Autumn Synod 2009

Representatives from throughout the District met at Silsden Methodist Church for our Autumn Synod.Opening the Synod Rev. Peter Whittaker, the Chair of the West Yorkshire District, welcomed everyone to a time of Christian conferring where the theme running through Synod was of contemporary discipleship.Opening worship was led by our three probationer ministers Revs Joanne Archer-Siddall, Graham Edwards and Tim Moore, who asked us to reflect on where God is taking us.We were then welcomed to the Airedale Circuit, which was only 5 days old, by the Circuit Superintendent Rev. John Hudson.

New members of staff, both lay and ordained, were introduced and welcomed to the District.Some of the new staff are based in our three new circuits, Airedale, Bradford North and Bradford South, which have been created out of seven existing circuits.
Climate Change
Our first session was concerned with issues from the recent Methodist Conference. Mr Keith Thomson, a geomorphologist by training but now a commentator on climate change, spoke of some of the issues surrounding climate change. He spoke of the world’s population increasing by 25 people every 10 seconds, 75 million each year! He outlined how we are running out of the fossil fuels we have become so dependent on, and how their use is creating increased levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. This prevents heat from leaving Earth, causing average world temperatures to rise. The consequences of this would be felt initially and most acutely by the poorest people in the world, possibly leading to a vast increase in migration of people. Keith then introduced a report from the recent Methodist Conference, ‘Hope in God’s Future’. The report is recommended for study by local churches and copies of the report in a format suitable for small group study are available from Methodist Publishing. The report challenges Christians to speak prophetically on climate change issues and to consider the actions we can take as individuals. Rev. Peter Whittaker also recommended the material available from the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, ‘Creation in Crisis‘.
Mr Bob Young from the District Fairtrade Group updated Synod on the work of the Group who are in the process of registering the District as a Fairtrade district. As part of our District’s support for Fairtrade a dedicated page on the District website will be created with information to assist local churches in their support of Fairtrade. He requested information and pictures of local events connected with Fairtrade be sent to him for inclusion on the website. He also challenged churches who currently use Fairtrade goods to take the step of registering as Fairtrade churches, by completing the form available on the Fairtrade Foundation website.

Political Extremism
Rev. Paul Flowers then spoke about the Conference debate on political extremism. Paul described this as a very tense debate, as Conference considered what is the authentic Christian response to political parties such as the BNP. The final resolution passed by Conference says that we reject the policies of such parties, but that as Christians we love them as people. The debate also reminds us that the church needs to be prepared to deal with the root problems and not just the resulting symptoms, problems such as migration, employment, housing, and health, and how we need to tackle these issues through working in partnership with others.
Reflections on Conference
The final session of the morning saw Rev. Peter Whittaker speaking to one of our lay representatives to Conference, Ms Jocelyn Jean Pierre, on her impressions of the conference. Jocelyn spoke about the addresses given by the new President and Vice President. The President, Rev. David Gamble had spoken of how the church needs to be a safer place for people from all walks of life, about how we need to value each person for who they are and what they bring. The Vice President, Dr Richard Vautrey, spoke of how lay members should not be regarded as second best members of the church, and how we should especially encourage more women into the leadership of the church.

Local Preachers and Worship Leaders Memorial Service
For our closing session before lunch we joined together in worship.Rev. Peter Whittaker and Mr Chris Robinson, District Local Preachers Secretary led our memorial service for Local Preachers and Worship Leaders who had died in the last year.

Ecumenical Working
The afternoon sessions opened with devotions, with a prayer from the Methodist Prayer Handbook and a hymn, ‘There’s a spirit in the air’. The first session was led by Rev. Peter Whittaker who spoke of how Methodism had always been at the heart of ecumenical working. As a sign of our commitment a vision statement on ecumenical working will soon be published. This will emphasise the role of Churches Together groups and the work they do.
District Policy Committee
A short time of business from the District Policy Committee covered the agreement of grants, lay employees and property schemes.Synod was also informed that our application for a connexional grant to suport the appointment of a second Mission Enabling Officer had been successful. The process will now start to fill this post, ideally on the same basis as the existing Mission Enabling Officer, a minister that works half time in the mission role and half time in a circuit appointment. Both roles will continue to concentrate on developing spirituality, faith sharing, discipleship and Fresh Expressions.

New Property Consents Process
Rev. Steph Jenner and Mr Richard Walsh gave an entertaining presentation on the new system for dealing with church property schemes. There will be a new online system of obtaining consent for any schemes within the District.Training sessions on the new scheme are being arranged over the next few months. A District Property Consents Panel has been formed and the new process is intended to start from 1st January 2010.
Conference 2009
Mrs Caroline Stead rounded off the Synod with a report on ‘What else happened at Conference’. She explained how discipleship is to be the key area of focus for the Connexional Team over the coming year, with an emphasis on mission activity and the importance of small groups in developing discipleship. Work will be done on the process for selecting, training and stationing of superintendents together with active recruitment for entry to ordained ministry, especially amongst young adults.However, the importance of lay ministry and the resourcing of this was also emphasised. Caroline explained how the Youth Participation Strategy was now up and running and that the introduction of the Annual Development Review process for ministers had been delayed.

Just before the Synod closed, the Synod Secretary and minister at Silsden, Rev. Jacky Hale, outlined the plans for the church.The final service in the current building was to be held the day following Synod followed by a rebuilding of the church.

Rev. Peter Whittaker closed Synod by thanking everyone involved in its organisation and running, before the singing of ‘Be Thou My Vision’.

Synod meets again at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church, Skipton on 8th May 2010.