Well, what a couple of days! Yesterday (day 2) was a long day, business started at half past 8 in the morning and finished just after half 9 in the evening! We did have a couple of tea breaks, and stop for lunch and dinner too, but very long heavy day discussing the new constitution. After which a number of people felt the need to unwind, so I had some informative discussions in the bar. This hopefully explains why this blog is for yesterday and today, I was far too tired yesterday!
As I said in a previous blog, I do wish this to be personal reflections of my experience, rather than an account of what happened. However, I will try and keep some sort of account for you. As such, much of the Council's time has been taken up by the Constitution changes. I am helpfully told that this new constitution will improve the working of the Council, so it is important work. Unfortunately the handling of it does has not reflected well on the staff of the WMC and has highlighted for me some of the short comings of the Council. It has also demonstrated to me how diverse we are.
The Council meets under the name of Methodism (Or the Wesleyan tradition) but we should all hold similar core beliefs, having come from the same man, or movement. It is abundantly clear to me how different we are, even though we should have very similar beliefs, doctrines and theology. Similarly, the Council and the debates over the constitution have highlighted how different words have different meanings and connotations to different cultures. Taking this into consideration, it is now easier to see how international conflicts can develop out of something seeming so small, or how we get tension between different cultures living in the same areas.
But it is not just words or beliefs that can cause problems. History plays a big part in the feelings of some members of Council. It is interesting to see how people feel about issues that we think have been sorted out. I am sure many people will know of the oppression of Black people throughout the whole world. Perhaps the most well known countries for this were the USA and South Africa. There is still a lot of healing that needs to be done over race as there are still bitter feelings. I believe quite rightly so. I am not quite so sure that some members have expressed this correctly, but that is my own view. I am not sure that we can operate effectively as a Council until we can all appreciate and help with these issues.
I find it interesting being in South Africa, and I have already made comment in an earlier posting about the poverty levels. However, having experienced a bit more, it is clear there are still some sort of class issues. I have not seen one white person in a 'working class' job, I have not seen one person begging, or in some state of poverty. I am sure there probably are, but I would guess they are rare cases. There is still a bad attitude from some Whites. It was interesting to walk along the promenade on Sunday evening, and see a multi cultural city, but with limited interaction between races. It felt relaxed, and it is only upon reflection and speaking with others that I can see still lots of progress to be made.
It is clear from some members of council that this is not something that in limited to South Africa, but something that members from the USA often feel too.
One question I have found myself asking these past few days has been What am I doing here? I am part of an unusual Council where the constitution is proposed to change, but because this has taken large amounts of debate time, there has been less time to hear and engage with the work of God through the WMC. For instance, today should have included reports from all the Standing Committees (basically sub committees who look at the work of the Council in specific areas), but due to the constitution debates, these got shrunk. We did hear from the, but in considerably less time.
It is my view that this wasn't necessarily bad, but we did seem to loose a lot of the God focus we should have had. However, the Youth and Young Adults Committee (looking after those under 35) was a fantastic report. It told the Council what it had done, and included a video from the International Young Leaders Seminar the few days preceding the Council, which looked fantastic! The report also told the Council what the young people wanted, and would, do. (Details to follow)
On the other hand, I was ashamed to be a Methodist Man today. The World Fellowship of Methodist and Uniting Church Men presented a their report, which focused on a Stop the Hunger campaign. There is nothing wrong with this at all. It was all in the presentation, and the fact the Women's counterpart has been looking at this and more for over 5 years! The President of the WFMUCM is American, and unfortunately presented this in a very American macho way, including reference to flying a fight jet, and World War. Whereas I do agree famine is awful, and should have as many resources thrown at it as if it "were a World War that we have to win". I am uncomfortable with such militant language. The suggestion is however, to fast 1 meal a week, and to use that time to pray to God about those less fortunate, and give the money you would have spent on that meal so that someone else may eat that day. Great idea, poorly presented, did not feel proud of WFMUCM.
But I will come back to the youth. We had a great meeting of all young people affiliated with the Council who are in Durban. There were around 35-40 young adults in the evening session, where we enjoyed a few games to get to know each other, a time of planning the Youth and Young Adults report to the World Conference (which involved singing) and sharing food and conversation together.
I am looking forward very much to the Conference which stars tomorrow, and hearing of God's work both throughout the world, and locally back home. I leave you with the bible passage the Youth and Young Adults have based their work of the last 5 years around
"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."
Blessings from Durban xx