Monday, 21 June 2010

All Partners Consultation

This year we are celebrating 100 years since the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910. It was the culmination of 19th century Protestant mission activities around the world. Over a thousand people representing Churches from around the world gathered together to reflect on what had been achieved, and how they could work together in the future to further develop their work. Four years before the First World War it was a time of great optimism and hope, and it did genuinely herald a start of more long term ecumenical working of Churches together. People were excited about what was happening, as well as what could be achieved in the future.

As part of our response to this centenary the Methodist Church in Britain has invited church leaders from about 50 countries around the world. They come from every continent and are a wonderful sign of the extent of our world church partnerships.

The consultation began with a service at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster. We were welcomed by the Superintendent minister, Revd Martin Turner, and the Great Hall resounded to the sound of “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise.”

The theme of the service was the gifts that we offer one another and all those attending were invited to take a gift from the British Church - a candle, a bookmark, a rose or some bread. I was joined by Revd Dr George Mulrain, President of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas, in reflecting on stories of the Church’s mission around the world, using the many experiences we’ve had over the last year.

Following the service we headed for Canary Wharf, which was to be the venue for the 4 day Consultation. This morning the session began with a call from Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain, to “come over and help us” reflecting the call Paul heard from the Macedonian. He said that reflecting on our past and our present would enable us to prayerfully consider our future together. We were a gift to one another.

This quickly became clear as we shared in conversation with one another throughout the day. On my table I heard stories of the difficulties of being a Christian in Burma, about how the Church in South India was growing despite many members suffering persecution, and of the vibrancy of the Methodist Church in Brazil.

Revd Joao Carlos Lopez, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church in Brazil, told me about how much they valued the learning and experience of people from the British Church and they in return could offer us fire and enthusiasm! We also talked about the relative importance of our resources, and how money can be easily spent but that the personal experience of a partner Church can enrich an individual and a church for a lifetime.

I talked with Revd Marcus Torchon about the situation in Haiti and the newly elected Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church in Chile, Revd Mario Martinez Tapia, about how they were also recovering from the powerful earthquake that struck central Chile earlier this year. Over a dozen of their churches as well as other buildings were destroyed.

In an afternoon session Dr Daleep Mukarji, the former director of Christian Aid, spoke passionately about the need for mission to be integrated and holistic as we show our concern for the whole person in their society and environment. We were called and sent to proclaim good news to the poor but he also questioned whether we were truly ready for the Kingdom of God to be a reality on earth, as it is in heaven.

Revd Diane Clutterbuck reported back on the responses of partners around the world to the questions asked by the organisers prior to the Consultation, and Revd Barbara Glasson concluded the day with a bible study based on the story of Bartimaeus.

This can only be a short summary of a rich and fruitful consultation with our world partners. However a dedicated blog spot has been set up which will record the full details of the Consultation and it can be accessed via the main Methodist Church web page.

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