25 July 2008

1993 Resolutions on Human Sexuality

I have just received some summary documents from The Annual Conference of The British Methodist Church. I note that one of the resolutions we passed was
'...the need to transcend the common habit of discussing the 1993 Resolutions as if they were solely about homosexuality.'
This got me wondering how many Methodists have actually read the resolutions? Because homosexuality isn't really their main focus. They are - as the title suggests - about human sexuality.  

Here is a link to the resolutions on the official Methodist Website:
Human Sexuality The page also includes a bit of further discussion and some links.

As I understand the 'debate' about reviewing these resolutions within our denomination, there are people on 'both sides' of the homosexuality issue who want the possibility of individual interpretation closed on the matter of homosexual acts. Some want a clear condemnation of all homosexual acts. Others want a clear permission to bless Civil Partnerships in church.

Why were these resolutions not reviewed?  I was present at Conference when the possible review of the resolutions was discussed. Conference had asked for written responses from the Methodist people and the response was huge by normal standards.  I don't remember the exact number, but David Gamble said that on most consultations if they received 5 responses from churches or Methodist members, this could be considered 'a deluge of opinion'. There were apparently hundreds of responses to the consultation request on Human Sexuality ('Pilgrimage of Faith') and the results indicated that views were about equally divided on both sides of the homosexuality issue.  Results also indicated that most respondents did not want to review the Resolutions.

In light of what is happening at Lambeth, our decision not to review might seem contentious, but it didn't seem that way at the time at Conference.  The mind of Conference seemed to be that the most preferable solution was to hold Methodism together.  

I agree with this decision because I believe that the ability to live peaceably with those with whom we don't agree is actually a more important issue of discipleship and behaviour than the sexual activity (or not) of members.  Sex is, of course - er - a 'sexier' topic than reconciliation and being able to get along with each other.  Of course, as human beings, we resist being disciplined for the sin of refusal to reconcile because we all want to save other people from themselves.  And we all commit the sin of non-reconciliation.  

(And before anyone asks, yes, this does mean that I hold myself accountable for civil interaction with people with whom I disagree.)

24 July 2008


I blame it on Dave's 20th Wedding Anniversary but I'm going to go where angels fear to tread and dare to offer just a few thoughts on marriage. Not a treatise, mind. And not a worked-out systematic theology. Just a few thoughts.

Why am I doing this? Well the post that Dave links to,
Will Positive Examples be Taken Seriously? throws out the thought that Christians don't offer many 'positive' thoughts on 'how to have a good marriage'.

So, as an egalitarian - someone who believes men and women are equal - I have a few simple but related thoughts:  

1) Never take your spouse for granted.

2) Ask yourself every day 'What can I do to make my spouse's life easier today?' Or 'What can I do to bring joy to my spouse?'

3) Never forget to say 'Thank you'. Say 'thank you' when she takes out the rubbish and say 'thank you' when he does the washing-up. You may think that s/he 'should' do these things, but say 'thank you' anyway.

What's my theological basis for this? Agape love. A love that looks first outside oneself and asks the question 'How can I serve another'? Or as the old-fashioned language used to say 'Self-sacrificial love'. This is not only the basis for marriage, it's the basis for Christian discipleship.

Many Christians say that these ideas are unbiblical and that husbands have authority over wives. I'm still trying to understand how agape love is unbiblical.  I know from experience that this sort of attitude 
does work as a path to a loving marriage.  I also know that I'd be very wary of marrying any man who insisted on retaining the option of always having 'final authority' over me. 

23 July 2008

Quote of the day

This text from The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg struck me very powerfully this morning. I 'preach' to no-one but myself and simply share this text if it resonates with anyone else.
Jesus took a little child in his arms and said [to the disciples], in effect, "Here's your ministry. Give yourselves to those who can bring you no status or clout. Just help people. You need this little child. You need to help this little child, not just for her sake, but more for you sake. For if you don't, your whole life will be thrown away on an idiotic contest to see who is the greatest. But if you serve her - often and well and cheerfully and out of the limelight - then the day may come when you do it without thinking, 'What a wonderful thing I've done.' Then you will begin serving naturally, effortlessly, for the joy of it. Then you will begin to understand how life in the kingdom works."
Aren't most of the values of 'the world' centred around 'An idiotic contest to see who is the greatest' in one way or another?  This is the big way that I think The Church of Christ can be 'counter cultural'.

Those Christian Bookshops

I'm late to this piece of news as I've had (still have) a fairly nasty bug and have only been able to do the bare minimum since last Thursday.

A number of Methodist bloggers have already reported about the silencing of Dave Walker on the subject of the decimation of the former 'SPCK' bookshops. The blog 'Connexions' provides a number of links
here.  Dave Walkers's posts on this subject have been characteristic of his style: factual, humorous and gentle. 

The anonymous blog Asingleblog's Weblog
provides further information as well as a a prayer for Stephen Jeynes, the manager of the Worcester shop who took his own life. My husband and I talked to Stephen in the shop about a month before he died. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Further words fail me in the face of what has been a terrible tragedy for many people.

18 July 2008

She's Her Own Blogger Now

Speaking of Methodist bloggers, I see that Ruby Beech is now blogging over at A good woman's price is far above rubies.

17 July 2008

The President Blogs

The new President of Methodist Conference, Stephen Poxon, has posted the first blog of his Presidency: At Last!.

I'm under the impression that Stephen and Vice President David Walton are new to blogging, so howz about going and encouraging them with a comment?

12 July 2008

How to Comment / Blogging Policy

How to Comment

There are two ways to comment on my blog if you don't have a 'Blogger' account and don't want to have one.

1) The simplest way is to go to the bottom of a post and look for the link to 'Post a Comment'. You will be given a comment box where you can write your comment. Choosing 'Anonymous' is the most straightforward way to comment but you will need to type the letters of the 'Word Verification' in the box. This to to prevent automated SPAM commenting. I'd appreciate it if you felt able to use either your first name (e.g. 'Howard') or give yourself a pseudonym (e.g. 'Good Girl'); however, this is not mandatory.

2) Another way to comment without having a 'Blogger' account is to choose to post using a name or URL. Here you can give yourself a name: either a real name or a pseudonym.

My Policy on Commenting

1) First of all, I reserve the right to be the supreme judge and Grand Poobah when it comes to making decisions about removing posts. No point arguing with me. This is my blog and I reserve editorial rights.

2) That said, I will normally allow all comments that address the substance of an issue and which do not attack a person or persons.

3) I will not normally remove posts that disagree with my views but I reserve the right to decide what is and what is not a personal attack. I also reserve the right to make a judgement call about repetitive posts if a conversation is not advancing; there is a point beyond which I will lose patience with fisking and repetition.

4) I will normally not enable the comment approval function unless I plan on being away from my computer. Because I'm not particularly organised, I reserve the right to initiate the comment approval function without notice. Again, no point arguing with me; it's my blog.

5) All posts of an explicitly sexual or violent nature will be removed immediately and legal steps taken, where indicated.

11 July 2008

A Testimony of Hope

I hope that this is not an inappropriate post, but I trust that it is not from what I knew of my cyber-friend.

Read for yourself
an inspiring testimony in the face of death.

I never met Delle in person although I spoke to her on the phone once. We met on a Christian discussion group: Delle, a gifted writer and an inspiring preacher. A Roman-Catholic, African-American lay-woman whose priest allowed her to exercise her God-given gift in the pulpit despite a proscription against lay preachers.

Back in 2003, I worked on a preaching journal and I thought that Delle would make an inspiring contributor. She did. This publication paid a small honorarium to its contributors and I decided to write Delle a personal cheque in American dollars. Sadly, that's how I found out about her death: she'd never cashed the cheque and it was returned to me by post by her executor. 

Delle's PS in the face of death: "Remember, brothers and sisters, either we believe in eternal life or we don't."  Knowing her from her writing, I feel that this was not a strident demand for orthodoxy but rather a gracious and joyful expression of hope.

Rest in peace, Delle, and I can't wait to see what sorts of things you'll be getting up to in The Kingdom when we meet again.

09 July 2008


Along with four other ordinands who were trained at Wesley House, I was ordained as a Presbyter '..of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ' at 4:30 on Sunday the 6th of July 2008 at Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley. Past President of Conference Ian White presided and past President of Conference Inderjit Bhogal preached. For those who know Inderjit Bhogal, it was hardly surprising that he preached on justice, inclusivity and interfaith dialogue: a message that my non-church going husband appreciated very much.

One of the scariest bits of the ordination service for the ordinands comes early in the service when the congregation is told to declare 'they are worthy'. This is something that is hard to hear because, of course, no individual is 'worthy' of any kind of ministry in and of themselves, but only through the grace of Christ. This sounds overly-pious as I write it, but one thing that came home to me on the retreat is my own inadequacy for this office and how much I genuinely need to rely on the grace and power of God in order to serve God and my neighbour.

The laying on of hands happened after the sermon and the recitation of the Nicene Creed and before the prayers of intercession and communion. We were asked to declare our lifelong commitment to ordained ministry, to affirm scripture as revealing all things necessary for salvation through Jesus Christ, to affirm that we believe in the doctrines of the Christian Church, that we accept the discipline of 'this church' and that we will be faithful in worship, prayer and in receiving Holy Communion.

I was officially ordained by past President of Conference Ian White - who represents the entire Connexion in this service. I had hands laid on me by a Bolivian bishop and my assisting minister and friend, Mark. Hands were laid on the five of us whilst we knelt and it was done carefully and thoughtfully - not a rushed job! I had my eyes closed, but it was a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Perhaps the most special bit was the fact that, after having hands laid upon me, Ian White put his hand on my shoulder and said 'Bless you' as a father might have done to a beloved daughter; it felt very personal and warm.

Following the laying on of hands, close friends and family of each ordinand came up to the communion rail and took communion with 'their' ordinand; this was also very special.

As you might expect at a Methodist service, there was lots of rousing hymn-singing. The traditional ordination hymns as laid out in The Methodist Worship Book were sung as well as a number of more contemporary hymns and songs during the distribution of communion. My two Roman Catholic friends who attended the ordination had not heard of the Methodist reputation for hymn-singing and were somewhat surprised - albeit pleasantly, I think.

Just like the service of Reception into Full Connexion, this was a very special service. The whole day felt joyful and perfect and, personally, I enjoyed having the two very different sorts of services.

(I have posted photographs of both the Reception into Full Connexion and the Ordination on the 'web but I don't want to give a link here. Please email me and I will send you the URL for the photos.)

Reception into Full Connexion

Getting right to the point, the service of Reception into Full Connexion on Sunday the 6th of July was wonderful and joyous.

Someone said to me about a week earlier that they had not thought about the impact of 'Reception into Full Connexion' on their ordination day and that the service had come as something of a surprise emotionally. I think for that reason I was assuming that it would be an important service and it was.

Conference attendees, along with family and friends of the ordinands, assembled in the main hall at Scarborough Spa before the service whilst those being accepted into full connexion gathered upstairs for prayers and last minute instructions. In addition to the presbyteral and diaconal ordinands, there were a number of ministers from other Christian churches (mainly but not always Methodist Churches abroad) who had already been ordained and were being accepted as ministers in full connexion with the British Methodist Church.

The reception was done in the context of a Service of the Word which was also the official Opening Service of Conference. The new Vice President of Conference, David Walton, gave the sermon on the topic of 'Choose Life'. It was a grace-filled sermon covering many aspects of what 'life' means to different individuals in different contexts and also dealt with the themes of grace and inclusivity.

I wish I had the text of the promises we made, but the general gist was that we accept the doctrines and disciplines of the Methodist Church and that we promise to be faithful disciples and servants of Christ and of his Church.

This was the last time that all the ordinands were together.  In the afternoon, we were ordained in groups of between 5 and 11 ordinands at different churches;  we were grouped according to our training institutions.  Some people of other traditions might see this service as somewhat redundant or unnecessary, but for me it expressed the fact that we are a national church where individuals are 'connected' to each other and not just lone congregations and individuals doing our own thing.  This 'connected-ness' is one of the things I'm passionate about in our ecclesiology (Yes, I'm passionate about Methodist ecclesiology - call me odd!)

(I have posted photographs of both the Reception into Full Connexion and the Ordination on the 'web but I don't want to give a link here.  Please email me and I will send you the URL for the photos.)

02 July 2008

Durham Retreat 2

Today we had a morning of silence from about 10:00 am until lunch time at 12:30. I went out for a walk on my own and took some nice photos of the countryside. It was supposed to rain today but it didn't and the weather was - to my mind - perfect for walking.

Then I accidentally went to Mass at 12:00 in St. Cuthbert's Chapel (second picture above). I thought I'd go pray there for a bit and I arrived just as the priest was walking in. It seemed like the best course of action to join in! I didn't take communion as the centre obviously knows that they have a bunch of Methodist ministers this week and I didn't want to put the priest in an awkward position. There were only three other people there besides the priest: two sisters from the resident community and a deacon. A sister and the deacon greeted me warmly afterwards and we talked a bit.

Otherwise, the day held some surprises/challenges, particularly in the evening when I was put out of my comfort zone three times. I went up for anointing at our communion service. Something I'm uncomfortable with because I don't like going up to bare my feelings to people I don't know well and then get prayed at for two minutes; somehow it seems contrived to me. I felt that God told me 'Just say you've come up because you're out of your comfort zone and just receive what I have to give you.' So I did. (Please note that this paragraph is a personal reflection about my feelings and not a theological reflection on how anyone 'should' or 'must' think or feel.)

01 July 2008

Durham Retreat 1

Thought I'd post two photos and a few thoughts. (I know I don't usually post personal stuff, but hey, it's my blog! *grin*)

Along with a number of other ordinands, I'm here at Ushaw College for a retreat before our ordination in Scarborough on Sunday. Above are some photos of Durham Cathedral from the outside (no photography allowed inside) and of Ushaw College where we are staying.

A recurring theme for me during this retreat seems to be Psalm 139. My prayer group has been praying through this psalm for about the last month. I and another woman have sometimes found it challenging because, for those of us who grew up in authoritarian church structures, this psalm is often used as a threat, rather like George Orwell's 1984 television screen that spies into people's homes to make sure that they are thinking and behaving properly.

I have, however, been finding both consolation and challenge in this Psalm and it was used again today by one of our retreat leaders. I prayed through the psalm again on my own this evening using the 'Common Worship' translation. I was hit by the first part of verse 2: 'You mark out my journeys and my resting places'.