The purpose of this article is to explain how the Methodist Church Council of a Methodist Local Church may be constituted when that Local Church is a partner in a single-congregation Local Ecumenical Partnership (“SCLEP”).

It is sometimes thought, mistakenly, that a SCLEP replaces the Methodist Local Church.  This leads to thinking, also mistakenly, that there is no longer a requirement for a Methodist Church Council, or that the Trustees of the SCLEP (“the LEP Trustees”) have replaced the Methodist Church Council.

It should be understood that a SCLEP is an additional, rather than an alternative, entity to the Methodist Local Church.  Even when a SCLEP has been formed, the Methodist Local Church must continue to exist.  The Methodist Church Council of that Local Church may be constituted in one of two ways:  in accordance with Standing Order (“SO”) 610, or in accordance with SO 611.

SO 611 provides that, if the District Synod so directs (when designating a SCLEP or subsequently) the Methodist Church Council may be constituted in accordance with this Standing Order (i.e. SO 611), which provides for all the members of the governing body of the SCLEP (usually, the LEP Trustees) to be members of the Methodist Church Council, together with (so far as not already LEP Trustees) the Circuit Superintendent, a circuit steward, and the ministers and probationers specified in SO 610(4)(i) to (vi).

Please note that the LEP Trustees are the Trustees constituted by clauses 22 to 27 of the Model Governing Documents Constitution for a SCLEP.

Where there is in place a direction under SO 611, it needs to be understood that the LEP Trustees do not replace the Methodist Church Council.  Meetings of the Methodist Church Council and the LEP Trustees should be separately minuted.  It is usually possible to arrange meetings of the two trust bodies to take place on the same day, one immediately following the other.

It is often the case that collections, gift-aid tax recovery, and donations go to the LEP Trustees.  However, the LEP Trustees are not normally made party to the Sharing Agreement for the church building made in accordance with the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969, and responsibility for the Methodist share of the running costs of the church building remains with the Methodist Church Council.  This is a particular issue where Methodist Model Trust property is used by the SCLEP of which the Methodist Church Council is the Managing Trustees.  The Methodist Church Council needs to bear in mind its continuing responsibilities and the need for monies to be passed by the LEP Trustees to the Methodist Church Council to meet the respective obligations of the Methodist Church Council, and the equivalent bodies (such as a Church of England Parochial Church Council, a URC Church Meeting, or a Baptist Church Meeting) of the other sharing Church or Churches, under any Sharing Agreement.

If you have any questions about the constitution of a Methodist Local Church which is party to a Sharing Agreement and/or a SCLEP then you can contact the Connexional Ecumenical Officer at stubbensn@methodistchurch.org.uk or TMCP Legal. We will be happy to provide additional guidance and assistance.

Disclaimer

Please note that this document is to provide guidance and assistance to Managing Trustees and their professional advisers. This guidance note is general in nature, may not reflect all recent legal developments and may not apply to the specific facts and circumstances of any particular matter. Also note that nothing within the documents and guidance notes provided by TMCP nor any receipt or use of such information, should be construed or relied on as advertising or soliciting to provide any legal services. Nor does it create any solicitor-client relationship or provide any legal representation, advice or opinion whatsoever on behalf of TMCP or its employees. Accordingly, neither TMCP nor its employees accept any responsibility for use of this document or action taken as a result of information provided in it. Please remember that Managing Trustees need to take advice that is specific to the situation at hand. This document is not legal advice and is no substitute for such advice from Managing Trustees' own legal advisers.