German United Methodist bishop Harald Rückert reports on the recent European meeting of United Methodist leaders. His remarks reflect his #MyHope4Methodism. The original German version of his report can be found here. What follows is an English translation from UM & Global blogmaster David Scott.
Harald Rückert – Tension, Hesitation, and Hope
Bishop Rückert reports on the European meeting of the leaders of the UMC. In addition to collaboration and preparation, it was also about a “hot potato.”
At the beginning of December, the four European bishops of the UMC and around 50 District Superintendents met in the Hessian city of Braunfels. Harald Rückert, the presiding bishop of the UMC in Germany, shared his impressions:
It was a “colorful” group of people who came together for our annual Europe-wide meeting: from Scandinavia and the Baltic, from Southeast Europe and Russia, from Kyrgyzstan and Algeria, from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. For a whole day, we heard and considered examples of communities that opened themselves to their surroundings and bravely dared to do something new. Although our church in Europe numerically belongs to the “small churches,” it is in many places vital and significant for its surroundings. What a motivational boost! Impressive also were various projects in which, for the sake of our mission, unity was lived out in the midst of great differences; for example, the peace conference between Russian and Ukrainian Methodists, whose relationship was heavily strained because of the political enmity between their countries; or the collaboration of an established community with people on the margins of society. We can learn so much from one another.
Unity is stronger than division
Our “hot potato” was also embedded in the meetings: How do we as a church deal with the questions surrounding the issue of homosexuality? Since we Methodists in Europe have just as widely divergent views as the church worldwide, I went to Braunfels with a fearful heart. The opposing convictions and understandings seem so strong and unshakeable, so fundamental and deep-seated. Will they tear us apart? Will we stay together despite these differences? Tension was in the air. Hesitation to approach one another was palpable. I am still moved by how, over the course of these days, the atmosphere changed hour by hour. By the end, this conviction was clear: We belong together. We can help each other invite people to follow Jesus Christ to transform our world that is ripped apart.
Hope and courage
After this meeting, we still were not of one mind on homosexuality – as also on other questions. But that is not necessary to be one in Christ. We have by not discussed everything by a long way. Many more discussions will follow. How far will the impressions of this conference take us? That is not yet fully determined, but certain first steps have been taken. We listened with the firm intention of understanding one another a little bit better. Yet we have also noticed our totally different political, social, cultural, and religious contexts. But most of all, we have always drawn closer to God’s presence, studied the Bible, sung, and prayed. We have celebrated worship, been invited to the table of the Lord, and experienced one another anew as brothers and sisters. Unity in Jesus Christ is strong than that which would separate us. That gives me hope and courage.
Harald Rückert has been bishop of the UMC in Germany since May 2017. His office is in Frankfurt am Main. His email is bischofsbuero (at) emk.de.