Consultation Document

Proposal for the amalgamation of


the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly and Plymouth and Exeter Methodist Districts


The South West Peninsula District in September 2024


This document is prepared for Circuit Meetings across the two Districts to provide information for decision making on the proposed formation of a new District. The Circuit Meetings are asked to complete their deliberations by March 2024. The document has been produced by the Joint Working Party comprising representatives elected by both Synods, and has the approval of both District Policy Committees.


1. Introduction pp. 2-3
2. Leadership pp. 4-7
3. Structure of the new District p. 8
4. Missional Policy pp. 9-10
5. Personnel p. 11
6. Financial information pp. 12-13.
7. Frequently Asked Questions p. 14.

1. Introduction

As part of the wider South West Region, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly and Plymouth and Exeter Districts have a long history of collaborative working and sharing of resources across boundaries in ways which have promoted mission and sustained ministry. We already share closely in supporting each other through the work of the Probationers Committee, Diaconal Area Meetings, Safeguarding, complaints and reconciliation work and through Supervision, among other pieces of work. This connexional year has seen the two District Chairs acting in a joint capacity across both Districts and a growing determination to utilise the gifts and graces of lay and ordained people across the area. There are many examples of good working relationships between circuits and members across the current District boundaries.
The membership of both Districts is significantly smaller than when the present Districts were first conceived and formed, and is likely to become smaller still should the pattern of change continue. The governance burden of maintaining current structures is disproportionate to the size of both Districts and despite some joint working there are still areas of duplication of work. It is increasingly challenging to fill the necessary offices, lay appointments, and sustain meetings in both Districts. Reduction in the number of ordained Ministers available and their willingness to serve in our Districts also continues to add to the erosion of the existing structures. The proposal for a new single District stems from a desire not simply to join the administrative functions of two Districts together over a wider area but rather to use the opportunity to change how we are empowering, encouraging and resourcing Circuits, churches, and individuals for mission. Our vision is for collaborative leadership and closer working with circuits to support the development of vision and outworking of the mission of God. By using our resources more effectively and with sound governance our desire is to release energy, personnel and resources spent maintaining existing District structures to refocus on helping Circuits to actively engage in their local mission with more effect and confidence. We are well aware that our plans and intentions depend on the gifting and resourcing of God’s Spirit, and look forward to how God will use the flexibility and renewed focus for the growing of the kingdom in us, through us and around us.
In the Connexional years 2023-2025 we anticipate changes in leadership in our Districts as one of the incumbent District Chairs sits down in August 2024, and the other begins a 5 year reinvitation period from September 2024. This proposed amalgamation is a proactive approach to the unique opportunity for the two Districts to reconsider patterns of leadership and to reshape existing structures to better promote and support mission. We believe we have an exciting opportunity to offer a new approach to better support mission, not least in the area of developing New Places for New People (NPNP) across the Circuits. The proposed renewed approach to collaborative leadership will make richer use of the gifts and graces of volunteers, lay employees and ordained staff across the new District, and we believe may even provide Circuits with
targeted support that is closer to hand than we are currently able to offer.
Although these proposals focus on the amalgamation of 2 of the 5 regional partners, both Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and Plymouth and Exeter Districts continue to seek ways to work more closely with all the Districts within the South West Region. We continue to discuss resource sharing and missional planning in regular meetings with our regional group, as well as sharing in stationing work together. We are keen to continue to identify pieces of work that might be better resourced by the wider region.
Each Circuit meeting in the two Districts are therefore asked to consider this report and to vote on the resolutions below (substituting the name of the relevant Circuit meeting for the ‘x’ below), and recording the total numbers of those voting and the numbers in favour or against. The meeting date and numbers should be reported to Jane Allin or Iris Bray (Synod Secretaries), for sharing with the respective Synod and with the Methodist Council scrutiny group.
The [x] Circuit Meeting receives this report.
The [x] Circuit Meeting resolves that, under Standing Order 401, the Methodist Council be asked to propose to the Methodist Conference of 2024 that the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly and Plymouth and Exeter Districts amalgamate to form a single Methodist District from 1st September 2024, and that, if the Methodist Conference approves the amalgamation, all necessary steps be taken for its implementation.

2. Leadership:
We envisage the new District will comprise 4 Mission Areas, which will be informal groupings of Circuits under the care of a Mission Area Lead:
West: Isles of Scilly; The Lizard and Mounts Bay; St. Ives (Fore Street); Bodmin, Padstow and Wadebridge; Camborne, Redruth and Hayle; Falmouth and Gwennap; Mid Cornwall; West Cornwall; St. Austell.
South: Tavistock; Plymouth Mission; Plymouth and Devonport; South East Cornwall; Torbay; Teignbridge; South Devon.
North: Camelford and Week St Mary; Launceston Area; West Devon; Bude and Holsworthy, Torridge; Ilfracombe and Barnstaple; South Molton and Ringsash; Ringsash.
East: Exeter, Coast and Country; Tiverton and Wellington; West Somerset; Taunton Deane and South Sedgemoor; South Petherton and Crewkerne.
The designated Mission Area Lead will be the prime contact between the Circuits and District in each Area in order to preserve and develop a close pastoral presence. We do not envisage these Areas becoming a separate layer of administration in the District, rather that they will be informal groupings for pastoral support, for local sharing of resources as appropriate and to ensure good communication and conferring. We imagine, for example, some areas may choose to have shared Local Preachers Meetings or Staff Meetings, and that in-person Safeguarding and other training may be offered to each Area. Some Areas (or Circuits within them) may opt to collaborate in deeper ways than others, eg sharing employees or ministerial appointments, and we believe this flexibility to meet local contexts, needs and opportunities is preferable over a more prescriptive approach.
The Mission Area Lead will share with the District Chair in delegated oversight of these areas and will be the main link for the Circuits with the wider resources of the District. The District Chair along with Mission Area Leads will lead the Mission Areas, providing district leadership, missional planning and resourcing, governance and pastoral care. Ecumenical relationships will continue to be primarily sustained and resourced by the District Chair and area Ecumenical Officers and potentially by Deputy Chairs, depending on the context in each Area.
In planning for the new District we have kept the following 5 priorities in mind: i) Missional thinking and planning; ii) Sustainability (in terms of resources and in our care for the environment); iii) Upholding the pastoral role of the Chair; iv) Creative thinking and working; v) Ensuring our plans fit within developing Methodist polity. These 5 priorities are outlined below:

i) Missional thinking and planning has been explored primarily in the development of a shared vision and resourcing for the growing of New Places for New People across the District, as well as developing structures that will both release those called to new work whilst supporting Circuits and churches to identify and focus on growth in their own contexts. The two Districts have worked closely together to appoint a New Places for New People Coordinator from September 2024 as we pool our Connexional and separate District funding for bigger impact. The NPNP Coordinator will be a key District presence, working alongside Circuits to identify areas of potential for new work and bringing together the existing missional practitioners already engaged in work that is inspiring and bringing new people to faith.
Beyond NPNP, the new District will aim to support more traditional forms of evangelism by working with every Circuit to develop clear missional vision and goals and resourcing stated needs where possible. We are excited by the prospect of developing a strategic overview and approach to missional priority, eg in new areas of housing or rural communities where the Church has previously retreated from. We believe that the best missional thinking and planning will be locally led, and the development of Mission Areas aims to better resource, support and inspire the vision and mission of Circuits, churches and individuals within them. A key part of the new District’s vision is to act as a critical friend to Circuits in the support, resource and continual review of mission planning and work.
ii) Sustainability has been an important factor in our planning for what will obviously be a large geographical area. We are committed to reducing travel by using technology (eg Zoom or hybrid meetings) wherever possible, noting and seeking to mitigate the challenge faced by some in accessing this technology. We imagine that we can resource each Mission Area to provide access to technology where this is needed, eg ensuring we are offering at least one venue in each Area that will be able to offer livestream/zoom facilities.
We have committed to holding two Representative Synods per year, with one Presbyteral Synod also. We strongly encourage Synod members to attend in person if at all possible with the aim that no-one should have to travel more than two hours. In this way, we are hopeful that we can engage potentially more people to participate in Synod meetings than at present through hybrid gatherings in designated hubs in each Mission Area. The Autumn Representative Synod will concentrate primarily on business matters with the Spring Representative Synod taking the form of a more informal celebration event, with space given for necessary business. The present membership of the Synod would be the same (subject to elections as appropriate/necessary) for September 2024, and a review of the new Synod membership would be undertaken to ensure good representation was in place.

We are committed to reducing duplication of committee work and supporting Circuits by increasing paid support for areas like property and safeguarding. We envisage utilising existing District lay employees to work across the new District. We recognise that despite the large area of the new District there are many ways to reduce the number of people travelling for meetings and the Mission Areas can be used as centres for events and meetings.
We have named as a priority our need to review the work that Circuits have already begun in order to reach net zero carbon targets. This will become a priority that is factored into all our District policy and decision making.
We have also considered financial sustainability as crucial in our thinking and planning. There is more detail below about the proposed effect on finances, but we are anticipating that there should be no initial increase on overall Circuit assessments caused by the amalgamation.
iii) Upholding the pastoral role of the Chair in support of lay and ordained colleagues has been an important part of our planning. We have carefully considered how to make best use of Mission Area Leads and Deputy Chairs who may exercise oversight of areas and/or leadership of elements of our District Policy (eg in evangelism or worship). We are committed to building a collaborative style of leadership, where the functions of the Chair are shared out amongst the District Leadership (whilst complying with Standing Orders). From September 2024, through stationing and existing staff, our leadership will be:
Chair of District: Revd Dr Dan Haylett
½ time Mission Area Lead (and Deputy Chair) in the West: Revd. Janet Park (supported by an unpaid Deputy Chair: Revd. David Miller and with plans to seek a further such Deputy before September).
Full Time Mission Area Lead in the North: Deacon Ruth Richey
Mission Area Lead in the East: Revd Dr Dan Haylett (supported by an unpaid Deputy Chair: Revd. Deborah Kirk).
Mission Area Lead in the South: Revd Dr Dan Haylett (supported by an unpaid Deputy Chair: Revd. Kevin Hooke).
Alongside this, we are committed to exploring how lay leadership can be exercised effectively across the District and you will read more about this below.

The Mission Area Lead and Deputies are appointed by the Synod for a three year term, under SO 426. A suggestion of a description of role:
The Deputy Chair will deputise for the Chair, when available on request. This may include sharing in any of the responsibilities of the Chair outlined in SO 424. Practically, this may mean chairing Circuit Meetings when required, and/or involvement in pastoral work and complaints and discipline issues. Deputies may also be asked to share in the responsibilities of the Mission Area Lead, if not the Chair, in particular circumstances. The Chair and/or Mission Area Lead may invite the Deputy to offer counsel and support.
The Deputy Chair will be invited to regular meetings of the senior leadership in the District as their availability allows, and be reimbursed any expenses incurred in District work.
Mission Area Leads are those stipended (or potentially employed if lay people) to offer leadership in the 4 areas and are appointed by the Synod on the recommendation of the DPC. A suggestion of a description of role:
Mission Area Leads are the main point of contact for Circuits in each Mission Area. They are the gatekeepers to District resource and care, developing and maintaining good pastoral relationships with Superintendent Ministers and other staff and Circuit Stewards.
Mission Area Leads will meet regularly with the Chair and with other leaders in the District.
iv) Creative thinking and working has been exemplified throughout the shared thinking and planning undertaken so far. We acknowledge that in planning for the new District from 2024 creativity and flexibility in approach is necessary to enable us to make the most of the opportunities presented. We recognise that the work and leadership of the new District will still need to emerge from 2024 onwards and have therefore proposed a short term mission policy to lead us through the next couple of years of transition.
v) Ensuring our plans fit within Methodist polity has been demonstrated in our seeking consultation and approval from key office holders within the Districts as well as from District Policy Committees (DPC), Synods and Methodist Council and Conference 2023. All of these bodies have overwhelmingly endorsed the direction of travel towards becoming one District, and feedback has been taken at each stage and incorporated into this proposal. Following this consultation the next steps are to seek Methodist Council approval in April 2024 and final approval from Conference 2024.

3. Structure of New District

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District Staff and Volunteers including administrative employees report to the DPC through appropriate line management processes, and are listed on p. 11.

Interim District Policy for South West Peninsula District from 2024
In living out “Our Calling” we seek to respond passionately to the gospel of God’s love in Christ as we engage in worship, learning and caring, service and evangelism across the South West. As a District we will do this by supporting Circuits and local churches in the following ways:
Missional thinking and planning
1. By Spring 2025 to have begun and established at least 1 flagship District pilot New Places for New People project.
2. To bring to the Autumn 2025 Synod a developed and coherent strategy for supporting or encouraging New Places for New People projects in at least 5 Circuits.
3. To bring to the Autumn 2025 Synod a coherent strategy for every Circuit to develop robust and accountable mission plans, and to identify 5 areas across the District where support for evangelism and growth in either existing missional contexts or new areas of housing or work will be prioritised.
4. To underpin our mission (and all our work) with a well resourced District Safeguarding Group (DSG) and District Safeguarding Officer(s), building on previous good practice and learning from a Connexional assessment of our needs and processes. The progress of the new DSG will be reviewed in Autumn 2025.
5. Review all committees and structures to ensure missional thinking and planning remains a key priority. This will be reviewed on an ad hoc basis, completing a first cycle by Spring 2026.
1. Work towards becoming an Eco District, noting the Connexional target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030. A database of every circuit’s progress in this area to be created during 2024.
2. Review how use of technology and conferring across the District is working on an on-going basis.
3. To ensure continuing financial sustainability in our forward planning, and helping Circuits to make good use of resources.
Leadership and Pastoral
1. Embed through Stationing and other appointments the District leadership (including Deputy Chairs) required from 2025 onwards.
2. Ensure good Safeguarding, Line Management practices, policies, and Supervision are in place across the District, reviewing progress on this by Spring 2025.
3. Build a sustainable network of pastoral support and space to explore potential areas of mission and ministry with Supernumerary colleagues by Autumn 2025.
4. Work with the Learning Network to develop a vocations strategy for all to be presented to the Autumn Synod 2025.
5. To form a Synod planning group to manage the planned Autumn hybrid Synod, and Spring celebration style meeting.

Creative thinking and working
1. Engage with each Circuit to discern where sharing across boundaries can release resources for mission and ministry in creative ways to reduce the sense of isolation.
2. Develop and grow support for lay ministry in all forms, especially enabling District employees to support the vision and mission of Circuits.
3. Resource Circuit Staff and Circuit Leadership teams to minimise excessive workloads in every way possible. We will keep Lent in 2025 to “pursue the Kingdom” and embed the work of the Wellbeing Officer across the District.

We note the temporary and transitional nature of this policy, as we anticipate the key areas of work in the next few years in forming a new District. We would want to assure our partners in Cuttack (a Plymouth and Exeter partnership with a Diocese in North India) of our ongoing support, as well as our commitment to ongoing ecumenical work with our partners in the District. We have also identified the support and engagement of our young people and children’s, youth and family workers across the District as a focus for support from the Learning Network in the new District. Work on a longer term policy will begin on the formation of the new District as we work through the transitional period.

5. Personnel
5.1 Built into the thinking around the new District is the determination to make better use of the gifts and skills of all our people, finding ways to share collaboratively in teams that are made up of lay and ordained working together.
5.2 The Mission Area Lead in the North of the District will hold the responsibility for developing a strategy for discerning and supporting vocations of all kinds. We are excited by the possibilities of sharing the gifts of many across the wider District and finding more creative ways to engage the talents and graces God has given so many across our District.
5.3 We anticipate from September 2024 the District staff will comprise:
Chair of District
1 FT Deacon and 1 PT Presbyter Mission Area Lead
3 or 4 Volunteer Deputies
1 FT NPNP Coordinator
4 PT Administrators
1 PT Property and Mission Resource Officer
1 PT Grants Officer
1 FT Agricultural Chaplain and Market Place Chaplaincy Coordinator
1 PT Transforming Conversation Enabler
1 PT Wellbeing Officer
1 PT Social Justice Coordinator
Supported by:
1 PT Independent Safeguarding Chair
1.5 District Safeguarding Officers
The Learning Network Aligned Officers.

5.4 From these existing staff using their gifts and graces across the District, we envisage being able to better support and resource Circuits with more targeted help and resourcing. We are committed to good employment practices across the District and working with WestCountry HR will continue to provide employment advice and resource for Circuits and churches.

6. Financial Information
Joint District Budget assumes inflation is 2.5%. Connexional budget reduces by 3% in real terms (0.5% in numbers); Connexional contribution of £40,000 pa for 3 years– to be confirmed
INCOME 31.08.2025 31.08.2026 31.08.2027
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As well as obtaining Charity Commission advice and working through the Methodist Church’s guidance for mergers and amalgamations, we have undertaken a Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats analysis (of which the key details are below):
The Holy Spirit – God is with us!
Excellent existing team of lay and ordained staff, added to through stationing.
A firm base – two Districts are financially viable.
Lots of examples of mission/pioneering/NPNP work to work with and build on.
Well thought through plan and vision to achieve results.
Collaborative leadership model.
A determined and committed District leadership who have grown together and will support, encourage and enable local ministry and mission.
Thousands of faithful and committed volunteers involved in all sorts of mission and ministry.
Large geographical area
Ageing population – inability to continue in office for some.
Some areas across the District where resources are scarce.
Reliance of clergy and an overfocus on Presbyteral ministry as the norm.
Property and finance issues for some circuits
Tiredness of faithful volunteers
Cynicism and apathy: where a sense of being overwhelmed by change and circumstances can stifle mission and ministry.
Parochialism: where the new might not happen everywhere, can we still support where the Kingdom is growing?
Reducing Connexional funding, and continuing challenges to local church and Circuit’s finances.
The Holy Spirit – God will continue to lead us!
Rethinking the way we offer mission and ministry.
NPNP funding and initiatives can inspire new ways of being church.
The work of Transforming Conversation in supporting mission, evangelism and spiritual growth.
Creating a District that at all levels is loving, thriving and serving.
To offer fresh approaches to Christian faith, and transform almost Christians into altogether Christians.

7. Frequently Asked Questions
7.1 Below are a series of questions that have arisen during our work on these proposals.
Q. It’s a long way from the Isles of Scilly via Land’s End to Bridgwater! How will such a large area work as a District?
A: It is a long way! However there are examples of even larger areas existing as a single Methodist District (eg Scotland and the proposed new North West England District). It’s highly improbable anyone would be asked to travel that distance, and we imagine that more localised support can be given in the Mission Areas.
Q. How will this effect what our Circuit contributes financially to District?
A. We are working on the basis that there will be no increase in circuit assessments due to the creation of a new District.
Q. How will these proposals effect my church and my circuit?
A. We hope and pray that the changes will mean your church has greater contact with the resources the District can offer, in the focussing of staff and resources in the Mission Areas. We imagine that the circuits will have increased contact with District staff as we respond to the needs and plans in place.
Q. How far will Synod members be expected to travel to Synod?
A: We will be encouraging people to attend in person as much as possible, travelling for no more than two hours. There will be provision made for hybrid sharing across the Mission Areas.
Q. Where is Synod likely to be held?
A: We plan for the first Synod in Autumn 2024 to be held at Plymouth Central Hall which has the required facilities, is relatively central to the District and has good public transport links. We will review venues as we proceed.
Q. Who will attend Synod?
A: The present membership of both Synods, although revised membership may be agreed at a future Synod as the potential size of the combined Synods will be large. We hope that many more than the existing membership of Synod might be drawn to the proposed Spring celebration event.
Q. How can I be involved?
A: There are so many ways! We hope that as you get to know the District staff and projects already underway that you will find something you want to share more deeply in. We ask for your prayers as we continue to seek God’s guidance and unfolding purposes for us all.