28 April 2004

Methodist Church looks forward to a strengthened European society

In an historic day for Europe, May 1st sees the accession of 10 new member states to the European Union. Colin Ride, Secretary for Europe at The Methodist Church, said: "We warmly welcome the new countries into the EU. We pray for a smooth accession, and look forward to a strengthened European society."
Mr Ride, responsible for the development of new mission initiatives within Europe, and for relationships with Methodist and ecumenical partners, is optimistic about the benefits of EU enlargement. He commented: "The EU should be, above all, a community of values working for peace and security. More than a policy making and economic body, the EU is a platform for people of European countries to work together. It is the best approach we have in the development of peace, unity, mutual respect and understanding."
For the Methodist Church, however, Europe is larger than the EU, as it includes Russia and non-accession countries. The European Methodist Council was set up in 1993 and it coordinates Methodist work across Europe, develops the sharing of resources, and works with ecumenical partners in Christian mission. It is, says Ride, "an acted parable of European relationships, a model of how people can collaborate, learn from each other and work together towards common goals."
Some of the most significant work done by Methodist churches in Europe has been in non-EU countries. Colin Ride again: "All Methodist Churches in Europe are minority churches, and for some it is a struggle to develop and establish their values, particularly those living and working in post-communist societies. Some of these smaller churches, such as the United Methodist Church in Russia, or in the Balkans, are committed to outreach programmes particularly amongst the very vulnerable such as the Roma people. The Methodist family across Europe can take inspiration from this, and can engage in a process of learning together about mission."
In a message to the accession countries, Ride said: "Let us not allow our different cultures, faiths or languages to keep us apart. Instead let us honour diversity and work for those shared values and beliefs that bind us together"

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