In early September the worldwide family of Methodist, Wesleyan, United and Uniting Churches gathered in London for the World Methodist Council (WMC). The venue was Wesley’s Chapel, the ‘mother church’ of world Methodism and the base of much of John Wesley’s work in London, and his home and burial place.
This busy place near the centre of London is something of a pilgrimage site for Methodists from around the world, and now includes a Methodist Museum in the basement as well as John Wesley’s tomb in the rear garden.
The Chapel’s regular congregation is a vibrant multicultural microcosm with 55 countries and two dozen languages represented among its members.
A multi-national WMC worship team was coordinated by Jorge Lockward who reminded participants: “In this place new things happened, yes? So let’s be traditional!” Wesleyan organ hymns were interspersed with other rhythms and beats from around the world.
The opening address was given by Bishop Teresa Snorton of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the ‘historic black churches’ whose origins can be found in the evangelical mission of John and Charles Wesley among the new colonies of America from 1736.
Bishop Snorton spoke of the worldwide Methodist family as “sisters and brothers from different mothers”, drawing the image from her experience as a chaplain dealing with complex family dynamics. She noted that our cultures have taught us to notice difference, but that we are closer than cousins, half-siblings or step-siblings – in Christ we are sisters and brothers, and our differences are stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.
The WMC meeting welcomed three new member churches, the Uniting Church in Sweden, the Methodist Church of Rwanda, and the Free Methodist Church of the Congo. Much of the work of the Council is achieved through its committees on evangelism, education, social justice, ecumenical relations, worship and liturgy, youth and young adults, and other areas of focus.
The extensive commitment of Methodist people to education is represented by the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities (IAMSCU) which links 775 Methodist educational institutions around the world.
The Uniting Church in Australia was represented by a strong Australian contingent including Rev Prof Robert Gribben (chair of the WMC ecumenical relations committee), Mrs Anne Connan (president of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women) and Ms Isabel Thomas Dobson (associate general secretary, synod of Vic/Tas). The next meeting of the WMC will be in Houston, Texas in September 2016.
By Rohan Pryor
Lay Leadership Educator