The new President of the Methodist Conference has challenged Methodists to make their Church into a place in which people are welcomed as they are.
At the opening of the annual Methodist Conference in Plymouth, the Rev Dr Mark Wakelin said that God welcomes everyone and challenges everyone to change. The new Vice-President, Michael King, told a packed conference hall that welcoming strangers into the Church implied a willingness to be changed.
Giving his inaugural address, Mark Wakelin said, "One of my needs is a profound need to belong; to feel that somebody, somewhere knows who I am and cares. At different times through the Methodist Church I have experienced belonging."
Speaking of God's love and welcome, he added, "God loves you as you are, but too much to leave you that way. I am grateful to the Church that it has never believed that I have done my best. I have never believed that. Because the Church always has disquiet; a sense that there is more; there is yet more in you; there is more to come."
His new deputy, Michael King, said that within the context of creating disciples of Jesus, hospitality is powerful and that Methodists need to be prepared to be changed when welcoming people into their churches.
He insisted that Christianity is about following Jesus rather than obeying a set of rules or adhering to a philosophy.
“The hardest thing for many to accept is the role of change," said King. "Traditional leaders of the Church can find it difficult to enable the ‘guest’ to become the ‘host’."
He added, “The member from another country, the young person newly converted, the person whose lifestyle, or sexuality, or abilities, or impairments seem very different – how is it possible for them to minister to a fellowship that has become at ease with itself, or too comfortable with its own exclusive view of the world?”
He went to say that all discipleship depended on knowing, and seeing, who it is that people are following. “Let us be clear that we do not follow a philosophy, or a book of rules; we follow Jesus and we are in relationship with the Living God. If this Church regains confidence in Christ as its head, it will again become a movement of ‘world transforming’ disciples.”