We are now faced with so much business that it almost runs together. Also, I do not know how we will get through it all in the day and a half left. The chair of the business committee invited us to affirm resolutions quietly in our seats rather than going to the front. We ignored him. Some attempt to ignore the time limits. One guy wagged his finger at us when conference reminded him time was up. He was determined to go on until conference protested louder. I will not try to run through the business but see if I can hit the highlights.
We began the morning with my chair of district Stephen Poxon introducing the work of the Methodist Missionary Society, celebrating 250 years of mission to the Caribbean. We also heard some of the stories of our mission partners, with the Sierra Leone representative telling us that it was time for the children to care for the ageing mother (awesome!). Other celebrations included 150 years of chaplaincy to the Armed Forces. What a sight to see nearly all our chaplains on the stage in full uniform!
In a less polarising discussion than often heard in the US, we looked at revising our statement on abortion. The major concern is that we have not released a statement since 1976. Rather than a full new statement, we recommended updating arcane language and using the recent science. Speaking of science, we also committed to reducing our carbon footprint and making our buildings and activities much more green.
By far the most controversial topic of the day was the living wage discussion. Living wage is a higher figure than the minimum wage set by the government. According to the conference report, ‘Living Wage is defined as the minimum hourly wage necessary for one person’s basic needs…’ The Methodist Church has been on the forefront of encouraging companies pay this rather than the minimum wage (£7 rather than £5.73). The resolution on the agenda would have the Methodist Church pay it’s non-ministerial employees this living wage. A Notice of Motion though sought to change this to allow for certain circumstances where a project would cease and redundancies would occur. I could see how much the presenter (a chair of district) did not want to propose this, saying he was in a rock and a hard place. His notice of motion though requires application for deferment rather than totally ignoring living wage, with a plan to get there in 5 years. This Notice of Motion passed. It is great to see the Methodist Church moving toward paying workers a higher wage.
The final business of the day was an address by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. All I can say is, wow. He was fantastic. I have always enjoyed listening to him, but it seemed different. He wasn’t coming because he was well-known and we wanted a good speaker. He came as our two churches our in covenant. He did address President Gamble’s comments to General Synod, which caused controversy, even if the Archbishop didn’t go as far as we would have liked. He also answered questions on the status of the covenant and what Methodists see as Anglicans not seeing us as full covenant partners. But his main address, in honour of St. Peter and St. Paul’s feast day, was where he really shone. He talked about Peter, who knew Jesus, and his habit of compromise (Galatians 2) or his quick decisions that leave a mess to clean up (baptising Gentiles without asking anyone). He talked of Paul, who knew what Jesus meant, and his tendency to be confrontational. He talked of how we navigate these two and when we need to do one or the other. Compromise may put off hard questions for a time, but you can’t leave them forever. He also reminded us that both apostles were martyred, so neither way allows for avoiding suffering. The cross is in both ways. I hope to blog on this later as this post is already long enough! But, if you get the chance go watch the video.
Today is the last full day of business, and we have much to do.