Plan letter

From Rev Bev Ramsden

This was my first time at Methodist Conference. I went with
some trepidation, fearing that I would come away depressed
about the state of our church, but actually I came away rather
uplifted.
Why was this? Was it all good news? No, far from it. If my
calculations are correct we have no more than 15 people
starting presbyteral training this September, while 80
presbyters sit down becoming supernumeraries. Anyone can
see that this is not sustainable. Similarly, I heard reference
to the fact that only just over 50% of the ministerial stations
coming up this season will be filled. We face tough and
rapidly changing times. Please pray for the Circuit Invitation
Committee as they try to work out what to ask for when the
stationing process starts in September.
There were several very impassioned debates at Conference.
Two particularly spring to mind, one about closer working
with the Church of England and another about relationships
and marriage. The former caused great debate over the
“fudges” that would be needed for the Methodist Church to
fit the historical episcopate stance of the Church of England.
But there were compromises needed on the CoE side too. We
shall see what happens. The only thing I can be sure of is that
the Christian Church needs to be united in its mission whatever
our differences of tradition and theological stance. The latter
debate was even more intense, with many views expressed,
particularly about same sex marriage. It is perhaps the major
decision of our time and we shall see what unfolds over the
next couple of years. At present, no vote has been taken
other than to allow the team set up to work on the subject to
continue and report back to conference as soon as possible.
Based on what I heard, I expect an outcome in about two years’
time.
Although there were contentious issues debated, I did feel
that everyone who spoke was doing their best to do the godly
thing. Sometimes of course that is not easy to discern, and
there was an honesty about that too. We were all doing our
best to grapple with the issues at hand whilst acknowledging
one another as fellow Christians also trying to do the same
thing even when we didn’t agree.
I do not know how the Methodist Church will face the
significant issues of the next few years though I am sure that
we will have to make major changes, some of which will (and
should) directly affect us here in our own circuit. But, however
anxious we are about our church, we must face the future with
confidence in Christ (rather than our structures). Be strong in
the Lord and in his mighty power.
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