The 2019 meeting of Austria Provisional Annual Conference took place from May 30 to June 2 in Graz. It was characterized by a reshaping: less time for receiving and approving reports, on the other hand more time for conferencing and for thematic work.
In 2018, the Annual Conference had commissioned a small group to prepare a proposal for a reshaping of the annual gathering. It was not only the aim to change the “meeting culture”, but also to provide for a better participation of the conference members and for a stronger impact on the local churches through impulses coming from the Annual Conference.
In 2021, several anniversaries will be celebrated (150 years of Methodist Church in Austria, 100 years of several local churches, 70 years of recognition by the State). These celebrations, however, will not only focus on the past but shall also include a brave view into the future. Therefore, the idea came up to work over the course of the next three years on the same questions that John Wesley had already asked the first Annual Conferences long time ago: What to teach? How to teach? And what to do? The Annual Conference will thus be on a triennial way characterized by the basic question: What kind of church do we want to be?
The reshaping of the Annual Conference had been prepared very well, and its implementation proved to be most helpful and valuable. The aim of the first theme “What to teach?” was, however, not to phrase doctrinal statements that would have to be preached, explained and shared in worship services and other gatherings throughout the next year. It was rather about more basic questions: How do we read the Bible? How do we understand and interpret the Bible? In what way can the Bible be source and guiding principle for Christian action and for the life of the Church today? Professor Dr. Jörg Barthel from the Methodist Reutlingen School Theology (Germany) offered a brilliant lecture as introduction to the theme, which was afterwards enlarged upon in discussion groups.
A tour of the various local churches revealed on the one hand a small increase of the number of professing members in 2018 and a remarkable increase of the number of baptized members in the same year. The also show a considerable increase in worship attendance – for the first time after several years of decrease. On the other hand, it was clearly stated that almost all local churches are struggling with their financial situation.
In the person of Dorothee Büürma, the UMC in Austria has a new pastor. Born in Germany and having served as pastor of the United Reformed Church near London throughout the past years, Dorothee Büürma will start her appointment at Salzburg UMC in September 2019.
Quelle: www.emk.at, Supt. Stefan Schröckenfuchs, Office of Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich (Switzerland)