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Changing Methodism V: A bit of order?

I have been spending the last little while reading and thinking about missional and other forms of Christian community and trying to discern whether it is time to be part of forming a new one. I am enormously grateful to Prof Elaine Heath, Dean of Duke Divinity School for her thinking and activism in this field and have been inspired by her two books, Longing for Spring and Missional.Monastic.Mainline. The idea of being part of a Community is not new to me - I have been a member of the Corrymeela Community for the last five years and have beneifitted hugely from the community life of the Dominicans. But recently I have felt a calling to explore how ministry in the Methodist Church might be b

Safe. Legal. Accessible. Rare.

The Irish referendum to repeal the 8th amendment of the Constitution took place at the weekend. That is was won by such an overwhelming majority confirms a number of things about Irish society, including that the power and influence of the Catholic Church over its members is broken. It is very hard to believe that, when most people look at the 1980s as a time of change and even progress, the people of Ireland were being asked to vote on this regressive measure that was intended, not only to make abortion illegal, but also unconstitutional. It’s hard to be nuanced in the debate around reproductive rights. It is hard for pro-choicers to admit that some women who undergo terminations later regr

The silence of our friends

Ebenezer Baptist Church is a pretty ordinary building. It stands on a street corner in what is called the Old 4th Ward of Atlanta. And if it weren’t that its pastor was once Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, it would probably not attract much attention today. Now, however, it is a part of the National Park and Monument dedicated to the life and legacy of MLK and it stands next to the tombs of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, surrounded by a pool of water inscribed with the text: Let justice flow like rivers …. I was extremely privileged to visit the Church during a recently visit to Atlanta, and to see for myself the very ordinariness of the place. The fellowship hall, where so much of the pla

The fundamental question for Methodism

The Churches have been struggling with the inclusion of open LGBTQ+ Christians for fifty years and more and many are still struggling. Since the introduction of legal same-sex marriage in many jurisdictions about the world, the churches in those places especially have been forced to address the question of whether they would bless or solemnize such unions. For the most part, with some notable exceptions, churches have either said an outright 'no' or 'can we think about it?' For my own tradition, two of its branches are currently in the throes of debate about the next steps forward. The United Methodist Church, based in the US but covering 54 countries, is about to release its report on the W

Good disagreement?

This is my first visit to the United States since Donald Trump was sworn in as President. In some ways, it still seems like a dream, so bizarre has some of the news emanating from the White House become. We have moved a long way from US Presidents being denied mobile phones until Barack Obama insisted on retaining his Blackberry. I travel with some trepidation and not just because some of the toilets on this nine-hour flight were only fixed ten minutes before take-off. What will have changed, if anything, in the places I visit or the people I talk too? I feel a certain wariness has crept into my thinking, the same wariness I feel when I enter an Israeli bar and get asked my views on the situ

What next? A sermon on Ascension

I’ve heard a rumour that Aaron Sorkin is bringing back the American TV series the West Wing. I used to love this drama about an American President called Josiah Bartlet. He’s a Democrat, a Catholic and a Nobel prize-winning economist – so very different from current reality! But one of President Bartlet’s favourite sayings is, ‘What’s next?’ ‘What’s next?’ You can imagine that also being on the lips of the disciples of Jesus as they came to terms with the Ascension. Afterall, they have spent the last three years of their lives trailing around after this wandering Galilean rabbi, never quite sure of where they might end up. Now they have gone through the trauma of arrest, trial and brutal cru

One Church?

The Council of Bishops of United Methodist Church have met this week to decide on a way through the difficult waters of human sexuality and relationships. The Commission on a Way Forward has made its recommendations and the Bishops, who have decided to offer all three options to the General Conference next year, whilst recommending one - the One Church Plan. The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a globa

Primitive vs Wesleyan - why the feud must end

It's nearly 90 years since the Methodist Church in Great Britain came into existence. For non-Methodists, this might come as a bit of a surprise, as surely John and Charles Wesley lived in the 18th century. True, but their followers in the 19th century were a fractious lot and ended up establishing a number of different denominations that bore the name 'Methodist' or 'Wesleyan'. First in 1907, and then 1932, a total of five of those separate Connexions came to form a new united Church. A significant number of the current membership of the Methodist Church were born after 1932, and even more do not remember a time when it was divided into Primitive, Wesleyan, United, Bible Christian, or New C

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