INTERVIEW – MEOR Director Speaks to British Methodist Global Relationships Office

The Rev. Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, spoke to Andy Dye in the Methodist Church Britain’s Global Relationships Office in a short interview on 22 November 2021. Rev. Laferty is a mission partner of the Methodist Church in Britain.

How would you summarize your work as a Mission Partner?

My work is to promote dialogue between Methodists and other Christians, to provide education on how to engage ecumenically and to share the work that Methodists are doing ecumenically, particularly with Catholics.  Also to provide hospitality for Methodists passing through Rome.

Why is the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome important for Methodists in Britain and Ireland?

In a place where Methodists are a minority, the work of dialogue and understanding is critical.  It is a way of trying to mirror the experience of Methodists here. In scripture, the prayer of Jesus is, ‘May they be one….so that the world may believe’ – its part of our mission imperative.  It is also a way to deal with the difficult issues that have divided Christians for so long.

While you have been a Mission Partner in Rome, what has been your greatest challenge?

Eating too much pasta!  But seriously, the office is still a newcomer in Rome.  We are the new kid on the block, we started in 2014, so in Rome a lot of the work is convincing people that Methodists have something interesting to bring to conversations and gifts to contribute in ecumenism. On a personal level adjusting to culture and ways of going about things is very different from my previous work in Austria.

What impact do you feel you have made?

Continuing to build on the core relationships and strengthen them.  Covid has even helped us, to give us time to focus on these core relationships and use technology in useful ways.  We have been developing other programs, including webinars that everyone can access and understand the work more widely.

How do you think that God is guiding you in your work?

I have started a Thursday prayer group with an Anglican colleague.  I am good at work items, less good at prayer and I have sensed a calling back to prayer with colleagues is important.  Calling us back in to prayer with one another. Its significant that the week of prayer for Christian unity is the highlight of the ecumenical calendar.

What has surprised you most of all?

It is so hot!  It’s important to prepare for the three changes of shirt days, especially in meetings that might include people like the pope!  The goodwill toward me and toward the office is also surprising, I was expecting people to keep me away from things, but actually, in the main, from cardinals to those interested in social issues, people are open to hearing a Methodist point of view. 

DIALOGUE – British Methodist-Catholic Dialogue Commission Meets in November 2021

From 23-24 November 2021, the joint theological dialogue commission between Methodist Church in Britain and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland met at Oscott College in Birmingham, England, UK, to discuss the hierarchy of truths and Wesley’s writings on central doctrines and opinions as well as Catholic synodality and Methodist conferencing. MEOR director the Rev. Matthew A. Laferty is a member of the commission and attended the meeting. MEOR co-chair the Revd Michaela Youngson is also a commission member and preached during Tuesday’s Catholic Mass.

NEWS – European Methodists Offer Support to Member Churches Along Belarusian Border

The highest Synodal Assembly of The United Methodist Church in Poland has released a statement appealing to Christians and other people of good will to provide help for those in need on the Polish Belarusian Border, stating that as Christians and Polish citizens, “we cannot remain silent when we see how a part of our country has become a place of humanitarian crisis affecting men, women and children, and among them also the sick and traumatized.”

They call on “members and sympathizers as well as all people of good will to engage in initiatives to support the victims of the humanitarian crisis on the Polish borders and to pray for those whose duty it is to ensure security and peace in our homeland.”

The European Methodist Council issued a statement on 19 November 2021 saying,

As members of the European Methodist Council, we offer our full support to the United Methodist Church in Poland for the release of this statement and for their call to prayer and action. Additionally, we support our church members in the countries bordering Belarus – Poland, Latvia and Lithuania – as they seek to help those who have been impacted by this crisis. We invite Methodist, Wesleyan and United Churches in Europe to join with our member churches in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in prayer. We ask the governments in the countries bordering Belarus to give access to the Red Cross to provide support for victims. We appeal to the European Union to make every effort to solve this situation.

The European Methodist Council

Read the full statement from The United Methodist Church in Poland in English or in Polish.

ENCOUNTER – MEOR Director Attends Remembrance Sunday Eucharist on 14 November

The Reverend Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, attended a Sung Eucharist service at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome on Remembrance Sunday, 14 November 2021. In additional to ecumenical guests, several members of the diplomatic community were also in attendance. Members of the Armed Forces and their families and those who have lost their lives as a result of conflict or terrorism are remembered.

All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome is a chaplaincy of the Diocese of Europe of the Church of England.

Pictured: Fr. Robert McCulloch of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Fr. Robert Warren of All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome, Rev. Laferty, and Fr. Bob Hayes of Domus Australia

NEWS – European Methodists Call for Vaccine Equity

As members of the European Commission on Mission* and the European Methodist Council **, we stand in united solidarity to call for Vaccine Equity in the global response to Covid-19. As leaders, and representatives of Church mission boards and development agencies, our focus is to serve, learn from and support partners – churches, organisations and individuals who live and work in communities most affected by poverty in lower-income countries around the world. We passionately believe that it is imperative that governments, pharmaceutical companies, global and local health authorities take tangible action to more equitably distribute, and give access to, COVID-19 vaccinations and the supplies needed to distribute them.

It is vital that the richest countries in the world end any vaccine hoarding and nationalism that is limiting supplies to majority world countries. Whilst initial commitments are a good start, there is much more we can do and give to share essential resources for effective response with the wider world, in the midst of this pandemic and in the years to come as we learn to live with this virus. This equitable distribution needs to be immediate to ensure that lives are saved in every country of the world and to remove the delays and obstructions that are preventing roll out in lower-income countries.

This commitment to equity and shared resource is necessary and relevant not only for this moment in time, but for all health and economic crises. Far too often, we see that the poorest are at the ‘back of the line’ in our global health priorities. The end of this injustice is long overdue and this pandemic gives us an opportunity to chart a new and just path, as we navigate the crises of the days and years to come.

We call on all churches and faith groups, supporters and friends of our organisations to continue to help spread factual and evidenced based messaging, to do our part to stem the prolific and harmful impact of vaccine avoidance and hesitancy caused by misinformation. It is for all of us to not only do our part in receiving the gift of this vaccine, but also to help build confidence in, and ensure access to the vaccine for every one of our neighbours around the globe.

We call for Vaccine Equity now, and for every person, leader and organisation to do their part to ensure that access for all becomes a reality in our world today.

*The European Commission on Mission is (ECOM) is a fellowship of leaders and representatives of Methodist mission boards, mission agencies and task forces, or their equivalent in Europe, as well as the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM). ECOM is regarded as a related organisation within the European Methodist Council (EMC), and thereby reports to EMC annually.

**The European Methodist Council is a membership body for Methodist, Wesleyan and Uniting Churches across Europe who work together to develop a greater understanding of our shared challenges so that we can all be more effective in God’s mission. Read more here.