World Mission Forum

A report on the ‘One Mission Forum’ of the Methodist Church 9th and 10th April 2016

The meeting opened with worship and a live Skype link to the celebrations of the bicentennial of Reverend Francis Asbury in the ‘Black Country’.  The link took us into the chapel in Wednesbury with the congregation dressed in eighteen century attire and being addressed by the President and Vice President of conference and attended by an American Bishop of the United Methodist Church of America.

‘Fellowship Groups within the Methodist Church. There are a growing number of Methodist churches in Britain, hosting ‘Fellowship Groups’ from the Methodist church overseas in their churches.  Fellowship Groups’ do not feel able to join in the worshipping life of the local Methodist congregations for a variety of reasons however, such FG’s are to be encouraged to share in the life of the local church.  A dialogue should be maintained with the ‘FGs’, facilitating as much integration as possible. Two such ‘Fellowship  Group leaders, one from Ghana the other from Zimbabwe spoke about the difficulties overseas  people, now residing in Britain, have in becoming members of the indigenous Methodist church. Styles of worship, language, cultural expectations all play their part, yet it is hoped that the ‘FGs’ and the Methodist church in Britain may learn from one another’s expectations of faith. If such ‘FGs’ meet on our premises, they should not be thought of as tenants, but as integral members of the church and encouraged to share in the responsibility, maintenance, financial concerns and church growth of the local congregation.

Mission alongside the poor. The meeting was invited to share ideas about whom the poor in Britain are at present and how we would best describe why they are poor. The title ‘Mission alongside the poor’ came under scrutiny suggesting it made ‘the poor’ another kind of species. The Church of Scotland has a twinning system where a congregation from a rich neighbourhood meets with a congregation from a poor neighbourhood, in order for a dialogue to take place to create greater understanding and mutual prayer concerns between the two.

 The world mission team members reports. There was updated news about Sierra Leone and the control of Ebola together with the work of the Methodist church there. Information was given about the work of mission partners in the Pacific and Asia.

A fuller report came from The Methodist Church in Mexico the Caribbean and Americas region. There was a live Skype call with a minister in Mexico who talked about the migration problem. He acknowledged the migration problem in Europe, but the one he was referring to was the one in Latin America, where people are making their way through Mexico to cross the border into the USA.  The migrants are driven by economic reasons, (They are in search of a better and more stable way of life) employment reasons,( not simply to earn money, but to live more fulfilled lives) and  also  to escape from the violence of their own country. They risk their lives in a similar way to the migrants trying to get to Europe. They leap onto moving freight trains risking life and limb. They take flimsy dinghies along the Rio Grande, and they cross borders using the trails of the drug cartels.  Sometimes they are recruited or threatened by drug cartels and are caught up in the violent gun crime that seems to be part of the drug culture. The Methodist Church working with the Roman Catholic Church is trying to set up safe houses along the routes in order to provide food, respite from the arduous journey, counselling and help to establish links into a safer way of life.

Fresh Expressions of being church. There were two substantial reports on this issue. One from Southend on Sea, Rev Hannah Bucke and the other from Rev David Butterworth, chaplain to the NEC. Hannah began by saying her decision to work in a pioneer ministry was between fresh ways or safe ways. She felt that she was not being called into church pastoral ministry, but into a sacramental ministry outside the church in the community. Her ministry was not about the attractional model; inviting people to come to us, but the incarnational model of living the life of faith among the people. She spoke about learning to be a guest as Jesus so often was. He was a guest in uncomfortable places. The church is the host, the one who invites people onto its premises; the place where church people feel comfortable. The church is not necessarily aware of the visitor’s feelings. She spoke about learning to communicate faith: we have lost the ability to share face to face, one to one.  In her ministry there were no goals, no outcomes. Her accountability came through a tutor who is monitoring her work for a professional doctorate study. She is non stipendiary, and has a secular job providing her financial support. She recognises that her ministry being pioneering, has no supporting church structure and circuit finances seemed less than enthusiastic about giving support. However, the local Baptist church, seeing her ministry as being ‘evangelical’ in nature, does support her. Within her town centre ministry, she engages shoppers in story telling around Christian themes through popular art projects. She has also shared the sacrament on the streets where she works. She hopes these will enable people to experience the nature of faith.

David Butterworth in the NEC has a different style of ministry. He is engaging the work force in the NEC as well as the management in faith conversations. There are 29,000 employees working within the complex which was sold recently for £370 million pounds. This is his church space. He is suggesting that the church ought to release more people into this work. What develops will be within the context of the work place and will not be prescribed by the church, but it will be a modern expression of faith.

Finally, the ‘One World Forum representative’ from the Lancashire district spoke about its TLC programme.  Transforming lives and communities through Energetic discipleship; Enabling leadership; Encouraging risk; Employing buildings; Embracing technology, and Enriching communities. Lancashire as a district has several partnerships with overseas churches and makes regular visits to them.  There is a district ‘One Mission Group’ which meets twice a year, should our district have such a group?

Les Judd


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