Revival, Reform and Revolution in Global Methodism
Dear People called Methodists, sisters and brothers in Christ!
I have participated in the 14th Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies from 12th to 19th August 2018 at Pembroke College, Oxford, England. The theme was “Thy Grace Restore, Thy Work Revive: Revival, Reform and Revolution in Global Methodism. The Institute began with the first plenary session on “Reflections on the Reformation.” I commented in understanding the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) on the issue of justice which was raised when the World Communion of Reformed Churches gathered for its association with JDDJ along with Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran World Federation and World Methodist Council in Leipzig, Germany, in 2017.
There were several plenary lectures on the Methodist legacy of revival in many different regions in the world such as Argentina, United States, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. From the forgotten stories of lay people and deaconesses to the stories of conflict and struggle for peace and justice, the heritage of the faithful Methodists has been critically reflected and sincerely shared as the food for imagining the continuing Methodist revival. At the particular plenary panel on “Methodist Connexionalism in Flux”, Bishop Ken Carter explained the One Church Option as well as the two other options, according to the Way Forward Commission of the United Methodist Church. I talked with him after the panel to send my good will message to the UMC Council of Bishops, along with the very important theological reminder that the One Church Option has to be critically illuminated in the light of the Nicene-Constantinople creed, namely, “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
Besides the topics of Reform and Revival, the topic of Revolution has been relatively less dealt with in the Institute. Fortunately, the Rev. Dr. Joan Delsol Meade lectured on “Immigration, Religion and the Working Class.” During the Q & A time, I challenged all members of the Institute to see to it that the rapid rise of economic nationalism is a great alarm for the prophetic witness of Methodist Christians today. I remember Bishop Christian Alsted’s perceptive remark during the last World Methodist Council in Seoul: “The cause of the deterioration of European Christianity has nothing to do with Muslim immigrants. It is rather secularism in Europe.” Therefore, the Bishop continued to speak out, “The exclusion and discrimination of the refugees is the betrayal of the Gospel by European Christianity.”
I am glad that the key Institute leaders have paid great attention to the theme of the next World Methodist Conference in 2021 in Gothenburg, Sweden; “On the Move.” I hope and pray that the next Institute of 2023 will meet the new realities of our time complexly intertwined with the issues of migration and economic nationalism on the one hand, and secularism and world religions on the other.
I joined the post-Institute meeting of the two-third world theologians at Wesley House, Cambridge on August 19-20. It was initiated by my friendship with Dr. Amos Nascimento, of the UMC GBHEM, who organized to resume the very significant roundtable for the majority of world Methodist theologians. The theme of the post-Institute was “Empire and Decolonization in Wesleyan Traditions.” I had a very good discussion with the prominent scholars from the Global South. I am looking forward to continuing collaboration of WMC, GBHEM and Wesley House!
Bishop Ivan Abrahams, who presided at the covenant service at Christ Church Cathedral during the Institute, kindly arranged my visit to his London virtual office as well as my meeting with General Secretary of the British Methodist Church, Rev. Gareth Powell. It was wonderful to experience the de-centering and globalizing presence of the World Methodist Council. Indeed, the heyday of World Methodism is yet to arrive!
In this edition of the First Friday Letter, you can learn about other Methodist happenings from around the globe like the World Methodist Peace Award, MCCA Elects New Connexional Officers and New District Bishops, the WME’s new RIM Gap Year Program, and the celebration of the 70th year of the World Council of Churches. You will also read about the passing of two former World Methodist Council staff members, the World Methodist Museum receiving a cross sculpture made from materials from the DMZ, the Methodist Church in Kenya Celebrating its 50th anniversary since autonomy, and the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. A Church in Nigeria Opens a Hospital and Korean United Methodists Choose Prayer Over Plans also make interesting reading in this edition of the FFL.
May God bless you and your ministry!
Rev. Dr. J. C. Park