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Reshaping Church, Methodist Theology in the Spotlight

Unmasking Methodist Theology from past to present
( [email protected] ) Jun 02, 2004 03:10 PM EDT

As the Methodist conference approaches, the Methodist Church of Great Britain arrives at a time to reflect on their ways of being a church, and in thinking up new priorities for the coming year.

Owing to declining churchgoer numbers and an ever-closer relationship with the Church of England, a great challenge lies ahead for the Methodist and Christian churches in Britain and the Western World. During the process of trying to reshape a new church, the Methodist Church has been seeking for the root and essence of Methodist theology even though it is often assumed the Methodists don’t produce theologians.

Written by a Task Group of the Faith and Order Committee - a group of the finest theological minds in contemporary Methodism - the book “Unmasking Methodist Theology” shows how recent Methodist theology can be a resource for the future and how Methodism contributes to British Christianity.

Jonathan Kerry, Coordinating Secretary for Worship and Learning, said, “Theological thinking in British Methodism is wide-ranging and dynamic - and now we have the evidence!”

Dr. Clive Marsh, Co-editor and Secretary for the Faith and Order Committee, acknowledged that ‘there is a crisis about the state of Christianity in Britain’, he commented, “This book can contribute to finding answers to much larger questions: What is Christianity for? And what could Christianity offer to people in Britain today?”

The book challenges in particular presbyters, deacons and local preachers of the Methodist family to be more explicit about the theology they live by and commend to others.

Marsh continued, “It is intended to educate and inspire local Methodism, and will have even wider significance if the insights it offers and the questions it arouses also stimulate thought and action amongst preachers, group leaders of all kinds, and any who make decisions at any level on the church’s behalf.”

By tradition, Methodism has active concern with both evangelism and social welfare, and by means of its central organization it is able to coordinate efforts in these two specific directions. The book also asks questions about how these two might be developed in the complicated modern secular world.

Brian Beck, Co-editor and Past President of Conference, also commented on the book’s significance, “This book is important because it casts its net more widely than usual in trying to discover the theology that has been driving Methodism since 1932. It is also important because it invites us to see ourselves as others see us. There is plenty here for all thinking Methodists to digest as we debate ‘Our Calling’.”

The book is the work of twenty-five individuals (four co-editors and twenty-one contributors) and took three years to complete. On 9 June, a one-day conference including the keynote lecture ‘Why don’t Methodists like theology?’ will be available at the Sarum College, Salisbury. Another 48-hour conference based on the book’s content will be held in Liverpool Hope University College in September.