All Partners Consultation

From David Webb:

As District World Church Enabler, I was privileged to be able to go to the All Partners Consultation, held from 20-24 June in Canary Wharf, London. There were over 200 delegates from 60 different nations, all connected to the Methodist Church worldwide. The Consultation was part of the centenary celebrations of the 1910 Mission Conference in Edinburgh, and was called "re-imaging future mission together" emphasising that wherever we are, we all have a role to play in widening God's Kingdom and proclaiming His Gospel. We are all "missioners"  and we need the wider view.

We sought to discern a vision of what God wants of his Church in present and future times. Clearly, Justice and Peace figured strongly in the conversations, realising that we are still in world of inequality and injustice. All Christians - local congregations as well as the Church regional, connexional and global - are involved in this new vision and and are have a role in the thinking and practice. 

It is no longer at all appropriate to talk of "giving" and "receiving" Churches for we all have things to give and all have things to receive. We must talk of sharing. We also have to recognise that up to relatively recent times, the image of the church has been a western one. We forget that the Gospel was first carried from Palestine into Africa, and then further east in the Middle East before coming to the "west" through Paul.  It behoves us all to remember that there are different ways of seeing God, through different cultural lenses, and all of them teach us about God's Glory and His Love. We have much to learn from each other as children of God, with open hearts and minds.

It is not at all appropriate to think of giving and receiving, for they carry overtones in mission terms, of colonial supremacy and of "we know better". Bishop Pradeep Kumar, Moderator of the Church of South India, actually said that such terms are offensive to many Christians in Asia and Africa, and that SHARING is the word that is is fitting. People wherever, they are and from whatever background they come have helpful and revealing insights into the Gospel, with different theological accents which give new visions of God. It is a vision of togetherness, of mutuality and of unity through diversity.

To give a brief outline of what was presented, here are the main strands: We believe that God's Spirit is calling us to respond to this mission he has given us:

To enrich Church to Church Relationships by sharing theological approaches reflecting the Church's unity in diversity and rediscovering the emphases of Methodism  in today's context as a gift for all; by valuing these gifts. experiences, theological perspectives, resources and people; by working together in an informed way  on common issues of justice, peace, migration, economy. climate change; by sharing together joys and pains and establishing an effective communications network throughout Methodist and Uniting Church members; by developing a common agenda for effective action together.

To engage in people to people exchanges by recognising that our missions crosses all boundaries and that we must learn to live alongside others; thus to engage in building exchanges based on deep respect for each other, and establishing good protocols and the spirit of mutual partnership; by engaging and facilitating encounters of many kinds that enrich our churches and faith and committing ourselves to short, medium and longer-term exchanging of people' by committing ourselves to training and preparation for all personnel sharing to be done in collaboration and to ensure mutual accountability ; by building up skills and other capacity  in scholarships, and training.

And Finally:

To use our financial resources in the following positive and mutual ways: By being responsible and responsive in their use including shared decisions and clearly defined objectives via investments, long-term loans and credit union facilities; by enhancing the Church world-wide through education, leadership development, personnel exchange and releasing local resources towards self-sustainability; by encouraging the use of technology more effectively for better communications, feedback and story-telling; by encouraging and possible developing, imaginative trading consortia, to promote fair-trade between partner church and other organisations to help us all to benefit from each other's resources; by developing a code of good practice for using money that embodies transparency and accountability, including mutual agreements in writing.

As you can see, the emphasis is very different from what is has been in the past.  It is an emphasis built on respect, mutuality and togetherness - one of equality before God. It is important we all accept this position and recognise it as fully gospel-based.

If you wish to read the whole summary and the papers presented to Conference, you will find them on the World Church pages of the Methodist Church website. There is a direct link on the "links" page.

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