The Faith and Order Conference started yesterday with refreshments in the dining area. In addition to two of my colleagues from the Lancashire District (Bev and Mark), I have seen a few faces from Conference that I met over the summer. Still, lots of people I don’t know and hopefully get to meet.
The conference is taking the theme, “What is Arminianism in the 21st Century?” Methodist historian Martin Wellings opened the conference with his keynote address reminding us about what exactly Arminianism is. I hadn’t given it much thought, but Arminianism isn’t a word that I come across much. How does it inform what we believe and how do we put it into practice? He mentioned the recent new hymnal and how what we believe needs to guide what goes in, in particular since our hymns carry on what we say about our faith. He took umbrage with the song “All Are Welcome in This Place” as a song that borders on speaking too much on universalism, but the major problem is that it speaks of a God who wants you to come as you are and stay as you are. This isn’t Wesleyan. I enjoyed the talk, partly because I agreed with him about straying from these Wesleyan roots, but it was also like ‘Old Home Week’ with the return to my Methodism classes at Duke.
After dinner, we had a choice of ‘media led theological reflection’. One was on Star Wars (led by David Wilkinson) and another on U2 and the Psalms led by Richard Briggs. The subject matter in the former interested me more, but I met Richard Briggs last year when I took the class with N. T. Wright. I enjoyed it, but I am not enough of a U2 fan too truly appreciate it. I am enough of Walter Brueggeman fan to appreciate how Richard took Brueggeman’s pattern for the Psalms and showed how U2 fits it. The 80s were U2 in Orientation, the 90s, Disorientation, and 00s in Re-orientation. Stage 1 is falling in love with God; stage 2 finding that it’s not always what we want it to be with God (in the Psalms, the calls for God to wake up); and stage 3 coming back to God – different from stage 1, but coming back to love him.
So, now it is on to day 2. This is a full day with lots more to reflect on!