Methodist Church in Britain, The United Methodist Church hail Concordat Ministry

By Jean Hawxhurst

The United Methodist Church honors four “concordat” relationships, which were begun in 1968 when our denomination was founded.  Those relationships are with:
  1. The Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas,
  2. the Methodist Church in Great Britain,
  3. the Methodist Church in Mexico and
  4. the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico. 
Each of these churches send delegates with both voice and vote to our General Conference, just as we send similar delegates to theirs. 
These concordat relationships call for shared ministry and witness, and over the years several ministries around the world have been shared.  In particular, the Methodist Church in Britain (MCB) and The United Methodist Church (UMC) have led jointly through pulpit exchanges, higher education, women’s ministries and mission. A few years ago, leaders in both communions voiced a desire to have a stronger connection, and the “MCB-UMC Concordat Group” was formed. 
In 2018 about 50 leaders from both communions gathered together for worship, fellowship and visioning in London’s Central Hall.  A general outline of ideas was created for deeper joint ministry.  The next year a smaller group of six representatives (plus staff and historians) from each communion met again in London.  During this meeting they honed the vision to three areas of mutual work: climate justice, migrant diaspora ministry and joint theology.  Because of the COVID pandemic the group met online in 2020 and 2021 and were able to make great progress. 
The climate justice sub-group worked with a grant received by the MCB to support a group of young Methodists from several different regions, who created resources to teach about how climate change is affecting people around the world.  They also used their voices at the COP26 to call for climate justice.
The migrant diaspora group collected case studies from around the world from churches serving as hosts to new migrant worshipping groups and from those migrant groups who left their home countries and found each other in their new homes.  Rev. John Calhoun of the English-speaking Methodist Church in Vienna helped to collate those case studies into nameable observations, then the group created a document of principles to help guide host churches and migrant groups as they come together to create new community.  This document will be shared with the Council of Bishops at their next meeting.
The sub-group working on joint theology has held several interesting discussions about our shared theology, visioning for the future and how to more widely share the blessings of our Methodist inheritance. 
The full Concordat Group recently met again for their annual gathering.  While they had hoped to be able to meet in-person, they decided to meet online one more year.  The group met two hours each day on March 16, 17 and 18, beginning with devotion and moving into conversation and planning. 
Dr. Martyn Atkins presented his thoughts on Paul Ricoeur’s concept of a “second naiveté,” explaining that this is “an openness, a risk-taking, a self-giving receptivity to wonder and awe, awareness and acceptance of truths that are unconfined to definitions permitted by modern science etc. And that in that lies richness of life, hope, faith worth and purpose.”
Bishop Ken Carter responded to those ideas by pulling them into our work together as concordat communions.  He likened it to the wisdom of a seasoned, mature Christian who has moved into a post-critical stage.  While the mature Christian still offers healthy critique of systems and institutions, she also moves past suspicion into offering grace for the other and to a foundation based on awe of God. 
Two sub-groups were created for the next five years of work together.  Joint ministry will continue in the area of climate justice, with foci on young adults and global engagement.  A “Why Methodism?” sub-group will continue looking at shared theology and getting out the message of Methodism. 
Time was also given to visioning what the relationship between the two communions might look like as we move forward together.  A smaller group will meet to continue talking about possibilities.  The full group hopes to meet again in person in 2023 in the USA.