Letter to the Church in China: From The Rev'd. Dr. Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference 2019-20
Dear Wu Wei, Xu Xiaohong, Kan Baoping and all our brothers and sisters at CCC/TSPM,
I am writing on behalf of the Methodist Church in Britain to share our love and prayers for the people of China as you manage the health crisis associated with the Coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province. We are aware that many people are suffering and anxious and we are very concerned to hear of the rising number of deaths associated with the outbreak. We are particularly mindful of those families who have lost loved ones in recent days.
We thank God for all those who are heading medical research into the disease. At such times we realise that we are dependent on expertise, advice and cooperation from people across the world. We trust that the ongoing work of the Chinese health services, the World Health Organisation and other medical experts will soon limit the disease and succeed in finding the causes and cure.
We are glad that the Church in China is strong both in numbers and faith. We know that you will be working alongside communities to help people be calm and to support those in need. Although we are many miles away geographically, we feel close to you in prayer. Please be assured of our concern for you all. and our shared faith in the love of Jesus who shows us his strength in our human vulnerability.
We are also mindful of the concerns of the Chinese diaspora community across the world, particularly in the UK, and will be offering our support for them as best we can.
The Rev'd. Dr. Barbara Glasson
President of The Methodist Conference 2019-20
We, the leaders and representatives of ten British Church denominations and networks, speak together as the UK prepares to leave the European Union on Friday 31 January 2020.
Three and a half years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, the point of departure has now been reached. The process of arriving at this point has been bruising and divisive. For some this date will mark the realisation of a long-held ambition and a moment of celebration. For others, however, it will be an occasion of great loss, marking the moment when deeply held desires for the nations of the UK are placed beyond reach.
Church members in good conscience continue to hold a wide range of views about Brexit. As Church leaders and representatives, we are united in wishing to seek God’s guidance and a sense of common purpose as we move from this chapter of the Brexit process into the next.
As the UK leaves the EU there are important choices to be made about the values that we as a country live out. As Christians, we affirm our belief that all people are equally created in God’s image. Our country should be one that offers sanctuary to refugees and is intolerant of those who hate because of a person’s race or nationality. Both Leave and Remain campaigns agreed on this – we must now make it a reality.
The continuing challenges of the climate crisis, global inequality and conflict will require both resolve and close international cooperation to be addressed effectively.
We greatly value the love and friendship of our sisters and brothers in other European churches, and a group of us are writing to them publicly today to assure them that these relationships will continue. We also recognise that 31 January will bring uncertainty and anxiety to many EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU. Leaving the EU cannot mean abandoning our responsibilities towards these families.
Brexit exposed and exacerbated divisions in British society. The deeply held convictions that fuelled the Brexit debate will not simply go away, but our Christian faith urges us to be people of peace and reconciliation. If the bitterness of the last four years is not to persist in polluting our national life, we will all need to resist the temptation to hold on onto the hurts of the past, or to act in ways which will be perceived as triumphalist.
We will only be able to move towards having a sense of common purpose, despite our differences, when we choose to act with kindness, humility and respect towards those with whom we disagree. We call on our political leaders to set an example over the next weeks and months as we move towards negotiations which will require further decisions about priorities for the nations of the UK.
For our part, our Churches will be working and praying for:
a society where the poorest and most marginalised are at the centre
a society that welcomes the stranger
a just economy that enables the flourishing of all life
a planet where the environment is renewed
a world which actively works for peace
a politics characterised by listening, kindness and truthfulness.
Rev'd. Dr. Barbara Glasson and Professor Clive Marsh, President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference
Rev'd. David Mayne, Moderator of Council, Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Right Rev'd. Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Rev'd. Nigel Uden and Mr. Derek Estill, Moderators of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
Most Rev'd. Father Olu Abiola OBE and Archbishop Fidelia Onyuku-Opukiri, Council of African and Caribbean Churches UK
Yvonne Campbell, General Secretary, on behalf of the Council of the Congregational Federation
Rev'd. Dr. Noel A Davies, Chair, Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales' Working Party on Wales and Europe
Bishop Simon Iheanacho, Overseer, UK World Evangelism Churches
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
Most Rev'd. Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
Update on the Methodist Church's ‘God in Love Unites Us’ consultation from the Rev'd. Dr. Jonathan Hustler, Secretary of the Conference
The Methodist Church in Britain is at the midpoint of a consultation on ‘God in love unites us’, the report which the Conference received and commended for study and on which all District Synods have been asked to vote. Those votes will approve, disapprove or approve with amendments some of the key resolutions of the Conference, namely:
The detail of these, the full text of the report and resources to support reading and reflection on the report can be found here.
Throughout this process, we have been praying with and for one another, accepting that we cannot always agree but seeking to witness to our unity as we live with contradictory convictions. There are conversations in train to discuss how we can deal with one another graciously after the 2020 Conference. The Conference will be asked to consider the outcome of those conversations together with recommendations about practical matters.
This debate is not peculiar to the Methodist Church in Britain. Both our ecumenical partners and our Methodist brothers and sisters overseas are also wrestling with these issues. The United Methodist Church’s General Conference meets in May to determine its next steps after its Conference in February last year resolved to reaffirm a ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage. Amongst the proposals that the General Conference will be asked to consider is one for the formal separation of some in the UMC from the rest of the body. The Methodist Church in Britain (MCB) is a concordat partner of the UMC, a global church present in Europe, Asia, Africa and the US and we work closely with it in the United States and in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe. We will be represented at the General Conference and we are in close and prayerful communication with our partners.
These are difficult and, for some, painful times. However, we remain united in prayer for one another, convinced that there is more that holds us together than causes us to differ, and confident that by the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can find a way (both in Britain and throughout the world) to live together as a Methodist family rejoicing in our common Wesleyan heritage.
Join in as we tell the story of Advent on social media every day during December. The Natwivity will be led by the Revd Lucy Berry, URC Minister and Poet-in-Residence at the Joint Public Issues Team (the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, working together for peace and justice).
For 2019, the Natwivity will encourage followers to dig deeper into what the nativity story has to offer us today. It will explore how God uses voices from the margins of society to share the story of Jesus’ birth, and encourage followers to consider how voices from the margins of society today have an important message to share.
The Natwivity can be found on Facebook and Twitter. Further resources can be found here.
We are pleased to advise that the craft fair was another successful event. We had 23 stallholders in the Church and the hall selling a wide range of original art work and hand-crafted items including jewellery, textiles, glass and ceramics. Hilary demonstrated her skills on the potter’s wheel and even allowed some customers to have a try themselves!
A total of £1500.40 was raised, which will be divided between Chester Aid to the Homeless and Church funds.
There are more photographs from the event on the Facebook page.
A big thank you to all who made the event a success by attending, volunteering or helping in any way.
New President of the Methodist Conference calls for confidence in telling the story of God to a fractured world
In an address on Saturday to the Conference outlining the theme for her Presidential year, ‘So what’s the story…?’, the Revd Dr Barbara Glasson used stories from her own life and ministry to reveal how we can find a “fragile strength” and from being present in difficult places we can, “surprise ourselves once again with the way of Jesus”.
She said: “We are called to tell stories, to listen to stories and to wrestle with stories, to search for truth not fake news, to challenge the malicious stories we tell about each other and to go on believing that as people of creation, exodus, crucifixion, wilderness wandering and even in exile we can still claim the hope of resurrection and the gracious promise of life in all its fullness.”
Dr Glasson’s ministry has been with the Bread Church in Liverpool, Touchstone, a Methodist interfaith project in Bradford, and with people who have experienced abuse following the Past Cases Review. She arrived at the Conference, being held this year in Birmingham, on foot having walked 133 miles from Huddersfield, stopping frequently en route to share and listen to the stories of communities along the way.
On a trip to China in 2017, Dr Glasson heard of the story of nineteenth century Cornish missionary, Samuel Pollard, brought up to date in a country with the fastest growing Christian population on earth. On another journey to Myanmar she encountered Shanti Kana, or safe space, a project run by All We Can for women, so that they can feel safe and cool and rest, away from the cramped, claustrophobic and often violent shacks of the nearby refugee camp.
The people of these stories she said, “live the Jesus story and so can we, we who are Methodist and Methodish, we who are marinaded in faith or just dipping a tentative toe, Conference buffs and Conference rookies, big wigs and small fry, gay or straight or trans or undefined, broken, diffident or downright scared, all of us, each of us is called to this simple, costly way, living out our stories within the eternal, challenging, costly, glorious stories of God - because nothing in all creation can separate us from it.”
In her address Dr Glasson called for more than just telling of stories but to push for change and to listen: “We will need to be people of reconciliation and peace in an increasingly angry and divided Britain. We will need to commit ourselves to not only making the church inclusive, but allowing those who we might think ‘on the edge’ to challenge and transform us. We need to listen in three dimensions to what is told and what lies in the dark spaces between the words.”
To watch a video and read the full text of Dr Glasson delivering her address click here.
The Methodist Church has announced a new team to encourage growth and confidence within the Church.
The team will focus on supporting churches by promoting everyday evangelism, helping them reach out into their local communities, and plant new churches.
Clickm here to find out more.
Two young Methodists from the Methodist Church in Britain have been recognised by the 21 for twenty one awards that celebrate 21 young leaders who champion dialogue to break down barriers between faiths.
The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd. Dr. Roger Walton and Rachel Lampard MBE, speak about the Nativity, Syria and unpromising situations in this year's Christmas Message.
The full text can be read below:
The shabby collection of rooms was perched on the edge of a steep hill above Amman in Jordan. We were visiting a family of Syrian refugees who had just had a baby, and were being helped by funding provided by the Methodist charity, All We Can.
A woman, who we assumed was the grandmother, answered the door and invited us in. We sat on the floor, along with a local health worker. The father appeared with the baby, Yosra, and three other small children. It turned out that the woman was not the grandmother, but rather the mother of the family. She was just in her 30s, prematurely aged by the privations and stresses of recent years. They had left Syria four years ago, and now lived in a couple of basic rooms. The three children were similar ages to my own, but were tiny. As a refugee the father was banned from working and the family was reliant on support from a charity in order to be able to survive.
What an unpromising situation they were in. The family were underfed, with very little prospect of being able to improve their circumstances. They were desperate to go back to Syria, but recognised that this was unlikely any time soon. And their tiny baby, who slept in my arms, faced growing into adulthood in a foreign country, in poverty.
And yet. When we asked the father of the family what he wanted for the future, instead of talking about better housing, more food, or even a return to Syria, said "I want my children to be the best people that they can be". It was breath-taking. A family were facing immense poverty and dislocation, yet had the highest hopes for the character and contribution of their children.
A similarly unpromising set of circumstances surrounded another young family less than 50 miles away in Bethlehem two millennia ago. A young girl had given birth to a baby, far from her home and her family, in an outhouse, shared with animals. She had become pregnant outside marriage, and was only rescued from shame and rejection by her fiancé taking on a baby that wasn't his. Ahead lay real danger, as the ruler of the area would soon order his soldiers to slaughter all the baby boys. A dirty, shameful, dangerous situation. An unpromising set of circumstances. And yet. This is exactly the place the Messiah, the son of God, was born into.
But should we really be surprised? This is a God who said that the kingdom of heaven belonged, not to the rich or powerful or religious, but to little children. This is a God who chose women, tax collectors, fishermen to begin a worldwide movement for the salvation of all people. Unpromising is not a word which seems to put God off; on the contrary the Bible seems to suggest that God seeks out the unpromising, the weak, the outcast in order to build his kingdom. The apostle Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, said "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God." (1 Corinthians 27-19)
We are living in times which might be described as unpromising, or even "interesting" according to the old Chinese proverb. We face great uncertainty in our politics, our economics, our relationships with one another. Around the planet there is apparently relentless violence, and the poorest, as ever, bear the consequences of our inability to restrain our use of resources. Our own Methodist Church is seeing a continuing decline in members and a shortage of ministers for the churches we have. The future is surely unpromising.
And yet. Our faith surely prompts us not to turn away purely because any situation looks unpromising. This doesn't mean facing it with blind and passive optimism. Instead we have a hope which is grounded in the foolishness of God, which is wiser and stronger than wisdom and strength of the world. And God is at work in our world, and invites us to join in. As the theologian Ken Leech said: "hope isn't a state of mind; it's a piece of work". In the unpromising situations in our world, where is God inviting us to join in? Where is God asking us to see the treasure that is hidden within the clay jars? Where is God asking us, not to be optimistic, but rather to be hopeful?
We would like to suggest that you do three things over this "unpromising" Christmas season.
Firstly, the Methodist Church, together with the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union and the Church of Scotland, have produced a short film, "A Very British Nativity", which suggests how Mary and Joseph might have fared arriving in the UK as asylum seekers. Why not watch it, share it and perhaps show it as part of your Christmas celebrations at church - and reflect on what this unpromising small family might mean for others, asylum seekers and refugees in particular, and how we can make their future more hopeful.
Secondly, we invite you to reflect on something that initially appeared unpromising. This might be something in your own life, the life of your church, or in the wider society or world. How was the potential or transformation within each situation revealed? What was the treasure in the clay jars?
And thirdly ask yourself: what is unpromising in your life or church or community at the moment? What might God be doing there already - or what might God do if only you would join in?
In this season we pray that you will have a happy and peace-filled Christmas, and that you will know the love of God who acts through the most unpromising things and people to bring about his kingdom of holiness and justice.
The Revd Dr Roger Walton and Rachel Lampard MBE
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