VIDEO – History of the International Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue from 2006 – 2021 by the Rev. Dr. David Chapman from the Methodist Church of Great Britain

On 11 May 2021, the Rev. Dr. David Chapman, a presbyter from the Methodist Church Britain and Methodist co-chair of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission, presented on the history of the international Methodist-Catholic bilateral dialogue from 2006 to 2021 in a webinar entitled, “Grace and Holiness: Catholics and Methodists in Dialogue, 2006-21”. His recorded lecture is available on YouTube.

BIOGRAPHY – The Revd. Dr. David Chapman is the Methodist co-chair of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission since 2011. He is a presbyter of the Methodist Church in Great Britain where he presently serves as Chair of the Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire District. He has a PhD in theology from the University of Cambridge and is a member of the British Methodist Faith and Order Committee and the World Methodist Council. He is the author of In search of the catholic spirit: Methodists and Roman Catholics in Dialogue and has contributed to numerous published volumes and journals on topics relating to Methodist theology and ecumenism.

NEWS – World Methodist Conference in August 2022 Postponed

Due to the continuing challenging times from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 22nd World Methodist Conference is further postponed. At the two-day virtual meeting of the World Methodist Council Steering Committee in August 2021, the Steering Committee unanimously agreed that the global WMC family could not safely gather in Gothenburg, Sweden, in August 2022 for the Conference.

WMC President J.C. Park announced that a new date for the Conference will be set in spring 2022. Conference Program Chair the Rev. Dr. Martyn Atkins and members of the host committee including Bishop Christian Alstead, Uniting Church President Lasse Svensson, and others were consulted abou the postponement. Everyone agreed that a more meaningful Conference could be held at a later date.

On the Move will continue to be the theme, and the issues of migration, justice, and hospitality are evident to be more pertinent now than when the theme was initially chosen.

More information on the Conference will be published as available in WMC First Friday Letter, on the Council and Conference websites, and Twitter.

Photo: Gothenburg, Sweden, photo in public domain.

NEWS – World Methodist Council Mourns Death of Rev. Eddie Fox

With great sadness, we received the news about the passing away of Eddie Fox, who has been in hospice for the past two weeks.

The World Methodist Council extends heartfelt condolences to Eddie’s life partner, Mary Nell, and the Fox family during this time of grief.

We give thanks to God for the life and witness of Eddie Fox and the indelible mark he has left on the lives of many.

Eddie was the Director of World Evangelism for twenty-five years. He was the progenitor of two programs, namely, the International Methodist Younger Leaders Seminar and the Order of the Flame. Through his evangelism seminars held regularly on every continent, he moved World Evangelism from “success” to “significance” within the global Methodists family.

In paying tribute to Eddie Fox, World Methodist Council general secretary Bishop Ivan Abrahams shared the same sentiments  he had shared at Eddie’s farewell service in Nashville. “Eddie was immensely loyal to the World Methodist Council. His life was a testament to Wesley’s dictum for mission that held together holiness that knew no separation from social holiness.  We will miss Eddie’s cheerful disposition, his litany of stories drawn from his experience. Most of all, we will miss his wise counsel that often helped us, wright, the ship when tossed about on the seas of uncertainty, hopelessness, and despair.”

Please continue to pray for Mary Nell and the Fox family.

Our next issue of the WMC First Friday Letter will carry special tributes to Eddie. We will keep you updated regarding memorial services.

Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service

COMMENTARY – Dialogue as a Tool for Unity and Mission

By the Reverend Matthew A. Laferty

The Feast of Peter and Paul on June 29th is a major affair here in Rome. Both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome, and their tombs remain to this day important pilgrimage sites. Many representations and icons of the two saints exist, but the Eastern Orthodox icon of Peter and Paul meeting and holding each other in embrace remains for me the most powerful. In Rome this icon of the two saints in embrace is an important symbol for the ecumenical movement and holds a prominent place of viewing in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Vatican’s ecumenical department. The icon reflects the deep longing and love for one another and the reconciliation with God and each other found through Christ; it too reminds us that as contemporary followers of Jesus Christ that each of us embodies both elements of Peter and Paul in our lives.

For me this icon engenders our journeys in Christ and the point where the unity of the church meets the mission of the church. In recalling Jesus’ prayer from John 17, the Rev. Dr. Kyle Tau, former ecumenical staff officer at the Council of Bishops, recalls in UM & Global blog of the clear linkage between unity and mission, concluding that, “mission is the beginning and true end of ecumenism.” The church cannot separate mission and unity as if they are two unrelated activities; rather, unity and mission, like Peter and Paul, are intrinsically linked at the heart of our ecclesiology.

Yet, mission and unity too often are severed from one another. Instead of close embrace, unity and mission are broken apart and only gaze at each other from a distance. Equally as disturbing is our impulse to privilege mission over unity as if the unity of the church is a secondary calling to mission in the world; it cultivates a situation where missionary zeal demands theological purity which, in turn, diminishes or entirely negates the call for Christian unity. Methodists are often plagued by both approaches.

It then begs the question – what tools are necessary and fundamental to draw together the mission of the church and unity of the church into loving embrace like Peter and Paul? How do we bridge the division between Christians so that “mission is the beginning and true end of ecumenism”?

In this journey, dialogue remains a relevant instrument in the quest for the full and visible unity of the church and necessary to manifest the greatest expression of the mission of the church.

I am hesitant to strictly define dialogue because many theological/philosophical understandings and typologies exist. In its broadest sense, dialogue is a conversation between two or more people which is characterized by the exchange of ideas or opinions.

In the church, dialogue is often marked by encountering one another to gain greater understanding of our own Christian faith and the Christian faith of others, dispel myths or misperceptions, mutually recognize of a common baptism and faith in Jesus Christ, and grow together in God. Dialogue is formal and informal, local and global, and short and long. Dialogue is contextual and has different points of departure.

For church leaders, dialogue can be viewed within a formal context which seeks to bring one church into dialogue with another church for the purpose of full communion and interchangeability of clergy. Such dialogues for The United Methodist Church have been conducted with the Moravian Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Roman Catholic Church (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), and The Episcopal Church. These formal dialogues also take place between world communions (association of churches with a shared theological heritage and mission like the World Methodist Council or the Lutheran World Federation).

An example of international dialogue is the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission, a special theological dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church. The international Methodist-Roman Catholic dialogue celebrates 55 years of continuous dialogue in 2022, working for “a vision that includes the goal of full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life” (§20, The Nairobi Report, 1986). For the international dialogue (and in my opinion, every Christian dialogue), unity and mission are intertwined; we dialogue so we may be in unity and mission together.

I do caution that dialogue should not be viewed strictly as a project of the elite nor within a formal framework. While church-to-church (or denomination-to-denomination) and international dialogues are critical, dialogue should find a home in local congregations, not as formal theological dialogues but rather informal dialogues with siblings from different Christian churches which focus on faith practices, encounter, friendship, and mutual discernment. Local dialogue should give attention to the gifts of each local congregation and what can be shared with one another. Local dialogue can be shaped in learning-settings in small groups or shared action or mission projects in a community. Sometimes it is easier to bring together different Christian congregations through service to the community, thereby building friendship and trust. For local dialogue, encounter is key.

We cannot expect dialogue on its own to resolve all differences or heal all wounds. But dialogue opens Christians to one another, so the Holy Spirit may draw the unity of the church and the mission of the church into loving embrace.

The blog post originally appeared on the UM & Global blog.

ENCOUNTER – Praying for Peace in Lebanon

In a special ecumenical prayer service for peace in Lebanon on 1 July 2021, Pope Francis and heads of churches in Lebanon gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome today to pray for peace in Lebanon. MEOR director Matthew A. Laferty along with ecclesiastical representatives, members of the diplomatic corps, and the Lebanese community in Rome were invited to join.

Read the Vatican News coverage of the Ecumenical Day of Prayer for Lebanon.

ENCOUNTER – MEOR Director Meets Lutheran World Federation President, Leaders

MEOR director the Rev. Matthew A. Laferty met with the president, general secretary, and other leaders from the Lutheran World Federation during their visit to Rome, 25-27 June 2021. Rev. Laferty was a special guest at a lecture by LWF general secretary the Rev. Dr. Martin Junge at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas on 25 June. He also conducted informal conversation with the Rev. Dr. Dirk Lange, LWF assistant general secretary for ecumenical relations, a wide range of topics including Methodist-Lutheran relations, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and ecumenism in Rome.