Monday, 27 July 2009

The General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches

On the day after the Buckingham Palace Garden Party, I took an early flight to Lyon for the 13th General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches. This is a gathering of representatives of the Protestant and Orthodox Churches of Europe.

Much of the time was spent in plenary sessions, rather like our own Conference. I found it interesting and at times a bit challenging to be a representative again, having had a week of being in 'Wesley's Chair' in Wolverhampton. You get quite a different view of a conference according to where you sit and the part you are playing in what is going on. Quite a lot of our time was spent on constitutional and procedural matters which, considering I have been the editor of CPD for some years, should perhaps have interested me more than it sometimes did.

Including the British delegation (pictured above, with a colleague from Norway) there were around 20 Methodists present, from various European countries. We held a lunchtime gathering to compare notes and discuss matters of common concern. The European Methodist Council is due to meet in Manchester in September, so there will be an opportunity to meet up with some of these representatives again in a few weeks' time.

Highlights of the Assembly for me included some of the worship (especially the music), including early morning prayers in the French Protestant tradition and late evening worship led by Taize
community members. Other highlights included French food, good company and much laughter, and some extraordinary and at times very moving contributions from visitors to the Assembly (in particular from Palestine and from Latin America).

I came away having become more aware of many things we have in common with Christians of other traditions. I also became more aware of some of the differences, including our contexts and the configuration of other churches and faith communities in any particular country. I am sure it is important to strengthen our links, not least with other Methodist churches, and to explore ways of working more closely together.

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