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Methodist president welcomes busy year

Incoming Methodist Church of New Zealand president Ron Malpass will have a busy year. Ron is planning to spend half his time as president and half maintaining his position as national executive officer for the Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy. He expects it will be more than a full-time job, however.

(Pictured is incoming vice president Rev Kenneth Smith (left) and incoming president Ron Malpass).

Ron says he was surprised but pleased to be elected president at last year’s Conference.

“It’s a great honour to be selected by your church for this position. It carries a lot of responsibility and it’s been good to have this preparatory year to get used to the idea and to attend some meetings that I will chair next year.”

Ron is keen to embrace the theme of this year’s Conference – being a welcoming church for all people – and he is particularly pleased there has been a resolution on the issue of the ordination of gay and lesbian people.

“The memorandum of understanding means those who agree and those who disagree on the issue can both stand together with integrity in the Methodist Church. I feel as though the church has been through a dark and difficult journey in recent years but the efforts we made in a spirit of grace at last years conference led to the MOU.

“I want to thank the people who have worked so hard on it. Now, the important thing for this conference is that we pick up, move forward, and work out what it means to be a people committed to living together in one church holding these two different opinions.”

Ron says as a member of the Evangelical Network it is important to him that everyone feels welcome at conference and in the church.

“We need to concentrate on what it means to be a welcoming church for all people – a church that’s welcoming to people irrespective of who they are, irrespective of their race, gender, and irrespective of their theology.”

With the help of vice president Rev Kenneth Smith, Ron will chair a new look conference this year. There will be no committees of detail, that work was done in August synods, and only a selected number of committees will have time to make presentations to conference. Any administrative decisions Conference must make about those reports will not take place immediately after the presentation, to enable conference members to have time to think about them, talk about them or seek clarification.

Among the issues Ron expects Conference to discuss this year are the way district synods are organised and the move in some areas toward amalgamation of districts.

Other events at Conference will be a presentation by the Human Rights Commission that follows up on its Treaty workshops at last year’s Conference and a presentation by the NZ police on metamphetamine or ‘P’ and the social issues surrounding the drug.

During his tenure Ron is particularly looking forward to attending special celebrations around the county for churches who have centenaries or 125th anniversaries, as well as visiting the smaller areas and getting to know people.

The up-coming year will also be a big one for hospital chaplaincy. While he will have fewer administrative responsibilities, Ron will take part in negotiations with the government for the June 2005 renewal of its financial support for chaplains. The negotiations come at a time when the Presbyterian Church and several Anglican dioceses have indicated they will not be able to provide support at past levels.

“It is a critical time for hospital chaplaincy because on October 1st, 2004 it becomes mandatory for hospitals to accommodate and respect their patients’ spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices regarding death and dying. This means the hospitals will need chaplains to meet these requirements under the law but there has been no extra funding to cover this expense.”