It is the principal meeting responsible for the affairs of the Circuit and development of circuit policy. This includes spiritual leadership, managing trusteeship of circuit property (including manses), and generally acting as the focal point for the fellowship of, and overseeing the work of, the local churches in the Circuit.
It is generally to meet at least twice per year, with its constitution generally provided for in Section 51 of Standing Orders (CPD, volume 2, Book III). It consists principally of the circuit staff, circuit stewards, certain other circuit office-holders, together with representatives of each of the local churches.
However, a very significant change was made by the Conference of 2011, in recognition of the ‘Regrouping for Mission: Mapping a Way Forward’ process, which has resulted in a growing number of circuit amalgamations, creating fewer, larger Circuits with the potential for over-large and unwieldy Circuit Meetings. Section 58 of Standing Orders provides for Circuits with an officially approved modified constitution to have a Circuit Meeting which does not necessarily meet twice a year and at which local representation is indirect, through each local church being a constituent member of a group of churches which is then represented on the Circuit Meeting. Nevertheless, where this applies, any Church Council has the right to present its case to the Circuit Meeting about any matter directly affecting its finance or resources prior to the decision being made.
Where Standing Orders so require, or the Circuit Meeting itself so resolves, only persons who are members of the Circuit Meeting are permitted to be present, but otherwise meetings are open to other members of the circuit, non-members active in its life and others specifically invited by the meeting to attend.
Traditionally, the meeting has been chaired by the Superintendent, with the provision for the appointment of a ministerial deputy where necessary. Since 2012 the meeting can be chaired by a suitably qualified person who is a lay member in the circuit.
The Conference in 2015 adopted provisions whereby, if the Circuit Meeting is committing or threatening to commit a serious breach of trust or of Methodist discipline, an authorised body (the District Policy Committee) may appoint a new Circuit Meeting in its place.