The Pilgrimage of Faith - Major report on Homosexuality coming to Methodist Conference

The 2005 Methodist Conference in Torquay will discuss a reporton the Pilgrimage of Faith; the Pilgrimage was launched when the1993 Conference adopted the "Derby Resolutions" on human sexuality.The 2005 report is the response to the 2003 Conference request fora report on the progress of the Pilgrimage.

The 2005 report comes after a lengthy process where the views ofthe Church were sought out by writing to all ministers in activework, placing advertisements in the Methodist Recorder and askingfor comments via The Methodist Church website. The working partyalso met with groups and individuals who had previously spoken outon the subject, or who were able to contribute theologicalinsights. All comments were received under conditions of strictconfidentiality.

The report shows a church that expresses a wide range ofopinions on homosexuality, yet also one that is willing to engagein seeking a way forward. It also showed that there is agreement inthe Church that it should be an open, welcoming and inclusive body,and will not turn people away because of their sexualorientation.

The Revd Jonathan Kerry, Coordinating Secretary for Worship andLearning, and the convenor of the working party, said "Even thoughthe Church still encompasses many differing views on homosexuality,we are moving forward towards a greater understanding of eachother's opinions, rather than allowing our positions to becomefixed. The language of 'Pilgrimage' is important - it is abouttravelling along with other people who share the same underlyingfaith, but who have differing experiences and perspectives - andlearning from each other. Diversity of opinion is something to becelebrated rather than feared, as long as people feel free toexpress themselves in a positive way."

"Some of the responses came from people who feel that thePilgrimage is not achieving its aims" says Jonathan, "but the factthat people answered the call for comments shows that Methodistmembers had contributions to make and trusted the working party andits work."

Margaret Parker, co-chair of the working party and a former VicePresident of the Methodist Conference, says "we found that some ofthose who responded said that their opinion on homosexuality hadmoved in one direction or another since 1993. This is an on-goingprocess, but I am pleased to see that people are taking itseriously, and are keen on honest, constructive and frank dialogue,even with those whose opinions differ. This means more than just'agreeing to disagree'; it means finding ways to move forward as aChurch, and to respect, love and encourage one another as fellowChristians even though we do not agree on everything."

Jonathan Kerry says that efforts of the working group haveenabled the Church to move forward on the topic without any groupfeeling that its voice is not being heard. "I don't claim that thisis a perfect way of discussing a difficult topic like this," hesays, "but it is working well so far. This report is not the finalword on the matter, and part of what the Pilgrimage means is for usto monitor the process itself, so that it remains relevant andrepresentative of the whole of the Church's opinion."

Ann Leck, co- chair of the working party and a former VicePresident of the Methodist Conference, said, "the pilgrimage of theMethodist Church is about listening to one another and feelinglistened to, about accepting and valuing one another and abouttrusting one another. Many people hold very strong views about thesubject of sexuality: for some their views relate to the very beingof themselves or of somebody they love. People are now beginning toshare deep feelings and longings in an open way and there areaffirming stories, sad stories and angry stories. It is people andtheir relationship with God that is at the heart of what we wereexploring. The working party reflected the spread of views onsexuality that there is in Methodism as a whole, and it is Ibelieve something to rejoice about that our Church embraces peoplewith widely different views on these matters - that we are all onein Christ Jesus."