Spiritual Writing

by Julie Lunn.

A question I am wrestling with at present is how we articulate our faith; specifically how we express our spiritual lives in blogs or journals; essentially how we address God in private prayer and through recording how God is at work in our lives.

This last semester I taught a unit on Spiritual Formation, and embedded within the assessment was the requirement that students submit part of a spiritual learning journal, which they were required to keep for the duration of the unit.  A significant number of the submissions were remarkable in their expressions of faith, experiences of prayer, and growth in their relationship with God.  For the majority of the students, keeping a spiritual journal was not something they were used to doing; it was a new experience.  However, given direction to pray, using a variety of prayer exercises from the Christian tradition, and then to reflect on that prayer and record their experience, they found the results were rich, fruitful and brought growth in their relationship with God.

One of the prayer exercises I asked the students to use was to pray with the self-examination questions John and Charles Wesley used for those who belonged to the Holy Club, which they set up in 1729.  These questions were a means of accountability to God and one another, and are equally relevant today:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
  4. Can I be trusted?
  5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying or self-justifying?
  7. Did the Bible live in me today?
  8. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
  9. Am I enjoying prayer?
  10. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
  11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  12. Do I go to bed on time and get up on time?
  13. Do I disobey God in anything?
  14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  17. How do I spend my spare time?
  18. Am I proud?
  19. Do I thank God that I am not like other people?
  20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard?
  21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  22. Is Christ real to me?

In her book The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self, Julia Cameron, addressing people who feel as though their creativity is ‘blocked’ or hasn’t been allowed to flourish, requires her readers to write three pages of longhand text, every morning  – an exercise she calls ‘the morning pages’.  These pages, she says, ‘are the primary tool of creative recovery’, (p11).  The writing, which doesn’t have to be clever, ordered or thought through, allows creativity to emerge and flow, and puts us in touch with wisdom within; she sees them as a form of meditation.

Within the context of faith, spiritual writing can and does have much the same effect.  It allows a free-flow expression of our faith; it aids reflection, sharpens awareness, and deepens our relationship with God and our knowledge of ourselves.  It enables us to recognise the theological wrestling we do, the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of our spiritual journey; it provides a space to express not only our thoughts, but also our feelings and emotions – the cries of our hearts to God – much in the vein of the Psalms.  But many of us don’t do it.  I wonder whether we can institute, revive, encourage this practice among us, to stir and deepen growth in faith, and knowledge of ourselves, of others and God?

I am currently conducting a research study about how women in the Wesleyan tradition articulate faith.  I’m looking at some letters of women written to Charles Wesley, and how those women in the eighteenth century articulated their faith in the period of the Evangelical revival.  I will also be comparing how women articulate their faith today – what sort of language do we use in our conversation with God and our expression of our relationship with God?  For this project I am seeking women who would be willing to provide extracts from their spiritual journals, blogs, or provide specifically written pieces, giving an account of a spiritual experience or a conversion narrative.  If you are a woman and would like to participate, please contact me at jlunn@nazarene.ac.uk.

But perhaps for us all, practicing the discipline of spiritual writing, regularly, faithfully, even when we don’t feel like it, might take us deeper into the wisdom of God and the wisdom within.

Who needs history?

by Richard Clutterbuck.

Some places, it seems, have an excess of it. Northern Ireland, for example, is piled high and overflowing with a history that is handed down, in its competing versions, from one generation to the next. It’s a history expressed through community ritual that is embedded in, and expresses, narratives of dispossession and betrayal, survival and victory. Marches and murals, bonfires and ballads, language and legend: all these help to form new generations of nationalists and unionists. They are so effective that there is little prospect of a deep and lasting reconciliation between these two traditions any time soon. So much the worse for history, one argument goes, an argument reinforced by recent revivals of popular nationalism in parts of Europe and across the world. We have learned to be suspicious of history, wary of its potential to exclude, to distort and to grab power.

And yet, Christianity is necessarily historical. As Rowan Williams puts it in Why Study the Past?[i] ‘…Christians from the beginning have a strong investment in history as a discipline which seeks to hold together in one study continuity and discontinuity…’ It’s that holding together that makes Christian history more than the encoding of community identity in narrative. To proclaim, as we do in the Eucharist, ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again’ is to put that tension between continuity and discontinuity centre-stage. For Christians, history is not simply a triumphant procession, but neither is it a mere backdrop to the personal experience of the individual or the collective life of a congregation. It is, to borrow a phrase from Calvin, the theatre of God’s glory. One of the reasons why Charles Wesley’s ‘And can it be’ is such a great hymn is that it sets my personal story of redemption (‘long my imprisoned spirit lay …’) within the wider history of God’s salvation (‘He left his Father’s throne above’).

The denial of this inescapably historical element in Christianity is disastrous. It tempts us to forget our shared responsibility for such distortions as anti-Semitism and the wars of religion. It makes us arrogant, as if we had found a bottle washed up on a beach, containing a copy of the New Testament and a note saying ‘turn this into a religion’. It deprives us of the wisdom and legacy of our forebears. And it leaves us ill-equipped for the task of handing on our faith to the generations that follow us.

Ethicists such as Alistair McIntyre[ii] have emphasised the need for narrative communities that encourage the development of virtue and character through their shared stories, beliefs and practices. Because I believe this to be especially true for religious traditions, I’m drawn to the recent work of American Methodist Ted Campbell. His project is to write a trilogy of books on Methodist identity. The first, Wesleyan Beliefs[iii], has been out for some time; it gives a thorough and scholarly account of what is distinctive about the Methodist approach to the common Christian doctrinal tradition. The second, Encoding Methodism[iv], looks at the way Methodists have told their story: how, from the Wesleys onwards, they have developed narratives that express Methodist identity and promote contextual interpretations of the Wesleyan tradition. His closing sentence summarises what I have been trying to argue: ‘At the heart of the Wesleyan tradition is the deep mystery of the Christian faith, and what Wesleyan Christians “hand on” today is a distinctive way of being Christian’. I look forward to Campbell’s final volume, which will focus on what he calls ‘the transmission of communally-sanctioned practices’.

So, to return to my opening question: Christians need history and they need it now. They need to find ways of handing on their stories that are constructive and critical, attractive and honest, distinctive and inclusive. The present diminished and fragile state of British Methodism is not unconnected with our collective failure to remember and hand on the rich history of how the Holy Spirit has been at work in and through us.

 

[i] Rowan Williams, Why Study the Past: : The Quest for the Historical Church, DLT, 2014.

[ii] Alistair McIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, University of Notre Dame Press, 3rd ed., 2007.

[iii] Ted Campbell, Wesleyan Beliefs: Formal and Popular Expressions of the Core Beliefs of the Wesleyan Communities,  Kingswood, 2010.

[iv] Ted Campbell, Encoding Methodism: Telling and Retelling Narratives of Wesleyan Origins, New Room, 2017.

 

Babel and Pentecost

by Jennie Hurd.

I remember my delight a while back when, as a passenger in a packed but good-natured train carriage, I became aware that I was surrounded by conversations taking place between in at least six or seven different languages, including British Sign Language. It was wonderful! This experience has come back to me as I’ve thought about the events of Pentecost, particularly the phenomenon of Acts 2 when the speakers of many different languages found themselves able to understand the Spirit-filled believers speaking, “each of us, in our own native language” (Acts 2: 8, NRSV). My ministry is conducted these days mainly through the medium of my now second language, Welsh, as I serve as District Chair of Synod Cymru. It brings me great joy, but I’m also aware of the frustrations, and I’ve found myself wondering about the theology of language and languages. As followers of “the Word (who) became flesh and lived among us” (John 1: 14, NRSV), words are crucial to us, as we seek to communicate the gospel.

Pentecost is often said to have been a reversal of the events at Babel in Genesis 11. There, the people of the earth, having one language in common, banded together to build for themselves a city and a tower. So far, so good, we might think – what a great act of co-operation and unity! However, God did not see it that way: God scattered the people across the earth and made it so that they no longer understood one another’s speech. A multiplicity of languages came into being, and the people were separated and divided. And the rest, as we might say, is history.

However, there may be more to the Babel story than meets the eye. The symbolism of the tower is interesting. People did not generally build towers voluntarily for themselves in the ancient Near East: they enslaved others, making them do it for them. Language became a tool of domination, forcing the enslaved people to abandon their own tongue so that they could not plot rebellion. It’s a policy often used by imperialistic powers: the Pentecost context of Roman occupation and the dominance of the Latin language is a case in point. The people who built Babel were subject to the commandment of God, given through Adam, to “fill the earth”, to spread out, inhabit it, “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28, NRSV). They certainly hadn’t been called to huddle all together in one place, to become all the same as some kind of identikit “generic humanity”[1] with no distinctions, variety and difference. Such behaviour hints at fearfulness, perhaps even oppression. It’s in direct contradiction to the glorious diversity of creation that is described in Genesis 1. The scene from the Monty Python film Life of Brian where the crowd shouts, “We’re all individuals” does tend to spring to mind, except that here, it isn’t really funny…

In response to the situation, God “cursed” the people with multiple languages – except that the curse can be seen more as a blessing, as the diversity and variety of creation was restored. Pentecost did not reverse Babel, returning us to oppressive linguistic unity. Rather, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit overcame the sinful, fearful, enforced unity and “panicked prejudice”[2] that led to Babel, enabling everyone to hear the message in his or her own language, not through a single, monoglot medium. It could even be seen as one in the eye for the Romans and the cultural imperialism of the Latin language: in the words of Matt Lynch, Pentecost “reverses the imperial unification of Babylon, but not the multiplication of languages”. [3] The wonder of Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit brings unity within diversity, expressed by Peter when he quoted the prophet Joel (Acts 2: 17-18), with the promise of the Spirit for sons and daughters, young and old, slaves and free, men and women. God speaks to us and hears us in our own language, whatever that language may be, and delights in our diversity. We, in turn, are called to exercise what the philosopher Paul Ricoeur called “linguistic hospitality”[4], rejoicing in our cultural diversity and enjoying the richness of our variety of language, united in the One who prays for us “with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8: 26, NRSV).

 

[1]Geoffrey Holsclaw, “Is Babel Reversed at Pentecost?” www.seminary.edu, accessed 01.05.18

[2] Ibid

[3] Matt Lynch, “Pentecost – A Reversal of Babel?”, www.theolgicalmisc.net, accessed 01.05.18

[4] Ricoeur, Paul 2006, On Translation, Abingdon, Routledge

Love is a Fire

by Sally Coleman.

“We must discover the power of love,
the redemptive power of love.
And when we discover that,
we will be able to make of this old world a new world.
Love is the only way.” – Martin Luther King

With the festival of Pentecost just past, and as we move through the season of Pentecost, which for the people called Methodist includes celebrating Aldersgate Sunday, and with the words of Bishop Michael Curry’s message at the Royal Wedding 1 still ringing in our ears and stirring us (whatever you felt about it, it was hard to ignore), I want to think about what it is that fires and inspires us as the people of God.

As a Connexional Church we often work in pockets of isolation, unaware of what is happening next door, let alone nationally, and fighting for our own survival whatever the cost. Things must change! We know that, but quite naturally we fear it, because change means giving up what was to embrace and release energy for what can be, to chase the vision, to dream the dream. The energy that can spur us on is the fire of love.

Over the last few weeks I have had the privilege of visiting several churches and individuals in the city of Sheffield where I am stationed. Two things have struck me, first is that where there is passion there is life, and second where our emphasis is on our own survival then the stench of death is not far away. I realise that, that is laying things out starkly, but I also believe that it is true.

I have seen passion and pain in the eyes of an artist longing for a better and more inclusive world, I have seen love and community amongst the most unlikely group of friends, and I have walked and dreamt with colleagues as we have pondered the path ahead for those we serve. The energy underlying all of this is love. The love of Christ who compels us2 is alive and active, it is tangible and visible for those with eyes to see it.

I have also seen desperation and confusion and fear in the eyes of those whose desire is to keep going at all costs because anything else will be deemed as failure. Somehow, we need to find a way to allow death as a natural part of the life of the church, and seek to celebrate what has been, while acknowledging that the time has come for a building to close or an initiative to cease to function. This may require a season of lament, and a sensitive pastoral and palliative approach, but it will also need to include a holy boldness, fuelled by love, for this is the pattern that Christ calls us to follow3.

To follow the pattern of love is costly of course, but it is life giving and, to follow the pattern of love is to follow God in God’s creative pattern of brining order out of chaos, to follow the pattern of love is to acknowledge that we cannot be the church on our own, for we are called into the community of love that is God, creator, sustainer and redeemer, who invites us to become a part of what s/he is doing. We need God, and God is love.

To quote Bishop Curry;

“This love, this is the way of Jesus. And it’s game changer.
Imagine our homes and families when this way of love is the way.
Imagine our neighbourhoods and communities when love is the way.
Imagine our governments and countries when love is the way.
Imagine business and commerce when this love is the way.
Imagine our world when love is the way.
No child would go to bed hungry in such a world as that
Poverty would become history in such a world as that.
The earth would be as a sanctuary in such a world as that.”

If this is our dream, and I hope that it is, at least in part, then we must find ways of releasing that dream and realising that dream. For John Wesley the fire was a deep knowing that transformed his life and ministry, perhaps then our challenge as the people called Methodist is to seek that knowing, that fire again, and to allow the fire of love to burn in a cleansing and refining manner, or to use another illustration, to prune us for fruitfulness. To choose love, is to choose life, it is not an easy or simple way, and I have offered no solutions here, simply a reflection that love must be our way.

 

  1. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/rev-michael-currys-royal-wedding-speech-in-full-the-episcopal-church-reverends-complete-transcript-a3843486.html
  2. 2 Corinthians 5: 14
  3. John 15: 9-17

 

Paradox

by Angie Allport.

We’ve all seen it (maybe even done it ourselves): two or more are gathered together with heads bowed.  Praying?  No, looking at their mobile phones!  We live in an age of paradox:

  • Through electronic means we’re more connected than ever, but we’ve possibly never been less in relationship
  • Couples obviously on first dates or in the early stages of a relationship still have their phones out
  • Young women aren’t having smear tests because they’re too embarrassed, yet post intimate details of their everyday lives online
  • Nearly three quarters of young adults experience FOMO (fear of missing out), leading them to be constantly checking their social media accounts, but often adding to their fear rather than relieving it
  • Many use ‘selfies’ to project a particular image of themselves but end up being frustrated because they cannot be themselves
  • There can be an outpouring of grief on ‘Facebook’ in the face of a national tragedy, but a complete lack of sympathy for the homeless person under our noses

This is the world we inhabit.  We are not called to judge the world but to love it, so how, as Christians, can we speak into these paradoxes?  Jesus came to bring freedom – the freedom to be ourselves and to find ourselves in him.  If we’re not then bringing that freedom for others, we’re not sharing in God’s work of salvation.  We perhaps need to lift up our own heads and notice anew the world around us, the familiar things we pass by each day, and particularly the people we pass, seeing Christ in them and asking ourselves how can we be as Christ to them?  We possibly need to unplug our earphones to catch the snatches of conversations (if there is any audible conversation going on!) which tell us what others are interested in.  As an activist, I could be in London nearly every Saturday marching for something or other.  On the occasions when I do go, I’m always quite fascinated by those who are passionate about things like refugees and the environment but not for reasons of faith.

I’m not saying technology is a bad thing (and there’s certainly no putting the genie back in the bottle), but it touches on that old dilemma of whether Christians should engage with popular culture or stand above it.  For me, it’s about engagement.  Although I’m not convinced that there can be an electronic body of Christ, to be his hands and feet in the world, the church nevertheless needs to engage with the online world, just as Jesus went to the places where the people were.  Like anything in life, however, there’s a need to strike a healthy balance or it will become an idol.  If you are on social media or just play games on your tablet, ask yourself (and I include myself in this) are you prioritising it over the time you spend with God, either in prayer or reading the Bible?  Do you need to redress the balance?

If you are on social media, you might post about that great party you went to, but do you ever say where you are on Sunday morning and what a great talk you heard?  A woman at our church used Facebook to invite her cycling group to a carol service and was surprised by how many accepted the invitation and came along.  Arguably, many are becoming disillusioned with materialism and individualism, and are longing for community and permanent relationships.  This is the itch which the church can scratch!  We need to find a way of tapping in to that sense of FOMO, for many are missing out – missing out on the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ!  It is our Christian calling to be ambassadors for him.  That means making friends (maybe online in the first instance) and, in time, offering our Lord’s gracious invitation.

Hierarchy and Equality

by Roberta Topham.

Christian Aid week (13-19th May) reminds us of our place in the work to alleviate poverty. As an organisation, Christian Aid is rooted in values that have long also been important in the Methodist Church.  On their website they state their belief that “everyone is equal in the sight of God” and that one of their aims is to challenge and change systems that “favour the rich and powerful over the poor and marginalised,” thereby creating a more equal division of power in the world.[1]

These are aims and values that people the world over are claiming for themselves.  Developments in education and social media mean that increasing numbers of people are aware of possibilities and can work together to make their opinions known.  There has also been an increasing awareness of, and suspicion about, traditional structures of power and authority that have kept decision-making in the hands of a few based on their rank – what is often called hierarchy.

The origins of the term hierarchy are in the religious sphere, where a hierarchus was a steward or president at sacred rites.  When I was conducting research as a social anthropologist[2] I became aware that social studies of societies through time and around the world suggest that all groups need structuring principles that are usually expressed through some form of hierarchy, whether religious or not.  Anthropologists have also suggested that most societies generate within themselves opposition to such hierarchical structures.  The ethic of egalitarianism is a principle that has been strong in counteracting hierarchy and which has been taken up by many Christian organisations.

All the branches of the Church have had to resolve the tension between hierarchy and egalitarianism.   The Methodist Church, like several in the Reformed tradition, ended up with a balance that aimed to be as egalitarian as possible while recognising that the need for order meant the setting aside in ordination of some dedicated ministers (now deacons and presbyters). The historian Élie Halévy commented of this, “In Wesleyan organization, the hierarchical and the egalitarian principles were combined in equal proportions”.[3]

Within today’s British Methodist Church, while ordination is held as a significant spiritual event, it is clear from our doctrinal statement in the Deed of Union that we do not believe it creates a spiritual hierarchy.  The Deed of Union in Part 1, Section 2 (4), walks a tightrope to express this, stating that ministers have “a principal and directing part” in the great duties of stewarding and shepherding the Church but “hold no priesthood differing in kind from that which is common to all the Lord’s people”.   The Methodist Church’s current structure and government functions to allow and encourage the contributions of a broad range of members in its decision-making.  It keeps enough order for us to hold together and have meaningful presence in a swiftly changing world, while making sure that that order does not privilege only a few or give to some a dominating position.  Instead we stress the equality of all before God and we seek not to give undue privilege to the voices of the ordained in our decision making, while receiving with gratitude (sometimes) the insights and leadership of those set apart.

As a Church we work hard to maintain our balance of hierarchy and equality through practices which keep it in check. Our decision-making bodies are integrated bodies of lay and ordained people at all levels. The President of the Conference for example is always an ordained person, but only holds that office for one year. The limitations this annual election presents have been questioned several times in recent years.   Each time it is reviewed, the same conclusion is reached. Holding this post for one year only is what has best expressed our Methodist polity, ensuring that the influence of individuals is limited and there is little development of an elite as the group of Presidents and (lay) Vice-Presidents is constantly being added to.

Currently, the Methodist Church is being asked to consider changing its practice by accepting the ordination of future Presidents of Conference as bishops in the historic or apostolic succession.  This is one of the proposals which is coming out of the current Anglican-Methodist conversations.[4]  Should the Conference decide to accept the ordination of some presbyters for a second time into a new order of bishops, this will significantly change the balance of hierarchy and egalitarianism in our Church and, I would suggest, radically alter the nature of British Methodism.

I find it hard to see how taking on board a symbol system that has represented a less egalitarian sharing of power will help those who have long been excluded. It is also difficult to see how such a step will be understood positively by people outside of the Church who are less and less enamoured of traditional power-structures based on rank. Perhaps as a Church we may deem that the good to be achieved by taking “the historic episcopacy into our system,” in terms of witnessing to our unity and the subsequent interchangeability of our ordained ministers, will merit the change.  If so, we will need to think carefully about how this move will affect our particular balance of hierarchy and egalitarianism, how it will change our theology of ministry, and how it will affect our commitment to increase the value that we put on the voices of those who have long been marginalised.  While recognising that our structures have not always brought dignity and equality to all as quickly as we would wish, and that there is more to learn, our experiences still provide us with insights to offer to others who are as concerned as we are to follow the way of Jesus in “bringing good news to the poor” and “setting the oppressed free.” As we join this week to support Christian Aid in this work, we might also want to be thinking long and hard about how our structures can continue to symbolise and increasingly incorporate these principles.

 

 

[1] Christian Aid Website https://www.christianaid.org.uk/about-us/our-aims

[2] Roberta R. Topham, Making Ministers, Making Methodism: An Anthropological Study of an English Religious Denomination (Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Cambridge, 2000) <https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.16270>

[3] Élie Halévy [1906] 1971/ The birth of Methodism in England. Trans. and ed. Bernard Semmel. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. [Originally appeared as two articles in Revue de Paris, 1 and 14 1906]

[4] Mission and Ministry in Covenant (Report from The Faith and Order bodies of the Church of England and the Methodist Church, 2017) <https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-10/mission-and-ministry-in-covenant.pdf>

Methodism in a Strange Land

by Tom Stuckey.

This time last year ‘Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land’ was published. I wrote the book because, as President of the Conference in 2005, I had stated that Methodism had possibly only five years to turn the church around. Twelve years have gone by and our membership has decreased by a third.

The book has had a knock-on effect. I have addressed several synods; been invited to speak in the New Room Bristol, Sarum College, Salisbury and Queen’s College, Birmingham. It was introduced to the Nottingham and Derby synod, I have explored it in Oxford with personnel from the Northampton District and with the superintendents of the London District. In addition I have led church, circuit and district study days. There has also been further interaction through my web site. On almost every occasion the book along with my presentation has triggered interesting reactions – some explosive. Certainly the ‘flaws’ in my message are now all too obvious. This essay is a reflection on some of the conversations which have surfaced on my travels. A fuller version of what I have written here is available on my web site (www.tomstuckey.me.uk)

The Changed Context.

The world situation has changed dramatically over the past twelve years. Professor Martin Conway of Oxford has spoken of a huge paradigm shift taking place. ‘2016’, he said, ‘was a liminal year of equal significance to 1914 and 1945 when familiar ways of doing things came to an end’. In my travels I kept asking ‘Are we in the midst of a global paradigm shift?’  In the Oxford gathering this question was addressed but without reaching a conclusion. This question is key to everything that follows, since if such a paradigm shift is taking place (and I think it to be so) then many of the ways in which the Church presently does mission are no longer valid.

The Babylon metaphor, used to describe our present context, was severely mauled on nearly every occasion. ‘We in the traditional inherited church are the people singing the strange songs . We should be exploring and singing the songs of Babylon because God is not absent’, was a powerful comment.

At Queen’s College a former Secretary of Conference declared ‘I thank God for Babylon’. He explained that Babylon’s  requirement of transparency and accountability have forced the Church to face the disturbing realities of its own hidden life.

At Wesley’s Chapel, City Road, an Old Testament scholar explained  that Babylon was an incredibly creative place for the Jews.

I now see that my interpretation is too negative. A re-writing of chapters is required but will it change my conclusions?

Methodism Now

My mention of Methodism’s need to repent triggered lively discussions in a couple of places. I argue that Methodism has secularized ‘repentance’ and responds to this gospel imperative with mechanical activities, e.g. chairs instead of pews, altering structures in circuits and districts. This is not what I understand repentance to be.  Metanoia  is primarily about our relationship with God. It demands a total physical, mental and spiritual shift of heart and mind.

‘To tell the Methodist people that they must repent demoralizes them’, was a comment in one of the synods. Another was ‘what have we to repent of?’  My response was ‘we have reduced God, lost the mystery and exchanged deep theology for superficial sound bytes.

It was suggested in Bristol and again in Oxford that to understand ‘repentance’ we should explore the Old Testament idea of ‘lament’.

Future Focus

I have gone back on my Conference message that the Methodist Church is ‘on the Edge of Pentecost’. In our changed situation I believe God is calling us to live in the liminality  of ‘Holy Saturday’. I mention this in the book but do not explain. Some people quite properly wanted to hear more.

The question of language was raised in the South-East synod, in Oxford and finally in London. The irony is that my book’s title poses a question about language which I then fail to address.

In spite of its shortcomings, the book has proved not only to be a theological ‘wake up’ call for a lot of people in Methodism but it has stirred up further questions for me.   I am not sure how to proceed but proceed I must. Any suggestions?