How Are We Organised?
The East Anglia District of the Methodist Church is part of a larger Methodist family.*
Methodism encourages links between its churches, recognising the significant benefits in being part of a national movement. This, in Methodism, is called the Connexion. The Church is governed by the Methodist Conference—a democratically elected body that meets annually. The ongoing work of the Methodist Conference is undertaken throughout the year by the Methodist Council, which meets four times annually.
The Methodist Church of Great Britain is divided up into 31 Districts. Here in the East Anglia District, Revd Julian Pursehouse is the Chair of the District, whose job it is to lead the ministers and lay people in the work of preaching and worship, evangelism, pastoral care, teaching and administration.
The District has a number of committees that meet to oversee the different areas of District life. The 3 main committees usually meet 3 times a year for a full or half day.
Each District has a District Synod. Its purpose is to decide policy for the District and to be the link between the Methodist Conference and Connexional offices of the Church on the one hand, and the Circuits and local churches on the other. Some church members belong to the District Synod because they have been elected or because they hold one of a number of offices within the District or in the Circuits. The Synod currently meets twice a year, usually in April and September.
Each District is divided up into Circuits; and there are 15 within East Anglia. Each Circuit is made up of a number of local churches, which organise worship for their congregations. Pastoral care is also provided. Each Circuit has a Superintendent Minister who is the contact person for the churches, ministers (also known as presbyters or deacons) and people within that Circuit. The Superintendent Ministers directly link to the Chair of the District. There are also Supernumerary Ministers who have retired from active ministry but may offer assistance, as appropriate.
The responsibilities of the Circuit are exercised through the Circuit Meeting. Its task is to combine spiritual leadership with administrative efficiency to help the Circuit fulfil its purpose. The members of the Circuit Meeting are the managing trustees of resources such as property and finance. Circuit Stewards are the lay leaders of the Circuit and are responsible for a number of matters that seek to unite and develop the Circuit and the churches within it. Some church members belong to the Circuit Meeting because they have been elected by their church or because they hold one of a number of offices within the Circuit. The purpose of the Circuit is to use effectively the resources of ministry, which include people, property and finance. It acts as the focal point for the fellowship of the local churches, looking after their pastoral care, training and evangelistic work.
Another area of ministry within the Methodist Church is that of Lay Employees – a generic term that the Methodist Church uses to described the many varied ministries that people are involved in. Most Lay Employees are appointed by Circuits to work in one or two churches or in a project. They are part of the ministry team of a Circuit working alongside presbyters, deacons and other lay people. The work to be undertaken will have been identified by Circuits as they undertake a review of their mission policy and staffing needs. There are also a few Lay Employee appointments made by Districts.
The local Church is the ‘power house’ of Methodism. It is also worth stressing that the church is the people, not the buildings. (Although – confusingly – the building in which they meet is often called the ‘church’, as well!) The local church exists to exercise the whole ministry of Christ. Worship, fellowship, pastoral care, mission and service are essential features of that ministry. The Church Council, with the minister, has responsibility for the co-ordination of that ministry; and the members of the Church Council are managing trustees of the local church resources. Some Church members belong to the Church Council because they have been elected by the local church members or because they hold one of a number of offices within the local church. Church Stewards and a number of other members of the Church Council are elected by the General Church Meeting (which is Methodism’s version of an AGM).
For people who wish to become members of the Methodist Church, there is a period of training and, once the local Church Council is satisfied with the person’s sincere acceptance of the basis of membership of the Methodist Church, a service of confirmation and reception into membership is held. If they have not previously been baptised, the service will include baptism. All officer holders must be members of the Methodist Church.
Two thirds of all Methodist Sunday services are conducted by a Local (lay) Preacher. They have undergone several years training, but are not ordained.
Training for the District is organised by DMLN (Discipleship and Ministry Learning Network). The team work jointly with Beds Essex and Herts District for this.
Further questions? Ask a real live Methodist!