It was good to join with so many other Methodists from around the UK and the world at the Methodist Conference in Nottingham. Gathering with several hundred others to worship, sing, listen and confer was a real privilege and encouragement, if also at times somewhat challenging. It was a strong reminder that we are connected with a body much bigger than just our local churches, circuits or even District. Conversations about God at work in the world, what it means to be Methodist in our working out of our faith, how we relate with other churches and faiths are all shaped by Methodists from Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Norfolk, Yorkshire, London etc.
A bit like a Church Council there are plenty of differing views and yet we were all held together by a common faith, a mutual love and respect. A guided conversation was held in front of the conference between two people from very differing perspectives regarding marriage and relationships. The respect and love that shone through at this point was an example for all of us about how we engage with one another. I have reproduced the guidance here about how we hold together as a Christian community whilst living with contradictory ideas. Living as a community with contradictory ideas is nothing new as many of the letters in the New Testament testify but St Paul encouraged people to recall their primary identity as members of the body of Christ.
The body connects us in life and through death. This is good for us to remember as we mourn the death, and celebrate the life, of Heather – a local preacher in this Circuit and Methodist throughout her life. We give thanks for her ministry amongst us, her commitment to her Lord, her challenge to live in sympathy with the environment, and the reminder of infinite grace.
A model statement on Living with Contradictory Convictions
We continue to believe that God has been revealed in Jesus Christ, accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and live in communion with God and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We cherish our place within Christ’s Church recognising that it is Christ alone who chooses, calls and confirms us as members of His church, the body of Christ.
Whilst we may not all agree about everything, we recognise the importance of the truths which bind us together as well as the issues which currently divide us.
Therefore, we resolve:
- To engage with each other openly, honestly, prayerfully and graciously
- To treat each other with respect and dignity, recognising the sincerity of the faith of those who may see things differently
- To seek to learn from one another as we travel together as fellow pilgrims
- To renounce all language and behaviours that attempt to coerce others to change their views or beliefs
- To seek, as far as conscience allows, to preserve the fellowship of Christ’s Church
- To unite under the authority of scripture as we seek live as authentic Christian disciples in our own generation