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Two most senior Methodist leaders won't attend annual conference as investigations continue

by Premier Journalist
Graham Thompson Anthony Boateng thumb.jpg - Banner image
Methodist Church

In what's understood to be a first, the president and vice-president of the Methodist Conference will be absent from its annual meeting as they continue to face separate investigations over their handling of safeguarding allegations within the Church.

The governing body of the Methodist Church is meeting this week in Birmingham but Rev Graham Thompson and Anthony Boateng won't be attending.

Investigations into the pair's actions were announced last week with Boateng suspended. They're due to hand over their roles, which they hold for a year, to their successors at the Conference.

In a statement to Premier about the investigations, a spokesperson for the Church said: "The Methodist Church takes all concerns it receives seriously and can confirm that there are separate investigations about the President and Vice President.

"We are now following our internal processes and it would be inappropriate to comment while these are taking place. We have kept the Charity Commission informed."

The church also confirmed Boateng's suspension was a "neutral act" only in place to enable investigations to be completed.

In a new statement, released on Wednesday evening, secretary of the Methodist Conference, Rev Dr Jonathan Hustler said: "In the context of an ongoing investigation and in the wake of press reports and subsequent publicity, the President of the Conference 2022-23, Rev Graham Thompson, has decided not to attend the Conference.

"The ex-President, Rev Sonia Hicks, will preside at the Presbyteral Session and the Opening of the Representative Session.

"The Vice-President, Mr Anthony Boateng, is currently suspended while an investigation into his conduct is taking place and will also be absent from the Conference. The ex-Vice-President, Mrs Barbara Easton, will deputise for him in the Representative Session."

The development comes just weeks after details from an internal report were leaked suggesting there is a "misogynistic and toxic" culture within the Church in its treatment of women.

The report, written by former MP Meg Munn, also hit out at the Church's handing of safeguarding concerns.

"One of the most important ways in which the Methodist Church can ensure victims’ and survivors’ accounts can be better heard is to improve the culture of the Church," she wrote. "The victims and survivors I spoke with don’t have confidence in the Church. It is not seen as a safe place."

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