Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Methodist Conference 2008: what does it all mean?

scarborough rep on balcony

I took this Photoshopped grab-shot between sessions of the Conference at Scarborough. Looking up I saw that the woman on the balcony appeared to be really deep in thought as she gazed out over the sea, and the conjunction of her intensity and the Conference banner seemed to beg some sort of question in my mind. Of course I have no idea whatsoever what she was actually thinking; whether superficial or profound, joyful or sorrowful, urgent or trivial her thoughts remain unknown to me. But as I look at her on the balcony I have a nagging feeling that she symbolises something critically important for our Church. 

She stands at the Interface of the structures of institutional Church and the world and she looks outwards, not inwards. Her expression could so easily convey the question, 'what has all of this to do with all of that?'  It is a very godly question; a necessarily urgent and troubling question for sure. I have a hunch that it is a question which was very much on the mind of Jesus as he stood within the religion of his day and looked out into the faces of the poor and needy who so often gathered around him. The goodwill of the Methodist Conference gathered in Scarborough must now be translated into God-will in every village, town and city across the UK.  Each of us has to ponder how our being Methodist relates to the wider world. Each of us stands on the interface.

So as we look at this woman on the balcony I believe we are challenged to consider what it means for us if we are to be an Effective Christian Presence? In collaboration with The Churches Regional Commission for Yorkshire and The Humber these new case studies from Faithworks give some excellent insights into what this looks like in practice. As you reflect on the mission of your church and on what is needed to be an effective presence where you are, this paper in the Methodist 'presence' series on the Arthur Rank Centre website might be helpful too.

The decisions of the Methodist Conference challenge us to pause, look outward and to ponder; then, in the words of David Walton, our new Vice-President, we 'Choose Life.' What do you think?


  1. What a great photo, to be looking out and asking such questions is essential if the church is to survive. The choice of life means that we need to ask another question; what does life look like?

  2. Not sure if I'm allowed to comment on your District Blog, but maybe I can have the chutzpah to do so because I'm not part of your district! ;-)

    What I despair of in my darker moments are:

    * People who think that the Gospel ends with 'accepting Jesus Christ as my personal saviour and going to heaven when I die' and who think I'm a heretic for preaching about the Kingdom of God.

    * People who think that once others 'accept Jesus', they will join us and do things like we've always done them. (Yes, someone who personally prefers formal liturgy said that!)

    * People who think that effective evangelising ends with bums on pews and that spreading the love of God freely and with abandon in the community isn't worth the effort if it doesn't increase membership.

    There, I said it.

    Of course, I get to spread the love of God freely and with abandon to everyone I encounter, members or not. And when, by the grace of God, I'm successful in doing that, I'm truly blessed in my ministry. And it's a privilege to have time freed up to do that.

  3. Wow, what a wonderfully hopeful and passionate comment Pam. Of course you can say such things on my Blog - I encourage everyone to work with a HOT culture (Honest, Open & Trusting)and I would be disturbed if you couldn't express your deepest feelings.
    I recognise everything that you say Pam. This is how it is across great swathes of the church. And in the face of this, and sometimes despite it, we are discovering a movement of the Spirit which is re-engaging us in and with the world as authentic disciples. Think 'Emergent' and you get my drift. So it is my deepest conviction that you, Sally, me and the fantastic ministers I work with in our District are called by God precisely because this is how we see it. We are not afraid to say 'Look - the Emperors got no clothes on'. So be encouraged: keep on re-discovering the power and passion of Jesus' vision of the Kingdom of God in your ministry Pam, as I am in mine. Let the revolution begin!