Methodist Church

Reconciliation between nations: Church has vital role – Bishop

WORLD METHODIST CONFERENCE

METHODIST churches throughout the world have been reminded that they have an important role to play in seeking reconciliation between nations. And at times they can show far more creativity and courage than governments.

The Church could be a place where individual friendships across nations in conflict can join hands to create new stories, landscapes and futures. This is a significant contribution that the Church can make to work towards a more peaceful and reconciled world.

But the Church cannot do any of these without God’s grace. All its attempts must be infused with divine grace.

So saying, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon told 2,500 delegates at the 19th World Methodist Conference in Seoul on July 21: “We need grace to change our hearts. We need grace to repent and admit our guilt. We need grace to forgive others, and to receive forgiveness. We need grace to abandon stubborn pride and prejudices. We need grace to live in a new world.

“God must be behind all of this.” One of five keynote speakers at the conference, held once in five years, the Bishop was addressing the issue of “Reconciliation Among the Nations”.

He said reconciliation, as the Bible describes it, must be seen in relational terms. It has to do with the restoration of relationship.

For restoration to take place, there must be both repentance and forgiveness to complete the equation. One without the other will not result in true reconciliation. This is exemplified in the relationship between God and human beings.

“In our Wesleyan understanding, we believe that God had forgiven everyone through the death of Christ on the cross. But not everyone is reconciled with God because not everyone has repented of his sins. Therefore, we must see both the presence of forgiveness and repentance as essential to an experience of reconciliation.

“This reconciliation is the result of divine grace and human response to this grace. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that such reconciliation is achieved through Christ.”

Applied to nations, many a peace process is often “orphaned” because of the lack of the spiritual dimension and a deeper framework for reconciliation. In many instances, what is seen is a temporary truce, without the richness of reconciliation. People become frustrated with the absence of stable peace and no real solution in sight.

Said Bishop Dr Solomon: “We must be convinced that God is interested in all forms of reconciliation, including reconciliation between nations. The Gospel of Christ is essentially about reconciliation. It is therefore little wonder that the ministry of the Church is described as the ministry of reconciliation by Paul (2 Cor. 5:17-18).

“Reconciliation, therefore, is at the heart of the Gospel. Wesleyan theology is organised around the primary paradigm of salvation. It is therefore important that when we talk about reconciliation between nations, we should also understand this from the perspective of salvation – nothing less than that.

“God is saving us from sin so that we live with His freedom. He wants to heal us, bringing holiness and wholeness in our lives. The reconciliation between nations must be understood in this light.”

Earlier, the Bishop spoke about nationhood and how nations were formed, and basic thoughts for peacemaking.

Declaring that God “is certainly for a reconciled world”, he said in the end there would be a “wonderful mingling of people from every nation in the glorious presence of God” as revealed in Rev 7:9.

“There will be no more war and violence, death and tears. There will be peace – Shalom. This is a God-initiated, God-sustained enterprise. God is at it. And we are invited to cooperate. This eschatological vision must inspire us and give us hope.

“But there is a price to pay. The cross must remain central in this endeavour. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2 that Jesus is at the interstitial spaces between us. He stands at every frontline, wounded for us, urging us to be reconciled. He brings an end to enmity by bringing about reconciliation, first between us and God, and then between us.

“A price was paid. And sacrifice continues to be needed. We are, therefore, challenged to deny ourselves, to take up our crosses, and to follow our servant King.”

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WMC deplores loss of life in Middle East

THE 19th World Methodist Conference has approved a resolution acknowledging with deep regret and sadness that over the time of its gathering in Seoul in July, violence had escalated in the Middle East affecting particularly the peoples of Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.

The resolution reads: “We deplore the destruction and loss of life caused to innocent women, men and children, as well as property, especially in the regions of Lebanon, Palestine and North Israel.”

The World Methodist Council commits to “pray for peace, understanding and reconciliation for this region of God’s world”, and “adds its voice to that of the United Nations in calling for an immediate ceasefire by all parties involved in this conflict”.

The council commits itself to work closely with members of the worldwide ecumenical community to promote the need for greater and more effective diplomatic initiatives to replace the escalating tendency of employing military might to resolve the problems confronting many nations today.

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