington Synod, and Council of Conference jointly explore the idea of a Wellington-based ordained ministry appointment with responsibility for Fiji congregations in the Lower North Island.

DISCIPLINARY CODE, LAW REVISION, and SEXUAL HARRASSMENT and ABUSE MATTERS

· Conference adopted the new Disciplinary Code, which has been before the church over the last two years. This Code includes new provisions relating to the handling of complaints against presbyters and members, including processes for sexual harassment/abuse complaints.

· Conference approved the appointment of a half-time position "Administrator-Ethical Matters" for an initial period of six months and the Board of Administration, Te Taha Maori and Mission Resourcing are to explore options for the ongoing funding of this position past the 30th June 2003 when guaranteed funding ceases. This position incorporates the oversight of training for sexual harassment contact people and administration surrounding the complaint process.

· The Central Complaints Committee was thanked for its work by Conference and is discharged when its current tasks are completed.

· Conference adopted the new and revised Church Law as contained in the new Law Book.

SOME KEY DISCUSSIONS/ISSUES INCLUDED

· Discussion around issues of poverty in Aotearoa and decisions of Conference relating to them

· The report of Methodist Mission (South Island) raised questions relating to the theology and future direction of the Mission which will be explored through the year in partnership with WesleyCom.

· David Bush, on behalf of the Communications Committee, introduced Conference to the new Connexional Website which has the capacity for input and home page development by individual parishes. The address is www.methodist.org.nz

· The "Spirit and Spice" Group launched their website which can be found at www.spiritandspice.org.nz

· Issues surrounding the provision of Hospital Chaplaincy services were outlined by Ron Malpass

PARTNERSHIP ISSUES

Both Conference and the Tauiwi and Te Taha Maori caucus meetings discussed issues relating to partnership and the bicultural journey. A number of Memorials and Notices of Motion relating to these issues were referred to the Council of Conference who are asked to develop a process for open consultation and discussion with the church in this area.

During Conference a number of Boards and Committees presented innovative and warmly supported ideas and proposals which, however, could not be funded, or not fully funded owing to a lack of available resources within the church. These included: increased support for Touchstone; extending the funding term for the position of Deacon of Diaconal Development; and funding the position of Administrator – Ethical Matters. The General Secretary reminded Conference that while Conference may support and affirm such worthy areas of ministry, projects requiring new or additional funding can only be accommodated if either (a) the funding is cut from some other area within the Connexional Budget, or (b) there is an increase in funds received by way of Parish/Synod contributions or levies.

Conference closed on the morning of Thursday 7th November with members sharing in the Covenant Service.