Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Ten things I learned at this year's Methodist Conference

(For those of you who don't know, Methodist Conference is the governing body of the Methodist Church which meets annually to vote, discuss and discern God's will for our Church)

1. Methodists are fired up about poverty and inequality. As many people were turned away at the end of the debate on the report on Poverty and Inequality as managed to speak it in. Many spoke about their personal concerns and experiences of poverty and the impact of spending cuts.

2. Methodists want to engage with the Big Society, not endorse it. Methodists don't walk away! You can see the Poverty and Big Society debate by clicking here and read the full report here (reports 10 and 11)

3. These are issues which are central to our understanding of what it is to be a Methodist and an active disciple of Jesus Christ. One person tweeted during the debate that they had "fallen back in love with Methodism".

4 . Social media works! On the day of the debate on Poverty and Big Society 55,000 people saw a tweet about Methodist Conference. Amazing. At its peak there was a tweet with the hashtag #methconf roughly every 17 seconds. You can find out more by reading this post by our Director of Communications, Toby Scott, here. As a result I've finally started tweeting, and we're hoping to get the Joint Public Issues account @publicissues twittering more actively soon

5. The Joint Public Issues Team has been asked to do a report for next year's Conference on drones. Drones operated by the UK and US in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan against individuals suspected of terrorist activity have been responsible for approximately 1000 civilian deaths. The Methodist Bishop of Pakistan spoke to Conference about the impact of drones on the populations and the chances for peace.

6. Young people really care about politics. This was a reminder rather than a newly learned fact, but it was really encouraging. We met with the Youth Assembly representatives and others to talk about how the participation of young people can be supported as they engage practically in faith and politics. Find out more through the hashtag #cpol on twitter.com

7. The Bible is the single most influential document in political history. This was the introduction by Nick Spencer of the public theology thinktank, Theos, to the annual Beckly Lecture at Conference. You can read his full lecture here.

8. Coraling the current and former Presidents and Vice Presidents of Conference for a photo in support of the Close the Gap campaign (see above), the anti-poverty campaign led by Church Action on Poverty, is like herding cats.

9.While Methodists may have spent the 19th Century being critisised for too much "religious enthusiasm", Close the Gap is as far as we can tell the first campaign the Conference has officially "enthusiastically" supported. See the video of Methodist Conference members explaining why they want to Close the Gap here!

10. Southport, where Conference was held this year, was a lovely friendly venue. However it's a bit misleading to claim that it's by the seaside. You'd have to walk a long, long way for a swim... see you next year in Plymouth!