THE two top officials of the World Methodist Council (WMC) have written a New Year’s message to Methodists all over the world.
The Rev Dr John Barrett and the Rev Dr George Freeman, Chairman and General Secretary respectively of the WMC, write: “We have just celebrated Christmas, the annual remembrance of the birth of the One who is called the Prince of Peace. Within our families, within our communities, and nationally and internationally, this has been taken as the opportunity to send messages of hope and peace for the New Year.
“We have echoed the angels’ message of peace and goodwill to all. Yet peace appears to be as illusive as ever. There is continuing tension in the Middle East, there is violence and the persecution of minorities in parts of Asia, there is desperate civil war and famine in parts of Africa, and throughout the world there are increased terrorist threats. Are these hopes of peace just empty words?”
The Christian hope is that despite human foolishness and sin, God remains ultimately in control; “that nothing can separate us from His active love for us; that He is able to transform even the worst that can happen into good and blesses the work of peacemakers; and that, in the end, God’s Kingdom of love and peace will come – on earth as in heaven. The basis for this hope is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Him, supremely, God shows His power and His love.
“So we can pray for peace with confidence. If our prayers are half hearted, we deny our faith. If we pray only for the end of violence and war, and not also for an end to hunger, poverty, injustice and oppression, we are failing to share God’s longing for wholeness for His people.
“But peace should be lived and not just prayed for. It should be expressed in deeds and not just in words. The challenge of the Gospel is to accept the love God has shown us in Christ, and to live redeemed lives in a new relationship with God and with all His children.” Methodists follow in the tradition of John Wesley, who understood that the response that Christ demands is one which involves not only love for God, but love for all who are in need. Wesley urged his followers to seek holiness of heart and life, the transformation of the whole person through God’s spirit.
“The world Methodist family of nearly 80 million people is potentially a mighty force for peace in the world,” write the two WMC leaders.
“Just imagine what God could do in His world with 80 million people who wee completely committed to Him. At a time when many Methodists traditionally renew their Covenant with God, seeking that ‘His will, not ours, be done in all things’, we urge all Methodists to renew their commitment to Christ, to allow the Holy Spirit to transform their lives and to seek to be more effective ambassadors of peace and reconciliation in every context in which they find themselves.”