A JOURNEY THAT HAS TO CONTINUE
European Central Conferences meeting debates unity within the UMC. (Press release)
FRANKFURT/Main (Germany) – 2017-01-13 – From January 9-11, 2017 the bishops of the three Central Conferences in Europe and up to three cabinet members of the four Episcopal Areas met in Frankfurt, Germany in order to spend time in worship, prayer and intensive Christian Conferencing on the question how to maintain and to strengthen the unity within the United Methodist Church (UMC). David Field, a lay person from Switzerland and member of the Commission on a Way Forward joined the group.
Hope and concern
Coming from ten European countries and representing areas that differ in many ways the participants shared their opinions, hopes and concerns on the questions whether United Methodists should keep or change their polity on ordination of self avowed practicing homosexuals and ceremonies for homosexual unions. Some participants reported how, in their local contexts, a change of the discipline of the church would cause divisions and minimize the possibilities to reach out to the society. Others pleaded for a change in order to facilitate mission to the people in their neighborhoods.
Commitment to pray for the Commission on a Way Forward
A comprehensive bible study on unity led by Bishop Streiff provided an important grounding for reflections on living in and maintaining the unity given through Jesus Christ in spite of all differences. “To experience a non-anxious presence and the openness to listen to one another was a great blessing” Bishop Khegay said in a feedback to the meeting which Bishop Streiff described as “part of a journey that has to continue”. The participants committed themselves to pray for the Commission on a Way Forward and the worldwide UMC.
More in common than dividing
They also saw the need to strengthen the relationships in Europe and to broaden the conversation on what it means to be a United Methodist in the current age, belonging to a worldwide church and serving in the mission of disciple making in a specific local context. With this is mind “it is an essential task for the cabinets to advocate for and share our commitment to unity within our church”, Bishop Alsted pointed out. ”We told one another experiences how the worldwide connection is a blessing for churches in a continent where Methodists are in a minority”, Bishop Wenner said. Realizing that “we have more in common than what divides us” and as a member of the Commission on a Way Forward, she promised: “I am motivated to take the plea for unity into the Commission on a Way Forward.”
Klaus Ulrich Ruof,
Communicator Germany Central Conference
Photo: «Etappe einer langen Reise»