26 July 2001
Scientist reflects on how Jesus Christ is the right formula
Astrophysicist David Wilkinson today called for Christians of all churches and cultures to have a bigger picture of God that takes account of global issues as well as individual and local community concerns.
In a keynote speech to more than 3,000 church leaders at the opening day of the 18th World Methodist Conference in Brighton, Dr Wilkinson said that most Christians' view of their faith was too small. God's 'way of salvation' compels believers to take a lead in tackling the world's major social and political ills.
Dr Wilkinson, a Methodist minister and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, stressed that this way of salvation demands that people "stand against racist violence, whether it be British fascists provoking violence in British cities, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, persecution of Christians in nations where they are a minority, or in countries where the police beat you up simply because of the colour of your skin. It will involve rooting out racism in the church and in your community".
Secondly, he urged more to be done for individuals and nations battling against AIDS. International efforts must "involve cheap health care being made available and compassionate support of those dying". In addition many developing countries are struggling with "the crushing influence of unpayable debt" which must be reduced as part of a "move towards justice in the world economic system. This will involve campaigning for political change and changes in our own lifestyle".
Thirdly, Dr Wilkinson called for a reduction in "the levels of pollutants and greenhouse gases which mess up God's world and impact most on those who are weak and poor. This week's UN climate change conference in Bonn challenges the rich nations to limit emissions".
Dr Wilkinson's keynote address went on to stress the need for Christians to take account of an increasingly pluralist culture. In particular "World Methodists need to be at the forefront of dialogue with those who are not Christians, witnessing to the supremacy of Christ."
Christian leaders need to take time to understand a world of increasingly different faith claims and different religions - as well as a world shrinking under the media gaze "from a global village into a global living room. I want to suggest that one of the tasks of Christian leadership is to humbly listen to the questions: 'Is there a God?', 'What is God like?'"
Order 'God, Time and Stephen Hawking' from the Methodist Bookshop
The 18th World Methodist Conference meets from Thursday 26 July to Tuesday 31 July in Brighton, England