The morning started out with communion. One of the wonderful things about conference is their intentionality about making prayer and worship interweave through the business. All the worship has been well-done and hasn’t been sidelined even with all the business. Special thanks to Mickey Youngson for organising. VP Eunice Attwood was the preacher and I may have to become a self-proclaimed Eunice Attwood groupie, but I doubt my superintendent would let me off. Eunice is fantastic, and I am going to mark my calendar with the dates she’s coming to Lancashire.
Lots of business with lots of discussion. Despite the pleas of the business committee chairman to keep speeches short, affirm what is said silently, and not to repeat, conference has largely ignored the poor man. We voted to send the resolutions regarding the changes to the presidency to be talked about in synods. The new hymnal passed with largely without any problems (it was going to happen). And there was lots of other business needing to get out of the way. There were, however, two resolutions that were quite controversial.
The first, and biggest, was the proposal to close Wesley College in Bristol. The college has run into financial difficulty and connexional committees did not see a plan working. A group from Wesley and Bristol had put together a plan to save it (in part with help from the Baptist), but most felt it wasn’t viable. The most remarkable thing was the emotional pulling from many supporters, including the campaign outside with the tagline ‘Justice for Wesley College’. One tweeter remarked, Justice is for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.. not for bricks and mortar!’ It was eery as supporters silently stood outside in a circle with their t-shirts with that slogan on it. In the end, conference voted to close Wesley College.
The second big item, while it didn’t play out as much on the conference floor, was the resolution to support justice for Palestine. There has been a lot of media attention on this, and the chief Rabbi and other leaders of the Council of Christians and Jews have condemned it. Twitter was alive and a glance at the #methconf hashtag gives the views of many who believe the report inaccurate. Many in The Methodist Church have wanted to find ways to support Palestine in the hostile environment. The report condemns Israel’s treatment of Palestine and goes on to say that the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza blockade are unlawful. These are issues mired in difficulties. The report, which I supported because I believe we need to support the Palestinians, did not go far enough in condemning those who wish to destroy Israel. The report DID support an Israeli state. No one denied Israel has a right to exist. What this will do for Methodist-Jewish relations, I don’t know. I am a little nonplussed that many would take the report of one of the smaller Christian churches so seriously. Maybe we have more influence than I thought. In addition to supporting the report, Conference voted to boycott goods from Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, for which I did not vote. Boycotts in this situation will likely hurt the people we are tying to help. It passed, but with less majority than others. I guess we will see what the fallout will be. I do hope that even has we support the Palestinians (and especially our brother and sister Christians there), we will still be able to offer a prophetic word to the terrorism that also goes on there.
So ends the final full day of Methodist Conference. Actually, it wasn’t. I haven’t blogged about the fringe events I have attended the last two nights (Methodist Sacramental Fellowship and Inspire). I will hopefully get around to it, but these posts have been long enough.