The President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Loraine N Mellor and the Vice-President, Jill Baker, blog about their year of office which began on 24 June 2017. Read about the places they visit, the people they meet and the issues that concern them.
Monday, 5 September 2016
Well hi y’all! Unity without uniformity in Texas
The global Methodist family meets once every five years in
the form of the World Methodist Conference.
And we are a gloriously diverse lot.
Over 2000 people have been gathered in Houston, Texas, to worship, have
fellowship, learn and celebrate.
Together we represented more than 80 Churches in 133 countries, from
Chile to China, from Sweden to South Africa, from Tanzania to Toga. We may have had different languages, different
cultures, different ecclesiologies, but we were united in the love of God, and
as Churches with shared roots in the ministries of John and Charles Wesley.
The variety of traditions and countries was celebrated on
the first evening when representatives of each Church carried a banner onto the
stage representing their country or denomination – all whilst singing “And can
it be?”, a deeply moving occasion.
This variety was also represented in the preaching and
teaching. On the first evening the Revd
Professor David Wilkinson of Durham University did a lively double act with Dr
Jennifer Wiseman, a leading astrophysicist.
Together they explored the awesome nature of the universe, through
stunning photographs from the Hubble telescope and a reflection on Psalm 8.
On Thursday, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie of the African
Methodist Episcopal Church gave a sermon in the finest tradition of the
American deep south, full of emotion, drama, call and response. She challenged us with the question: “What
does your love look like?”. It’s the
first sermon I’ve ever heard which ended with the entire congregation holding
hands, dancing and singing “Love Train”!
Grace Imathiu, the Kenyan author and preacher, led a bible
study looking at the story of the Prodigal Son.
She reminded us that using this title distracts us from the fact that
the parable is actually about the father, not the son.
Chap and Julie from Sugar Land Methodist Church
Of course, even with such
inspirational input, the most valuable part of the Conference is the
conversations you have with Methodists from all over the world in the coffee
queue, the lift or over breakfast. We
met Ann, a clergy woman from Hong Kong, who served with the US military as a
chaplain. We met Robin who led young
adults’ work in Australia. We met Chap
and Julie, leaders in Christchurch Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Houston,
whose choir led some of the worship and whose church sponsored a lunch. We met Bishops galore, from small Churches, such
as the tiny but growing Methodist Church in North Myanmar to the enormous
Nigerian and Korean Methodist Churches. We
also met the American Para-Olympic athletes who were staying at the same hotel.
The theme of the conference was
“ONE” - One God; One Faith; One People; and One mission: we have such diversity
as Churches and as people from around the world, but we have Unity as we
worship the one God.
Now this isn’t to pretend that
we are one big happy family all the time.
It is clear that there are tensions within Churches, and between
Churches and nations. And these tensions were apparent at times during the
course of the gathering. We have
different priorities and pressures, and the gulfs between the cultural
realities within which we practice our faith are immense. But as speaker after speaker reminded us, we
do not create unity, rather we are called to preserve the gift of unity given
by God in Christ (Ephesians 4.2) in the way we live our lives and the way we
are church where we are. This is a big
calling. It is not a passive acceptance
of the status quo. Instead it is a
challenge to love. The kind of love that
disrupts as well as brings peace. Love
that costs and doesn’t give up, that not only inhabits the church, but pours
out into the world.
The World Methodist Conference
took place at the same time as the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting
Church Women. To our delight one of the
British delegates, Alison Judd, was elected as the World President. We know the Methodist people will want to
offer their congratulations to Alison, and also Carolyn Lawrence who took over as
the Vice-President of the Britain
and Ireland unit, and assure them of our prayers.
Revd Jo Cox-Darling preaching on Saturday
We were only able to attend the first few days of the
Conference as we were scheduled to be at Wesley’s Chapel
and Methodist Central Hall Westminster for the first Sunday of the new
Connexional year. As such we missed the
session led by one of the British delegation, the Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling –
though we heard later that it was inspirational.
We begin this year encouraged and enthused by
the unity without uniformity of our glorious Methodist family under God.