Stand and Deliver
For years evangelicals in Methodism have been marginalised, One of my more painful memories of the Conference is how during stationing business a ‘Headway’ member was hounded out of a District chairs post simply because he was evangelical. Rob Frost and I had to sit through the debate and then go and tell the brother the result as he waited outside the Conference Hall. It was despicable! Also in my minds eye I can see the young Howard Mellor on the podium being shouted down from the Conference floor as he was speaking the conservative point of view. When as a young Superintendent I was at a district Committee where they were looking for a nomination for someone to be on the panel that chooses a new District Chair, no one was forthcoming so I offered – only to discover at the Spring Synod another name had been inserted – someone who would not have joined MET, I could have been overlooked, but I doubt it. In previous years ministers like Howard Belben, A. Skevington Wood and Reg Walker would have been marvellous Presidents of our Conference but never got there and I can think of other names of anointed Evangelical Methodists who were politely ignored in earlier years. In the past there have been some hard times and sadly thousands of evangelicals have left us.
Today evangelicals in Methodism are in a new place – in the recent history of our Church there have never been so many Chairs of District who would stand with us in MET. I still blink when I think that the new secretary of the ‘Faith and Order’ committee is MET member Pete Phillips, brilliant New Testament scholar and Cliff College Tutor now occupying such a key role in the church. For us to have a President who is the Principal of Cliff College is enough reason to put up the bunting but Praise God from next September MET member for his entire ministry, Martyn Atkins will be the General Secretary of the church….wow!
We can also be encouraged at the large number of bright young evangelical leaders we see coming forward in Methodism today, a Cliff Student is this year's President of MAYC and a good number of our MET members are student ministers.
How we thank and bless God for His goodness and favour at this time.
But amidst all this celebrating there is a great challenge, God is putting all this in place but can we deliver? It is a stimulant to keep on when it’s a tough race but when you find yourself in the position a few years before you could not have dreamed of there is a temptation to sit back and take it easy.
I attended a District event where the more liberal chair said to me of one evangelical couple in District, ‘they are such a support to me and I know they hold me in their prayers daily’. What a wonderful witness, what grace. Elsewhere I was in a circuit where the circuit steward was talking about his evangelical minister this man described himself as a middle of the road Methodist strongly influenced by the writings of Dr Lesley Weatherhead but he said ‘I don’t always agree with her but she certainly delivers – its not just empty words things are happening here now.’
Jesus says by their fruits you shall know them. (Matthew 7 v 16)
How do we go about the delivery part? Well I feel that we need to approach this new situation with humility, we are being blessed in Methodism in a new way witnessing things a few years ago we could have only dreamed of – but this is the work of the Holy Spirit not our brainy ideas or clever strategy. All that is happening should draw us closer to the cross.
We need to be fair and open to other Christians in Methodism who see things differently than we do. May we never get into the awful prejudice state with people of a different theological outlook and treat them as evangelicals were treated in the past. Let us behave as people of grace, we have nothing to fear.
There is a call for us to deliver new Christians as Methodist Evangelicals, if during this next decade the decline in members cease and instead new growth, we have a world to win for Christ if each Methodist Church set out to win just ONE person for Christ this next year, we would see revival. It’s not impossible.
Finally invest in prayer – why it could be that the year of prayer in 2005/6 has brought about the present situation certainly we can see the movement of the Holy spirit in exciting ways today. We need to uphold Martyn the Connexional team, national leaders and each other in prayer.
Oh please dear Lord keep us from the attitude of bitterness and prejudice that would make us marginalise others. May this new chapter in Methodism be one marked by fairness, compassion, prayfullness, love and growth.