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Kiwis take top spots in World Methodist Council

Two New Zealanders have been appointed to leadership positions in the world Methodist movement.

At its July meeting Methodist Church of NZ general secretary Rev Jill van de Geer was selected to serve as an officer of the World Methodist Council. And Trinity College principal Rev Mary Caygill was selected to serve as co-chair of the Council’s Social and International Affairs Committee.

The World Methodist Council (WMC) is an association of churches in the Methodist tradition throughout the world. It promotes unity and fellowship, fosters Methodist participation in the ecumenical movement, and advances theological and moral standards.

The WMC executive is made up of 250 designated representatives from 767 Methodist and Wesleyan bodies in more than 80 countries. The WMC has eight standing committees that carry out its work. The subcommittees are ecumenics and dialogue, education, evangelism, family life, social and international affairs, worship and liturgy, and youth.

Jill van de Geer is one of eight WMC officers, who, along with the president and vice president, organise the work of the Council. One of their tasks is to organise World Methodist Conference, which takes place every five years and is open to all Methodists and Wesleyans.

Jill says she was elected to her five-year term as an individual, not as a representative of a church.

“The Council has said it wants to improve its communication and administrative structures and I believe this is a contribution I can make,” she says.

The WMC’s Social and International Affairs Committee (SIAC) is the subcommittee with which Methodist Church of NZ is most closely aligned. Mary Caygill says the existence SIAC within the World Methodist Council is consistent with Wesleyan mission praxis.

The World Methodist Council seeks to be a forum that listens and speaks compassionately, intelligently and faithfully whenever poverty, persecution or injustice is inflicted on human beings.

Mary says these sentiments express the commitment of those member churches that have representatives serving on SIAC but these commitments are not reflected in the broader work and statements of the Council.

“The ethos of SIAC is the ethos I grew up with as a Methodist here in NZ. It is deeply embedded within my being.

“I was extremely disappointed and angry that only about 50 people attended two workshops organized by SIAC at the Conference in Seoul, especially the challenging workshop on AIDS. This represents something of the tension within the World Methodist body which is still heavily dominated by the American United Methodist Church,” Mary says.