The Wiltshire United Area


This is the original constitution which now requires to be amended to reflect the amalgamation of the two United Areas on 1st September 2009.

   Constitution For The West Wilts And Mid Wilts

Methodist/United Reformed Church United Areas

 A. Basic Principles And Assumptions

1.        Principles:

a.  To fulfill together the life and mission of Christ’s Church.

b.  To be a partnership in ecumenical development in ministry and the ordering and organising of a group of churches.

c.  To ensure that the ethos and evolving traditions of both denominations are allowed full play in the life of the Area.

d.  To share as far as possible the resources of the two traditions within each respective Area

        2.       Assumptions:

a.  All churches party to this Constitution constitute the United Areas and are equal members of their respective Area.

b.  All Ministers appointed to an Area are equally Ministers of that whole Area. 

c.  All accredited Local and Lay Preachers of either denomination who are members of churches in the Area are equally preachers of the Area.

d.  The Area respects its responsibilities to the wider fellowship of the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.

B. The Local Churches And The Area

1.  The internal workings of the local Churches are organised as at the inception of the area or as subsequently seems right to the local church and the Area Meeting. Each local Church shall have its own written constitution based on the denominational model or the agreed model constitution of the Methodist/United Reformed Church Liaison Group, recognising it as part of the United Area, and approved by the denominational authorities.

2,  The Methodist/United Reformed Church Area is concerned to strengthen the work of the local Churches, to co-ordinate their activities, and to encourage new ventures in mission.

3.  An Area Meeting shall be held at least twice a year. This Area Meeting combines as far as possible, the functions of the Methodist Circuit Meeting and the United Reformed District Council. The members of the Meeting are:­

a.  The Ministers within the Area, active, retired and probationers.

b.  Members of the Diaconal Order and lay workers having pastoral or leadership roles in and having been appointed by the Area.

c.  Two representatives from each Area Church, being members of that church, with a membership of less than 50 members, and four from each Church with 50 or more members.

d.  One representative from each of the Area Meeting Committees, except the Preachers’ Committee which has six lay representatives.

e.  At least four, and not more than six, Area Officers - to include the Area Secretary and Treasurer.           “ 

f.   The Provincial Moderator; members of the United Reformed Church Provincial Committees who are church members in the Area; the Chairman of the Bristol Methodist District; members of the Bristol Methodist District standing committees who are church members in the Area.

 g.  Two young people, (aged 18 - 25 years), being members of an Area Church, nominated by the Area youth committee.

h.  A representative from Wiltshire Churches Together; and Representatives of other denominations as the Area Meeting may from time to time determine.

4.   The Area Meeting shall elect one of the Ministers to be the Area Chairman for a term of three years, who shall then be eligible for re-appointment for a further term. The Area Chairman is both the Methodist Superintendent Minister and the United Reformed Church District Council President. In the case of a United Reformed Church Minister being elected as Area Chairman the fact of being Recognised and Regarded as a Methodist Minister conveys the legal power to act as Superintendent.

5.   The Area Meeting shall appoint the Area Officers either from its own membership or from the membership of the Churches. In conjunction with the active Ministers they form an Executive and shall be responsible for the general administration of the Area, in accordance with this constitution. They shall be appointed for a term of three years, and are eligible for re­appointment for a further term.

6.   The Area Meeting shall call into being such committees as are necessary for its work and shall determine how the committees membership shall be constituted. It is the responsibility of the committees to consider material from both denominations and avoid duplication wherever possible. They initiate action within the guidelines laid down by the Area Meeting.

7.   The Area Meeting is both the Methodist Circuit Meeting and the United Reformed Church District Council and shall fulfill the legal requirements and responsibilities of both these former local bodies. (including Managing Trusteeship of Circuit property; see Methodist Standing Order 512)

8. The Area Meeting shall appoint representatives to:­

a.  The District Synod of the Methodist Church

b.  The Provincial Synod and the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church,

c.  Other bodies as required.

Representatives are to be drawn from the membership of the local Churches being mindful of the traditions represented.

C. Ministry

1.  Ministers shall be appointed to the Area as a whole, but normally have pastoral oversight of a section composed of one or more Churches. There shall be at least one Methodist and one United Reformed Church Minister in each Area. United Reformed Church Ministers, appointed to the Area, shall seek Recognised and Regarded status in the Methodist Church, Methodist Ministers, having been inducted to the Area, are thereby members of the United Reformed Church Provincial Synod.

2.  The Ministers and Local/Lay Preachers shall form a Preachers Committee responsible to the Area Meeting. It shall deal with matters of worship, fellowship, training, accreditation and the continuing development of Local and Lay Preachers. This committee may invite each Church to send a lay representative to be a non-voting member of the committee.

3.  For certain specialist responsibilities (e.g., Youth Work) Ministers serve the whole Area. Over a period of time the Preaching Plan enables Ministers to become acquainted with all the Churches in the Area, while giving their major attention to those for which they have particular responsibility.

4.  Changes in pastoral responsibility are made by the Area Meeting but only after consultation with the Churches and Ministers concerned, and with reference to the United Reformed Provincial Moderator and the Methodist District Chairman.

5.  Denominational practices regarding the Lay Administration of Holy Communion are observed.

6.  a.  When a pending ministerial vacancy is known the Ministers and Area Officers consult with the Churches affected and with the Methodist District Chairman, the United Reformed Church Provincial Moderator and Wiltshire Churches Together.  The purpose of the consultation is:

i.   to decide upon the preferred denominational identity of the next Minister;

ii.  to draw up an outline of the style of ministry required;

iii. to give guidelines relating to the type of person to be sought.

b.  A minister considered for a vacancy shall meet with the present Ministers and Area Officers and also with the Elders/Stewards of the Churches involved in this particular pastoral responsibility, also conducting worship in at least one of them. An Opportunity shall be made in this procedure for the Minister to meet representatives of Wiltshire Churches Together and a representative of each church with whom any Church has an ecumenical relationship.

c.     Invitations/calls are made on the resolution of both a joint Church meeting of the members of the Churches involved and the Area Meeting, subject to the legal requirements of the respective denominations.

d.  A Minister shall be invited to be a Minister of the Area. The period of service shall normally be for seven years, or up to the normal age of retirement, if less. Toward the end of this period the position shall be reviewed, in order to assess the needs of the Section, Area and the Minister’s own ministry, with a view to either extending the appointment or to making a new appointment. (The timing of reviews will need to be in line with current Denominational procedure.)  This review shall be carried out by two Area Officers, they being independent of the Section, where possible. At the commencement of the review the Provincial Moderator and the District Chairman shall be consulted. Following this consultation the Officers take “soundings” in each Church served by the Minister concerned; the “soundings”, taken in whatever way is deemed most suitable by the Area Executive, shall reflect the mind of the whole Section in seeking God’s will for the future.  The results of these consultations shall then be discussed with the Area Executive and with the Minister concerned. The Area Executive shall then send to each Church in the Section the recommendation to be brought for consideration at the next Area Meeting. (A joint meeting of all the Churches in the Minister’s Section may be convened.)   Extension of the period of Ministry within the Area shall normally be for four years, or to retirement if less than four years, up to a total of eleven years, and thereafter annually. Following the Area Meeting if the recommendation is that the Minister shall leave the Area the procedure then starts at C6a. The termination of the Minister’s period of service in the Area shall normally take effect about 18 months after the review date.

e.   Ministers of the Area are recognised by the other denomination as Ministers fully in charge of a Church of that denomination, but subject themselves to the discipline of their own denomination.

f.   It is desirable that there be continuity of ministry. So:

i.        Normally new ministerial appointments begin in September.

ii.       The time between a vacancy occurring and the arrival of the successor should be the shortest possible.

        iii. If the move of any Minister from the Area causes a gap in time before the arrival of a successor, the Area normally takes     responsibility for pastoral oversight, but may ask the relevant authority of either denomination for help.

        iv. The Methodist Conference is asked to take into account the special ecumenical situation before moving a Minister into or out of the Area other than in accordance with (a) -- (c) above.

g.  When a Minister is appointed to the Area the Area Meeting through the Executive shall arrange for a service of induction (and/or ordination) to be held in one of the Churches for which that Minister shall have pastoral responsibility, ensuring that the appropriate Methodist and United Reformed persons officiate.

7.   Within the context of discovering and encouraging the full ministry of the people of God, the Area may as need and opportunity arise, appoint and utilise the gifts of part-time Ministers, members of the Diaconal Order, as well as encouraging and enabling the training and use of Non-Stipendary Ministers, Ministers in Local Appointment, Church Related Community Workers and Lay Workers. The need for this ministry in an individual Church or the Area shall be agreed by the Area Meeting and the Churches concerned following consultation with Other Bodies. Job description, terms and conditions of employment shall be agreed by the individual concerned and the Area Executive before the appointment is made.

8.   The Area Meeting shall provide a Pastoral Committee for the support, encouragement and continuing care of the Area Ministers (in all categories), members of the Diaconal Order, Church related Community Workers and Lay Workers appointed to the Area.

D. Finance

     1.  Payment of Ministers

a.  Ministers shall be paid at denominational rates through their respective central payment schemes. National Insurance and Pension contributions, allowances for, Chairmanship/Superintendency and such other allowances as may be determined by the Area Meeting shall be added to the Basic Stipend. An appropriate amount shall be remitted by the Area to each of these funds on their behalf as required.

b.  Expenses determined and authorised by the Area Meeting in accordance with national Church policies are paid to each Minister.

c.  To meet the total cost of the Area Ministers’ remuneration and expenses each Church within the Area is separately assessed as to its contribution

2.       Manses

a   These are owned by the denomination which purchased them and are held under existing trusts.

b.  Manses are available to Ministers of either denomination, subject where necessary to Sharing Agreements.

c.  The Area shall pay such local costs related to the manse in accordance with national Denominational procedures (e.g. Council Tax and Water Charges etc.). and shall be responsible for repairs and decoration.

 d.  The costs are raised from the Churches as in 1(c) above.

e.  If so required by the Minister, curtains, carpets, cooker and study furniture are provided by the Area.

f.   A Housing Allowance is paid to a Minister not requiring a Manse.

3.        Property

a.  The Area is responsible for the oversight of Church premises and Manses and for seeking any wider denominational finance for their renovation.

b.  The existing legal trusts responsible for Church premises continue.

   4.        Area Administration

All costs incurred by the Area shall be recovered from the Churches in proportions to be determined by the Area Meeting by means of Quarterly Assessments to be paid by the first day of the new quarter.

E.     Revision Of The Constitution

Amendments to the Constitution shall be made by a vote of at least 75% majority of those present and voting at an Area Meeting after consultation with the Area Churches and agreement by the appropriate Denominational authorities and Wiltshire Churches Together.

The Areas and the Oversight Committee shall jointly carry out a review of the constitution at least once in every seven years

F.     Oversight

1.    Denominational

Oversight for staff, Area and Churches shall be from the relevant denominations, through the Area Officers and Executive with the guidance, support and encouragement of the Oversight Group. The Oversight Group shall be the committee of reference for the interpretation of the Constitution.

      2.     Ecumenical

The Areas look to Wiltshire Churches Together as the local ecumenical sponsoring body for oversight, support and review.




1.    Introduction

The Constitution under which these areas operate incorporates insights from both the Methodist and United Reformed traditions.  

There are aspects of their life which are shared with the wider councils of the churches.  Oversight of the churches and of the ministry are obvious, but not the only ones. There may also be occasions when the responsible officers in the areas are glad to have a precise group of people with whom they can consult. From the United Reformed point of view, oversight of the ministry in such a small District needs to be a Provincial responsibility; from a Methodist point of view there is a variation in the method of invitation of Ministers, their relationships in the team and in the consideration of their continuing service.

         2.     Membership

In the light of these considerations the United Reformed Provincial Synod and the Methodist District Synod appointed the Oversight Group. It is responsible to both Synods and carries authority on their behalf. The Group is comprised of:

a.  The United Reformed Provincial Moderator and three representatives from the South-Western Province;

b.  The Methodist District Chairman and three representatives from the Bristol Methodist District;

c.  A Representative of the National URC/ Methodist Liaison Committee;

d.  Area Chairmen/Superintendents ex-officio together with one Area Officer from each Area.

e.  A representative of Wiltshire Churches Together, the local ecumenical sponsoring body.

 The Group appoints its own Chairman and Secretary and serves both Mid and West Wilts areas.

    3.      Duties

The Group:

a.   provides a point of reference for the Area Churches and Ministers when needing advice or assistance.

     b.  i.   receives reports from the Areas as to which churches have been visited in connection with the required property inspections and for consideration of their life and work.

        ii.  in the light of these reports gives help and advice as required and informs appointing synods of any major issues that have been raised.

    c.   considers with the Areas the application and interpretation of paragraph C.6 of the Constitution, which is concerned with the call,     appointment and responsibilities of Ministers.

d.   ensures that Area Budgets are drawn up each year on principles which ensure a fair division of costs to all churches in the area and  relate to those of other churches in the Province/District.

e.   ensures that a Church Life Review takes place for every Area Church once in every five years.


The  current Constitution Document is available on request from any of the Ministers,  Area Officers or the Webmaster.   Please use the appropriate e-mail address listed on the Staff Page giving full information on who requests it and where it is to be sent.

Mid-Wilts United Area.

Introduction to the 1987 Constitution

The question of Methodist and United Reformed Churches working closer together, beyond local church unions, had been raised in the Trowbridge area of Wiltshire during the 1970’s. It was not until November 1979 however that a meeting was convened in Trowbridge, of representatives from the Methodist and United Reformed Churches in the area of the Trowbridge and Bradford-on-Avon Circuit - together with representatives of the South-Western Province of the United Reformed Church and the Bristol Methodist District - to consider how this idea might be implemented.

At the same time, a similar question had been raised for the area of Melksham, Corsham, Devizes and Calne (Mid-Wilts) and observers came to the meeting at Trowbridge.  This meeting drew up the four Basic Principles, with which the Constitution begins, and commissioned one of its number to draft a possible constitution which would enable all the Methodist, United Reformed and United Churches to work together in a ‘United Area’- to use the name later adopted. The resultant draft, embodying insights from both traditions, was presented to a further meeting on 19th January 1980. By this time it had become clear that the work being done had as much relevance to Mid-Wilts as to West-Wilts. The meeting accepted the Constitution in principle and, in subsequent months, various working parties dealt with matters of detail, churches in both Mid and West Wilts contributing to the discussion. Representatives of the National Methodist-URC Liaison Committee journeyed to Wiltshire for discussion as it was clear that this move had repercussions for national rules and practices.

In the course of these deliberations it was recognised that each new area would be both a Methodist Circuit and a URC District Council, though it was also neither as it worked under the agreed Constitution. Moreover, because the venture was new, an Oversight Group, representative of the areas and the wider church, was set up to deal with questions which might arise from time to time. The work of that Group has resulted in the expansions and clarifications embodied in the Constitution now published.

The two United Areas (Mid-Wilts and West-Wilts) came into existence in September 1982 and have proved to be a blessing to the churches concerned in the use of all their resources. In several places the experience of working together has led the members of local churches to seek closer commitment in local church union.

In publishing this Constitution the Churches and Areas commend it to the Methodist and United Reformed Churches at large, no longer as an experiment, but as a proven way of discovering our true unity in Jesus Christ.

Introduction to the 1998 revision

Since about 1989 it was seen that this Constitution needed reviewing and bringing up to date. The oversight committee asked one of its members, the Revd Michael Stolton, to review the Constitution. He presented his proposed amendments in 1990, which were received by the oversight committee and subsequently agreed in 1993. However, since then denominational legislation has necessitated further revision. We now present this updated and amended version as approved by the two areas and denominations.