Listen with friendship, care and grace
The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, Secretary of the Conference, calls for Methodists to offer friendship, care and grace as study begins this month at district synods on the report of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group, God in Love Unites Us, which was received at Conference in June.
"One of the main features of this year’s Methodist Conference in Birmingham was the hugely respectful manner in which the report of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group was debated. This reflected the way in which the Task Group (made up of people with divergent views and life experience) went about their work. As district synods begin their study and prayerful discussion on the report, my prayer is that the spirit of friendship, care and grace we have seen will continue.
So why is a report that has been received by the Conference being discussed by synods? Well, the Conference commended it to the Connexion for study and prayerful discussion knowing that there are major decisions that we as a Church have to make. This will be done through voting at the synods and at next year’s Methodist Conference. Study and prayerful discussion can help to resource this process.
The issues the report explores are those that some Methodists feel very strongly about and which we have been debating for more than a quarter of a century (and in some cases, much longer).
They are topics that touch the core of our being (What does it mean to be human and to be in love? What should, what can, I do about it?). We are required to draw on the resources of our faith in our response (What does the Bible tell me about this? What has the tradition of the Church said?).
These are areas of life where societal attitudes and norms have changed drastically in the last few decades. Some changes are now enshrined in legislation and new legal arrangements. During this time, the Church seems to some to have been prophetic, courageous and faithful while to others it has seemed out of touch and deaf to the movement of the Spirit.
Synods have been resourced to aid them in this important task ahead. I understand that in our busy lives taking time to be well prepared for discussion can be hard and I assure all involved that my prayers are with you.
Start with the film we have prepared which demonstrates the powerful transformation that listening and spending time with people of differing views and experiences can effect. The film looks at of the work of the Task Group and illustrates how those who disagree (and who have been asked to be in the same room precisely because they disagree) can listen to each other and to the Holy Spirit with friendship, care and grace.
I hope and pray that throughout the Connexion those who study and discuss the report and those who debate and vote on the resolutions will read, listen and respond knowing that it is in love that we are united in God..."