…but you are allowed to love!

The annual meeting of the Executive Committee of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe (CC CSE) took place from March 13-16, 2014, in Sofia. Part of this gathering was the first «Theme Day», where the participants from eleven countries shared their experiences and challenges in regard to the concrete participation of the church in God’s mission.

In March 2013, the Central Conference had adopted a new functioning – with a smaller Executive Committee, a reduced meeting time, and the introduction of a «Theme Day» in order to have a forum for a thorough conversation on a current challenge. One year later – supported by a loving Bulgarian hospitality – first experience with this new functioning could be gathered.

On the first two days, the participants focused on the reports of the working groups:

- At the request of the Working Group Liturgy it was decided to conduct a broad survey aiming to get to know the diversity of worship cultures throughout the CC CSE and simultaneously to identify essential characteristics of Methodist worship. During the coming years the working group will use the findings as a basis for generating proposals how the Central Conference can support the practice of worship and influence its continuing development – not least in regard to people without any religious affiliation.
- In the area of «Church and Society», a revised German version of the Social Principles was adopted, taking into consideration the changes agreed on by the 2012 General Conference.
- In regard to the report of the Working Group Children and Youth, there were particularly some very positive comments on the successful YouthMeeting (YouMe) 2013. Hope was expressed that such a gathering would take place again in the near future. Such events on European level might also be a good foundation for a next step: a commitment on a global level, for instance as participant in the Global Convocation (which will in 2014 take place in the Philippines).
- Svetlana Kömives-Francisti (SK) was elected new chairperson of the Working Group Women’s Work.
- In October 2014, the CC CSE will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Against this background, it was agreed to prepare another (extended) devotional booklet for the time from the first Advent in 2014 to the Orthodox Christmas in early 2015. Additionally, the idea was approved to have at least 60 local churches, which will – in pairs – «visit» each other on October 19, 2014. These can be musical, visual, culinary, electronic, personal, etc. «encounters» – there is much space for creativity. Finally, articles related to the anniversary, which will be published in the magazine «Kirche + Welt» (UMC in Switzerland), shall also be translated and published in other magazines of the CC CSE.

The «Theme Day» on Saturday, March 15, 2014, focused on mission. It was a great opportunity to follow-up on some discussions of the previous meeting days. 13 country reports gave an insight into some encouraging and positive experiences. But the representatives of the various countries were honest enough not to withhold the challenges. In reflecting on biblical texts and various Methodist statements it became clear again and again that it is God's mission, in which the churches of the CC CSE are participating. It is not their own idea. And mission sometimes requires courageous and confiding actions. On the other hand, mission can also mean – with the same courage and confidence – to be simply present in the conflicts of our time and in the many situations where relations are on the rocks. The testimony from Tunisia, where Christians are not allowed to evangelize, but where they still may love and serve the people, was a very special example of this reality.

The «Theme Day» 2015 will again deal with mission – especially in regard to the marginalized, i.e. people living on the margins of society. It will, among others, be important not to fail to notice what it means for witness and service of the CC CSE that Christians are actually no longer «mainstream», and that they can therefore no longer look with a certain pride to the ones living on the margins of society – because Christians themselves belong to the marginalized in the present day and age.

Source: Urs Schweizer , Assistant to the Bishop Patrick Streiff , Zurich
Date: March 19, 2014