Letter from General Secretary

August 2018

The Methodist Church

The Revd Canon Gareth J Powell

Secretary of the Conference

Email:  SoC@methodistchurch.org.uk


Sisters and brothers in Christ,


Perhaps the poet Mary Oliver offers Methodists, setting out on another year, something of a challenge:


   Three Things To Remember


   As long as you’re dancing, you can

   break the rules.


   Sometimes breaking the rules is just

   extending the rules.


   Sometimes there are no rules.  [A Thousand Mornings 2012]


From the safe distance of one who has no dancing ability I do all the same understand that if you are at least part of the dance then you have some degree of credibility.  However faltering the steps (and on occasions there are steps that unintentionally bring pain to others), it is hard to muster the same level of awareness if you merely stand and watch, sitting it out as if the movement is optional or belongs to others.  Observers, of course, have an important role to play.  A little beyond the fray, seeing from a different perspective and offering insights that you just cannot have if you are concentrating on the intricate moves of the dance. Yet, there are no mere observers in the Gospel.  You are called, and our calling to an immersion in the life of Christ at once makes us participants.  Both the intricate detail of the path to Christian perfection and the wider world in which that striving takes place are our concern and our delight.  There is no standing back at the start of a new connexional year, wherever we minister.


Inevitably, we find ourselves engaged in intricate conversations.  As we saw at the Conference, we hold passionate views on understandings of marriage and relationships and that conversation will need careful attention.  Some hold firmly to long held views, others have formed new views, and others still are engaged in questioning.  Our engagement with the issues has been brought about primarily because of a change in statutory legislation, a dance you may say that was not of our making.  Yet our comment, our wrestling, is anything but statutory; it is part of our expression of what we believe about God, and how God creates humankind.  The pension reserve fund business attracted less interest but our use of resources is equally a conversation about how we live in light of what we know of God.  This applies to the Conference and the Church Council.



To participate in the ever-challenging dance of knowing more of God disturbs us from compliancy and even good Methodist order.  Thankfully, there is a place for holy subversion as there is for bold, holy challenge of norms and systems.  Sometimes we just have to challenge the rules; at other times we simply undertake less heroic acts of bending the rules, but only ever focused on the nature of God.  This is when we are at our most faithful, forming and reforming both a personal discipline as well as patterns of connexional life.  



Inevitably, the application of the poem has its limits.  There is always one rule; the rule of love that gives identity to our being an evangelistic community of love.  We must hold fast to the one constant rule of the love of God revealed in Christ calling us to participate.  It is only when we are immersed in that that we see the rules for what they are – and make anew a pattern for holy living.  It is there that the rules are challenged.  It is there, coming face to face with God in the daily round of our tasks that we see the need to break the rules in order to enable new, positive, life-giving things to happen.  



So, we pray for one another and urge each other on in the dance, alert to the transformation of our faltering movements.  In the routine of a Methodist September and an ever-complex world we must be clear that there is always a rule and the one who calls us has planted it in our hearts.  When that is understood the nature of holy living has even greater possibilities.



With gratitude for our continued partnership in the Gospel,

Gareth J Powell

Secretary of the Conference

Saviour of my soul from sin,

Thou my kind preserver be;

‘Stablish what Thou didst begin;

Carry on Thy work in me.

All Thy faithful mercies shew;

Hold, and never let me go.


Never let me lose my peace,

Forfeit what Thy goodness gave;

Give it still, and still increase;

Save me, and persist to save.

Seal the grant conferred before;

Give Thy blessing evermore.


Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Intimate God,

Whose love is not tamed

and whose power does not crush,

you invite us to enter into the fullness of being,

give us courage to respond with our whole lives and to reach out and draw others into the dance,

that all may come to share in the fullness of life that you offer.  


Lotte Webb

The following ministers have died since my last letter to you:



Roger K Hensman





John M Adams

Keith Beecroft

John B Glover

Colin N Gooch

William Hewison

Ronald J Hockley

Allan Hughes

Christopher Kirkman

J Derrick Leach

Graham Leaman

Kenneth M Marsh

John S Stephens


Derek Thorpe

May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, and rise in glory.



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