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Changing Methodism ... the World Parish

One of the strengths of worldwide Methodism– and one of the weaknesses – is its incredible diversity. World Methodist Council members have a variety of forms of leadership, some contextually-informed, others an innovation on the tradition. That means you can find Presidents, Secretaries and Lay Leaders rubbing shoulders with Prelates, Moderators and Bishops at any global gathering. Even those called by the same title can have very different job descriptions. In British Methodism, we have tended to scoff at those of our Wesleyan brothers and sisters who have adopted an episcopal polity. For some reason, we have counted Methodist bishops as less 'real' than Anglican ones whilst, at the same ti

Changing Methodism .... part II

Note to self: don't start a blog-series unless you've got at least two of them written already! I wrote the first of these 'Changing Methodism' blogs two years ago and am only now getting round to penning this second offering. Apologies to non-Methodist readers, but I want to talk about the peculiar Wesleyan notion of itinerancy. I have recently finished the excellent biography of Bishop Francis Asbury by John Wigger who describes the often punishing travelling schedule Asbury demanded of himself and his preachers. The image of the Circuit Rider has become mythologised in the American Methodist tradition but W also points out how many of the early preachers 'located', i.e. left the travellin

Sticks and stones

'Sticks and stones may break my bones, But words can never hurt me.' Do you remember that little rhyme from childhood? I wonder whether kids today still sing it when they are confronted by name-calling in the playground today? Of course, whatever bravado we might ahve wanted to exhibit when we said that in public, the truth is that words do hurt. How often, whether as adult or child, have we been wounded by the words of another to the point of tears or worse? I grew up in the North of Ireland at the height of the so-called Troubles. The 1970s were a brutal time for that part of the world, marked by a large army presence and increasingly segregation of the two communities. One of the factors

Strangers in the Land

In the heart of rural Warwickshire, a place not renowned for diversity of any kind, I had a conversation about Brexit. I know what you're thinking - it was an awkward encounter with a Brexiteer extolling the virtiues of sovereignty and finally 'taking back control'. I was preaching in a beautiful little Anglican parish church, and was engaging in the usual small talk after the service. That's when I met a lovely woman from the Netherlands, someone who married a British seviceman and moved to the UK aver fifty years ago. She had never seen the need to get a British passport and felt at home as a forces wife, moving around the country, and the world. with her husband's postings. Now she feels

Taking leave

Last Tuesday was my final day at the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education. I leave with profound mixed feelings, having worked there for the past five years. Although I have some exciting and challenging roles lined up, there is also a real sense of loss at leaving this community of scholarship and formation. Of course, the last five years have been some of the most turbulent in the history of Queen's and its predecessors. I arrived in Birmingham in the aftermath of the Fruitful Field debate and decision at the Methodist Conference in Plymouth. It is fair to say that Methodism was rocked by the decisions of that Conference in a way that continue to rumble on. There was a f

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