Methodist Church appoints first black woman as President

Rev Sonia Hicks

The Methodist Church has reached a historic milestone with the appointment of its first black female President.

The Rev Sonia Hicks was inducted at the Methodist Conference, which is meeting online and in Birmingham. 

She comes from a long line of Methodists, with her great-grandfather having been a Methodist preacher in Jamaica. 

In her Conference address, Rev Hicks spoke about the racism her family experienced when they first came to Britain.

She told of her Great Aunt Lize who was turned away from a local Methodist church for being black, despite having her Methodist membership card with her. 

Later, the family were able to find a home at Walworth Methodist Church in South London.

"In a world where people are excluded because of their ethnic background, their sexual orientation, their gender or simply because, like me, they were brought up on a council estate, I believe that we are called to show God's love for all people," she said. 

"It is a calling that Christian people have always struggled with, but we can and should be better at making God's love a reality in the British Methodist Church, overcoming the systemic discrimination that exists."

She continued: "As Christians we are to mirror the grace and the mercy of God. We are to find ways of issuing God's invitation of acceptance to those we meet on a daily basis. No ifs, no buts.

"I believe that there is a place for all in the presence of God, at God's Table. But, as we acknowledge that everyone has a place, we also must acknowledge that we will therefore live with the tension of not all thinking the same. We will also have to recognise that living with such tension is never the easy option."

The Methodist Conference is continuing to meet this week. One of the more contentious points on the agenda is a debate on a report called 'God in Love Unites Us', which proposes that the Church embrace same-sex unions and the cohabitation of unmarried couples, and which may cause evangelicals to leave.

Barbara Easton, head of the Methodist Academies and Schools Trust, who was inducted as Vice President, told delegates: "I am urging you, my sisters and brothers, to see that we still have something valuable to bring to the Church's table and to be confident about the colour and texture that we add to make the ecumenical quilt richer."