Ground-breaking meeting brings together churches fromacross the region

Partner churches from the Asia Pacific Region met withrepresentatives of the Methodist Church in Britain, including thePresident of Conference the Rev Will Morrey and the Vice Presidentof Conference Deacon Myrtle Poxon, for a groundbreakingconsultation in Hong Kong.

Christine Elliott, Asia Pacific Secretary in the British WorldChurch Office, developed the consultation following on from theWesley tercentenary celebration held in Llandudno 2003. Shebelieves that this could have a significant impact on relationshipswithin the region and provide a considerable impetus for greaterco-operation and mutual accountability.

There are three major 'strands' in the Asia/Pacific region,Indian sub-continent, East Asia and the South Pacific. The regionis diverse and the churches have very different roles to playwithin their own contexts. It ranges from Fiji, which has asignificant Methodist presence and influence in government, throughSingapore, which is a small but wealthy church with missionaryoutreach, to Bangladesh, which is a tiny united church working in aMuslim country. There is a fairly even mix of Methodist andunited/non-denominational churches in the overall region and thiscreates a very distinctive flavour.

The consultation was jointly hosted by MCB and the Hong KongMethodist Church and held at Methodist House WanChai. Speakersincluded Dr. Andreas D'Souza from India who spoke on ReligiousExtremism; Dr. Wong Wai Ching from Hong Kong who spoke aboutGlobalisation; Dr. Lo Lung Kwong from Hong Kong who talked aboutTheological Education; Dr Scott Harris from China who gave a speechabout HIV/AIDS; and Dr. Chalapan Kulwin from the Fiji/Papua NewGuinea church who spoke about Climate Change. The five keynoteseminars provoked stimulating discussion where representatives wereable to discover common concerns as well as inspiring stories fromother contexts. Each nation present made a presentation in whichthey were able to share aspirations, hopes, challenges and visionfrom their own perspective. The rich diversity of the arearepresented often emerged again in worship when the work of theconsultation and the work of the church was offered and supportedin prayer.

Chris Elliott said: "The opportunity to gather as people of Godsharing a common Methodist heritage was wonderful. The chance tosit as equals sharing stories of our churches and the ministry ofpeople in simple ways was inspiring. It was also practical. Leadersof churches who are neighbours finding that there were ways inwhich they could support each other for example, Korea with Japanfor ministers and training; Hong Kong with Myanmar sharingexperience of uniting two Methodist traditions for the benefit ofChristian witness."

Chris added: "The range and size of churches is significant fromthe Church of South India with a membership of 3 million to theMethodist Church in Indonesia with a few thousand. Most of thechurches in South and East Asia are working as minority churcheswithin dominant (other) faith communities, while those in the SouthPacific are very much majority churches working with acceptedChristian understanding. By gathering together we gained so muchinsight into each other's reality, which enabled us to be morerealistic about our own situations. We used four words to help usthink carefully about what we were hearing, they were; inspiration,concern, warning, hope."

The consultation resulted in the agreement of the followingstatement:

"We, the representatives of the Methodist, United and UnitingChurches in the Asia & Pacific region and Britain, met in HongKong during Advent 2004. We praised God, celebrating our life andfaith in Christ by hearing one another's stories and by sharing ourloves, joys and concerns.

"In the context of growing globalisation with its impact ongrowing poverty, social exclusion, violence and injustice, and inresponse to the world in which we share, we have givendeliberation, among other issues, to:

1.         ReligiousExtremism

2.         ClimateChange

3.         TheologicalEducation

4.         HIV/AIDS

5.         Hostingminority ethnic congregations in the Methodist family

"We are committed to upholding each other in prayer andresponding actively to these issues in the Spirit of the Gospel ofChrist.

"We will not work in isolation but through a co-ordinatedresponse, impressing on our Churches the importance of theseissues."

Four members of the consultation will provide key speakers forthe World Mission Conference at Swanwick (3-5 June 2005). The groupwill then be used more widely in UK and Ireland (6-10 June), andvisit the Irish Conference on 11 June.