August arrived and gave way to September in such a hurry that I feel as though I’ve barely been able to catch my breath. During the past month I traveled to the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies’ 2013 meeting in the United Kingdom where met some of the brightest minds in our Methodist/Wesleyan family. I departed for the United States having my faith affirmed, my intellect challenged and my spirits lifted.
It has also been a busy month for the Headquarters Staff of the World Methodist Council. Emails sent, packages shipped and phone calls heading back and forth across the Atlantic at a dizzying pace all for one reason: the meeting of the World Methodist Council which takes place from 10-13 September. I know that in the past I’ve written and spoken about the importance of this meeting, but indulge me for just a moment more.
For the first time since the Council’s 2011 meeting in Durban, South Africa the World Methodist Council is gathering at Wesley’s Chapel in London to bring all people in the Methodist, Wesleyan, Nazarene, United and Uniting Church traditions together.
Our goal for this meeting is to not only reconvene our worldwide family, but to also discern and attempt to understand what God is calling us to do. It has been my experience that through the process of coming together for what John Wesley called ‘holy conferencing’ – Christians conferring together for the sake of truth and peace seeking – that we can find a way forward together. We are sisters and brothers in a shared faith, and these events help to remind those of us on or affiliated with the Council that the world doesn’t end with our local church, or even our own denomination. Instead we come together to remind ourselves that individually we are corks in a vast sea, but together we are a vast ship navigating the sea.
The world is changing fast and the church needs to change with it. We hear it from the beatings of the drums of war in Syria and the pounding of hearts with hope and possibility in Africa. We see it in South Korea where the Methodist Church is thriving and growing, and in the United States where a generational shift is creating a rousing debate on issues in the Church from finance to human sexuality.
We meet within an interesting time. I am not a person who pines for days past and I don’t believe that the golden age of Methodism lie behind us, instead I am of the firm conviction that there are better days ahead. The World Methodist Council, and this meeting at Wesley’s Chapel in particular, serves as a place for all to connect, confer and grow together. God has a wonderful plan for us all, and this organization can serve as a means of grace for us to get there.
As the Council prepares to meet in just a few short days, I ask that all of us consider what the Council is preparing to do, and to use a similar approach in our own lives. One does not have to sit on a global board to learn the lesson of Conferencing. Take a moment to speak with your neighbor or coworker about the issues that you are facing. Remember that we learn from other’s perspective. This act that feels as a small drop in the water can have powerful ripple effect. Let us all move forward with a spirit of collaboration with “large ears” – to hear the heartbeat and pulse of God’s people, open hearts to be touched by the stories of others and outstretched hands to embrace the world the God so loves.