NEWS – Methodists Worldwide React to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Death

ROME (MEOR) – Methodists around the world reacted to the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died on Saturday at the age of 95. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on 19 April 2005, taking the name of Benedict XVI to honor St. Benedict of Nursia, co-patron of Europe, and Pope Benedict XV. Pope Benedict XVI reigned for 7 years before shocking the world by voluntarily resigning as pope on 28 February 2013 due to declining health.

The World Methodist Council issued a statement, saying “together with other World Communions, the World Methodist Council extends its condolences to His Holiness Pope Francis and the entire Catholic Church on the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.” The statement further noted, that “his support of informed theological dialogue between Churches, including the dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church, was a hallmark of his pontificate. Pope Benedict’s impact on Christian unity through prayer and theological discourse is an enduring legacy of his ministry.”

The Rev. Dr. Jong Chun Park, the president of the World Methodist Council, wrote that Pope Benedict Emeritus XVI’s “most significant contribution has been the spiritual and theological retrieval of the uniqueness of Jesus. His magnum opus Jesus of Nazareth, is the living witness of Jesus ‘who is close to the Father’s heart’ (John 1:18).”

A statement from the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, the official presence of the World Methodist Council in Rome, recalled that “Pope Benedict’s life was marked by both prayer and action for Christian unity. A keen theological thinker, Pope Benedict will be remembered by Methodists for his encouragement of ecumenical theological dialogue, especially the international Methodist-Catholic dialogue. He welcomed the Methodist accession to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification, telling World Methodist Council leaders prior to the 2006 Methodist Statement of Association of the JDDJ that “[joining the JDDJ] would assist in contributing to the healing and reconciliation we ardently desire, and would be a significant step towards the stated goal of full visible unity in faith” (Statement of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Representatives of the World Methodist Council, 9 December 2005).”

The Rev. Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, noted, “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a committed ecumenist who sought Christian unity through prayer and theological dialogue between Churches. He never shied away from candid conversation about serious church-dividing issues, while also encouraging further study and reflection between Methodists and Catholics in our joint pursuit for Christian unity.”

The Revd Graham Thompson and Mr. Anthony Boateng, the president and vice president of the Conference of the Methodist Church in Britain respectively, said, “we share in the sadness of our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers, at the news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. We give thanks for the way in which Benedict responded to God’s call on his life and served the Church as a theologian, pastor and leader. We continue to pray for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and around the world. We hope that our common witness might lead all to know the love of God and that our shared mission may bring us closer together in unity, that the world might know reconciliation and peace.”

The Revd David Nixon, the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, wrote, “Pope Benedict had a profound influence on the life of the Church. His life was deeply rooted in God, and in his teaching he encouraged all to a closer relationship with Jesus in their everyday lives. He was a man of prayer and an insightful theologian.  We pray for comfort for all who mourn his loss.”

The Rev. Dr. Edgardo Colon-Emeric, the dean of Duke Divinity School and Methodist co-chair of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission, wrote, “the death of Benedict XVI is one that touches deeply all who dream, pray, and work for the unity of the church. His Christ-centered theological vision, love of scripture, knowledge of the church fathers, and passion for the liturgy, resonated strongly with many Methodist ecumenists and encouraged us to not settle for facile agreements—doctrine matters.”

The funeral for Pope Benedict XVI will be on Thursday, 5 January at 09:30 (Rome) in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City State.

Photo: Pope Benedict XVI in Glasgow on 16 September 2010 © M. Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk

NEWS – MEOR Statement on the Death of Pope Benedict XVI

The Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome extends its condolences to His Holiness Pope Francis and the Catholic Church on the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict’s life was marked by both prayer and action for Christian unity. A keen theological thinker, Pope Benedict will be remembered by Methodists for his encouragement of ecumenical theological dialogue, especially the international Methodist-Catholic dialogue. He welcomed the Methodist accession to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification, telling World Methodist Council leaders prior to the 2006 Methodist Statement of Association to the JDDJ that “[joining the JDDJ] would assist in contributing to the healing and reconciliation we ardently desire, and would be a significant step towards the stated goal of full visible unity in faith” (Statement of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Representatives of the World Methodist Council, 9 December 2005).

The Rev. Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, noted, “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a committed ecumenist who sought Christian unity through prayer and theological dialogue between Churches. He never shied away from candid conversation about serious church-dividing issues, while also encouraging further study and reflection between Methodists and Catholics in our joint pursuit for Christian unity.”

May Benedict rest in peace and rise in glory.

Photo: Pope Benedict XVI on 22 September 2011 by WDKrause @ CC BY-SA 3.0

Editor’s note: Statement updated on 01 January 2023 at 21:05

NEWS – WMC Geneva Secretary Extends New Year’s Greeting

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Geneva Secretary of the World Methodist Council, extends a new year’s greeting to Methodists around the world.

We have to take many hardships with us as we are facing multiple crises: wars and violent oppression all over the globe; an ongoing pandemic in several world regions and post-pandemic struggles in other places; food insecurity and hunger for millions of people; and foremost the climate crisis and the ongoing exploitation of mother earth, which is a main root cause for armed conflicts, hunger, and forced migration. What gives us hope? In Germany, where I live, an ecumenical working Group selects a watchword for any particular year. The watchword for 2023 is taken from Genesis 16:13. Hagar said: “You are the God who sees me.” Look at this painting done by the German artist Stefanie Bahlinger me.”

Hagar is crouching at the floor. She was in a crisis. She had been forced to become the biological mother of the far to long-expected offspring of Sarai and Abram. Hagar was Sarai’s slave. Hagar’s pregnancy caused troubles between her and Sarai. When Sarai decided to use her power, Hagar ran away straight into the desert. Here she is: Somewhere in the wilderness, alone, in disparity. Yet, in Stefanie Bahlinger’s painting, we don’t see Hagar in a dark environment. There is a bright ray of light over her. Hagar doesn’t seem to realize it. Yet she is seen. More so: Hagar, a sexually abused slave, and a refugee, is the first woman in the Bible to whom God speaks through an angel. Hagar is listened to, and she receives God’s promise: “I will multiply your offspring.” And her son shall be named Ismael – this means “God hears.” This did not end Hagar’s crisis. She had to go back to Sarai and Abram. But Hagar knew she was found by God. Like on Hagar, God has an eye on the oppressed and sees billions of people who are overlooked, misused, rejected, and kept in all kinds of precarious circumstances.

God is a God who sees. What a promise for 2023. And what a calling to recognize the image of God in the faces of others. We – the people called Methodists – live in very different places. Some are rich; many are poor. Some are powerful; many are struggling for dignity and basic human right to be kept. We are called to share God’s love with all, yet we are often caught up in unjust structures and are causing harm to one another instead of becoming agents of healing and hope. But God has not given us up. God sees us, hears us, speaks to us, becomes our friend in Jesus, and transforms us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can stand up and become ambassadors of justice, peace, and reconciliation. The colors used in the painting of Stefanie Bahlinger remind us of the rainbow colors. God, who became human, is with us. Making space for God’s transforming grace, we begin our journey through 2023 with hope. Seen by God, we can sing with Charles Wesley:

Come, let us anew our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still till the Master appear.
His adorable will let us gladly fulfill,
And our talents improve by the patience of hope and the labor of love.

NEWS – European Methodist Youth Climate Team Issues COP27 Statement

STATEMENT TO HEADS OF STATES, CHURCH, AND BUSINESS LEADERS

Following intense weeks of negotiations, protests, and actions COP27 had come to an end.

As Methodists, Wesleyan and Uniting Churches in Europe, we are calling on leaders and Head of States, to listen to our voices as young people.

The realities of global climate change, resulting from the impact of accumulated human activities, make the renewal of the way we inhabit the Earth an urgent imperative. The damage caused to the environment cannot be addressed justly, adequately, and sustainably without the implementation of climate justice policies.

The challenge of caring for the environment, our common heritage, is a collective and universal duty that belongs to all of humanity. For John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, God who created heaven and earth never abandoned his creation. God is the origin of all things and doesn’t only preserve them but also redeemed them all. The love of God doesn’t exclude a single form of life (John Wesley’s Sermon 67: On Divine Providence). The creation is the ultimate act of love, God is in all things and we must “see the Creator in the glass of every creature” (John Wesley’s Sermon 23 I. 11). As Methodists we can’t pursue a life of sanctification without care for the environment, for justice, for education, for inequality.

COP27 is over, we strongly urge our leaders to strengthen their commitments to a just recovery from the climate crisis. Time is running out, we need to act NOW.

We need to use this opportunity to seek equity and prioritise the need to equip those who are at the forefront of the crisis, so that no one is left behind in this journey towards achieving climate goals.

As Methodist young people from around Europe we know that we are in a position where we need to empower and sustain our brothers and sisters who are disproportionately affected by this crisis.

We call upon leaders and stakeholders to establish loss and damage as a permanent point on the negotiation agenda, and ensure the establishment of a dedicated loss and damage finance facility.

As people of faith, we cannot let this moment pass by without doing everything that we can to seek climate justice. We hear the lament of our global family and the fear of future generations, as we face a crisis that brings us all together in its urgency. We must act now, in collective hope that enough can be done to enable God’s creation to thrive once again. 

We pray that you would hear our voices and in turn, act with urgency and passion after COP27.

November 2022

European Methodist Youth Climate Team

Irene O. Abra – Methodist Church in Italy (OPCEMI)

Filipa Teixera – Methodist Church in Portugal

Daniel Steinvig – United Methodist Church in Denmark

Julia Sjöström – United Methodist Church in Sweden

Magdalena Gnigler – United Methodist Church in Austria

Sarah Bach – United Methodist Church in Switzerland

The European Methodist Youth Climate Team is part of the work of the European Methodist Council.

NEWS – Director’s Activities in November in Review

November was a busy month for Director Matthew A. Laferty.

The Director attended the North Central Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church, meeting 2-5 November 2022 in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

He participated in a special meeting organized by the brothers of the Taize Community on the theme of synodality from 13-15 November in Taize, France.

From left to right – the Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler from the Methodist Church in Britain, Director Laferty, Brother Alois of the Taize Community, and Mr Eli Ataf of the Methodist Church in Britain

On 16 November, Director Matthew A. Laferty chaired a session of the academic conference “Roma (a)cattolica. Pluralisation of Religion in Rome between the End of the Papal State and the Beginning of Fascism (1870-1922)” sponsored by the German Historical Institute in Rome, Centro Melantone (Institute for Ecumenical Studies), the Waldensian Faculty of Theology, the Anglican Centre, and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

The Forum – the MEOR oversight committee – met on 18-19 November in Rome. During the annual meeting, the Forum received the Director’s annual report, reviewed MEOR finances, and developed strategic plans for the future.

The MEOR staff and MEOR Forum members

The Director preached at Christ Church Lutheran in Rome for Eternity Sunday (Ewigkeitssonntag), 20 November 2022. The congregation remembers those who dead in the past year on the last Sunday before Advent, a German Protestant tradition dating back to 1816.

Rev. Laferty and Rev. Michael Jonas

The Director is a member of the national dialogue commission between the Methodist Church in Britain and the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England & Wales and Scotland. The commission met in Crewe, United Kingdom, from 22-23 November 2022. The subject of the meeting was ordained ministry and authority. Director Laferty presented an overview of the recent report of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission – God in Christ Reconciling: On the Way to Full Commission in Faith, Sacrament, and Mission.

Members of the British Methodist-Catholic Dialogue Commission meeting in Crewe

The Director attended a Solemn Mass for the Feast of St. Andrew at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome on 30 November 2022. Cardinal Arthur Roche preached and presided.

Cardinal Arthur Roche (center) preaching.