From the World Church Office

This time last year WCO was looking forward to the results of a review into ‘The Reconfiguration of World Church Partnerships’, part of a much more thorough review of all the working of the Connexional Team. The recommendations went to Methodist Council in January and March, when the proposals made clear that the delivery, of what WCO regarded as specialist work, would be more integrated across the Team. Also, the new name given to the smaller number of staff dedicated to Partner Church relationships was ‘International Mission Relationships’, which did not meet with universal acclaim. The principle of integrating world mission issues into the general lifeblood of the Methodist Church of Britain (MCB) is an excellent one; but there were misgivings about both staff numbers at Connexional level and the way that it was being proposed for specialist staff to be deployed to achieve that aim. As a result of Notices of Motion, Conference at Blackpool agreed to:

  • Change WCO to ‘World Church Relationships’.
  • Change FWM to ‘Fund for World Church Relationships’.
  • Direct Methodist Council to initiate a process of consultation with World Church partners before any decisions about staffing levels beyond 2008 are made.

In the meantime, there have been exciting developments. The jointly resourced work with NCH in Zimbabwe and South Africa has enthused other Bishops in Southern Africa, and there are plans to roll out locally-owned child-care programmes in Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Mozambique in the near future. Moreover, this partnership with NCH has led to a mission partner, Maggie Patchett, being sent to work with vulnerable young women in Belize, as part of Youth Enhancement Services (YES).

Last year’s report mentioned how much we were looking forward to the new Selly Oak Centre for Mission Studies (SOCMS) at the Queen’s Foundation. A huge amount has been achieved in a short time. The whole campus has a real ecumenical buzz about it and thanks must go to all the staff, notably to the Revd David Hewlett (Principal of Queen’s), for the way mission and ministry studies have come together and created energy. A vision for both USPG and the Methodist Church in moving from UCA was a Training Network for ecumenical training institutions around the world, including SOCMS/Queen’s, and this seed has already begun to sprout. Developments in mission training are bound to follow, so watch out for them!

Things to celebrate? From the point of view of Europe, Methodists from all over UK and the continent are looking forward to the European Festival in Bratislava at the beginning of August. This promises to be a great celebration of our Wesleyan heritage and future working together. From Latin America, MCB/WCO has been closely involved with the Church in Canada in the emerging Methodist Church in Colombia. In Africa, we have been involved with the Church in Kenya in making contact with an emerging Church in Sudan. In Nepal, exciting things are happening as Nepalisation takes place in the Church as well as with the United Mission to Nepal.

Alongside the excitement, our ongoing prayers are needed for the situation in places such as Zimbabwe where people are suffering; for those affected by earthquake and Tsunami in the Solomons; for the violence against innocent people in Sri Lanka; for people locked into economic struggle such as in Haiti; for people in the Balkans still finding it hard to forgive and be reconciled after years of pain.

This is merely a snapshot of the everyday work with over 60 Partner Churches. It does not do justice to the hard work of WCO staff, some whom you know well, but others you will not know. I want here to pay tribute to Margaret, Jan, Paula, Liz, Angela and Marie-Jo who are often the first point of contact for people seeking help and expertise from all parts of the world. They are valuable parts of the team and rarely get the recognition that they deserve.

On behalf of MCB, WCO seeks to show solidarity in adversity, and encouragement in the good times to those who need us most. It is important to get things right for these relationships with our Partners to retain most meaning and to be developed. For that to happen, in the next few months our Partners need to tell the consultation group what staff specialisms they feel are needed when dealing with the Church in Britain.

For WCO, as for all in the Connexional Team, 2006/07 has been a roller-coaster journey; and 2007/08 could be equally interesting.

Michael King, Team Leader, World Church Relationships.

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