To all (in Rome) who are loved by God and called to be saints, – grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7)
Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome seem appropriate to use now as I greet you having just returned from events in that city.
As you will read elsewhere, the officers of the World Methodist Council, sadly without Bishop Ivan Abrahams, met with other stakeholders of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome (MEOR) to open formally the office and to reflect on its function and possibilities. As we joined in worship and celebration, it was good to be accompanied by friends interested in the work and witness of ‘the people called Methodist’. Among these was Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, formerly a member of the Methodist/Roman Catholic dialogue and now heading up the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. There too were representatives of the other churches and Christian groups in Rome.
A particular highlight was the time we spent with Pope Francis. It was a real pleasure and encouragement to hear him quote from John Wesley’s ‘Letter to a Roman Catholic’ (Dublin, 1749), reminding us all that we are called to ‘help each other on in whatever …leads to the Kingdom’. Pope Francis also noted John Wesley’s observation that ‘if we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike’. This is of the essence of what we are called to as followers of Jesus Christ.
In a world where people of faith are beleaguered by cynicism and skepticism, we, as Christians of differing disciplines, need to remember that there is more to unite us than there is to divide us. As we together encounter those of other faiths and of none, we hear Peter’s words to the early church – In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1Peter3.15). Peter thus urges us to maintain a life of personal devotion and prayer; to develop strategies for articulating our faith and to be aware of the context into which we are speaking.
Every blessing as you seek to join with others in obedience to Jesus’ prayer that his followers may be one that the world may believe (John 17.23).
Vice-President, World Methodist Council