Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Contemporary Methodism: a discipleship movement shaped for mission

Methodist Conference 2011 debated the General Secretary's report on Monday, Contemporary Methodism: a discipleship movement shaped for mission.  Here is what Martyn Atkins says in paragraphs 73 and 74:

There are those long-term covenantal partnerships with other Christian Churches to which we rightly continue to commit ourselves and which still hold out fruitful and faithful possibilities for us all. For example, we should remain committed to exploring and extending the meaning of our Covenant with the Church of England, and our continuing developing relationships with the United Reformed Church.

There are also growing opportunities to share in the work of God with newer Christian Church communities and with organisations that focus on specific Christian ministries which we recognise we need in order to be helped and strengthened as a discipleship movement shaped for mission today. For example, some Christian groupings are much better at ministering to generations of people which are acknowledgedly largely ‘missing’ from our Church at the present time. With mind to the Wesleyan ‘Catholic Spirit’ (which Rowan Williams drew upon tellingly to open the new Synod of the Church of England) I consider that we are right to choose to explore how to partner others in the work of God’s kingdom whenever possible, rather than choose not to do so, while recognising and accepting that there are often some differences in perception and understanding between us. This includes not only formal ‘Churches’ but partnerships with groupings focussing upon particular ministries, and so engaging us in ‘natural ecumenism’ in doing so.

In this timely report, discipleship is shown as something integral to the Methodist Church's commitment to mission.  In other traditions this same activity is called formation.  Formation is central not only to mission but also to ecumenism.  Christian formation as a deepening appreciation of a particular Christian tradition, might seem to be opposed to ecumenism.  However, all the major traditions are catholic in the sense each tradition finds its own way to express its catholicity.  Without formation, Christians can become anxious about their own tradition.  Growth in confidence, through formation, helps us enter into dialogue with other traditions.
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