British Methodists focus on ecumenical ties, racial justice
7/7/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
A sidebar, UMNS story #352, is available with this report.
By Kathleen LaCamera*LLANDUDNO,
Wales (UMNS) - Almost three centuries after Methodism's founder, John
Wesley, first visited Wales, British Methodists gathered in this north
coastal town to worship, debate and make decisions for a 21st century
The June 28-July 4 conference tackled a host of
issues, including closer official ties between Methodists and
Anglicans, the struggle for racial justice and the designation of the
first ever general secretary for the denomination.
inaugural speech to the conference, the Rev. Neil Richardson, the
incoming Methodist president, encouraged those assembled to resist the
temptation of "Wesleyan fundamentalism," in the year that sees the 300th
anniversary of Wesley's birth.
"The world has changed so much;
we have changed so much," Richardson told the conference. "We have to
ask what we need to leave behind, what we need to cherish and take with
us into the future."
Answering that challenge, conference members
voted 277-86 to accept the Anglican Methodist Covenant, which paves the
way for mutual recognition of clergy, shared sacraments and joint
decision-making structures between the Church of England and British
Methodism (see UMNS story #347, "British Methodists say 'yes' to closer
ties with Anglicans," July 2). They also accepted a major report from
the church's Commission for Racial Equality, detailing racial justice
issues within the denomination and in the larger community.
Muchopa, the author of the report and Methodism's secretary for race
relations, said there are new pressures on race relations since the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
people have made a mental move backwards," Muchopa said. "Some say
surely we have the right to decide who we want to relate to. Surely we
have the right to associate with people who share the same values and
views we hold."
Inderjit Bhogal is the first and so far only
person of color to serve as president of the British Methodist Church.
He is also the only church official selected by the government of Prime
Minister Tony Blair to serve on a high-level advisory panel on racial
equality. Bhogal said the Church must keep holding up this issue and
"not grow weary."
"We must more vigorously develop black
leadership in the life of the church," he told United Methodist News
Service. "We must develop broader voicesâ€¦. Racism has no place in the
life of the church."
Conference delegates also urged Methodists
to support efforts to get food and medical aid to Palestinians in Gaza
and the West Bank; called for the release of Burmese pro-democracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi; voted to work with United Methodists on banning
cluster bombs; voiced concern that AIDS has become the "new apartheid"
and urged more pressure be put on multinational pharmaceutical companies
to release cheap generic drugs; and expressed a desire to work with the
British government to provide aid and end repression in Zimbabwe.
Saunkeah, a United Methodist representative from the Oklahoma Indian
Missionary Conference, told UMNS that she observed a refreshing lack of
individual political ambition on the part of British Conference
"I sense a real spiritual renewal taking place here," Saunkeah said. "They really are about the Church."
fellow United Methodist representative, Bishop Melvin Talbert, said the
results of the Anglican Methodist Covenant process would be an
"inspiration" to U.S. United Methodists who recently have begun similar
conversations with the Episcopal Church USA. Talbert is the ecumenical
officer of his denomination's Council of Bishops.
business, the conference agreed to appoint the Rev. Nigel Collinson to a
six-year term as its first ever general secretary, or top staff
executive. Delegates also elected the Rev. Will Morrey as the new
president designate, scheduled to take office in 2004. Morrey, who
became deaf at age 19, said he hopes his appointment will "encourage
others with disability."
More information about this year's British Methodist Conference is available at http://www.methodist.org.uk/news/index.htm.
# # #
*LaCamera is a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in England.
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