New Methodist President Challenges Church to Rediscover its Calling

The new President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev Martyn Atkins, has challenged the Methodist Church to rediscover its calling to bring people to Christ, as he set out renewal as one of the major priorities for the coming year.

Rev Atkins was sworn in as President at last week's Methodist Conference in Blackpool. In his first address to Conference, Rev Atkins told Methodists that God was the "supreme missionary and evangelist" as he reminded them that the Church was created to share God's mission "to restore and renew all things".

"Sharing God's mission then, is the Church's core reason for being, its true calling. Church defined in this way never finds itself by looking in on itself, but by pouring itself out, like its Lord," he told Conference delegates.

Rev Atkins added that when the Church is missionary and evangelistic, "it is never more truly being itself, and when it is not, it is never more 'unlike' its true self.

"Being Spirit-led, Christ-centred and God-filled are not, for me, optional extras for those who 'like that sort of thing'. Rather they are defining characteristics."

He went on to reaffirm fresh expressions of church as one of the Methodist Church's top priorities, saying they were "perfectly normal and to be welcomed".

"The time to worry is when fresh expressions are not springing up all around us, rather then when they are," he said.

"Even if we have some unease - as I do - we should proceed apace with new ways of being Church, working out our issues as we enable their emergence, rather than kicking them into the long grass until we've got it all sorted."

Rev Atkins concluded with a call to Methodists to commit to renewal.

"Christians can - and must - pray fervently for the renewal of God: renewal of the world, of our society and communities, our churches and ourselves. We must anticipate and prepare for it, in faith and hope, and lay our lives and the lives of our churches open to God, without whose renewal all else is ultimately empty."

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