Freedom is a gift that was given to us first by God. Through the work of Jesus we have been freed from the slavery of sin dead lives, adopted into God’s family, raised to be royalty, and employed in God’s family business. Do you know what the family business is? As it turns out, it is to invite others to be freed from their sin dead lives, to offer adoption into God’s family, to invite them to join us as we live lives together that are fit for royalty, and to offer them jobs in the family business. And what business it is that? Well, it is of course to extend the invitation to others…. and so it goes. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have not simply been set free FROM something (sin and death) we have been set free TO DO something (restoration projects and all kinds of good work). This understanding of Christ’s work and the tasks that naturally flow from that has been core to our existence as Free Methodists.
That is why I’m pumped that the theme for this General Conference is “Be Free!” I can’t think of a better invitation for the Free Methodist Church as we gather together to consider what our ongoing ministry and work in Canada looks like. If we are going to take time away to think meaningfully about our collective future together as a denomination in Canada we are going to need to set each other free. We are going to need to give each other freedom to name the tough realities our churches face. No glossing things over. No pulling punches. We are going to need to give each other the freedom to celebrate the hope we are seeing. No despising the days of small beginnings. No giving into fear and despair. We are going to need to give each other the freedom to pursue God in our neighbourhoods and contexts in new and unique ways. We are going to need to set each other free to continue developing faithful worshipping communities of Jesus followers that do whatever it takes to put the Good News within reach of our neighbours. No truncated gospels. No hiding in our churches. No half-hearted risk-taking.
The good news of course, especially for people with “free” right there in the name is that none of this will be new to us. We’ve had lots of practice offering each other freedom. “Free” has always been a part of how we’ve described ourselves. Freedom was a core practice for B.T. Roberts and the Methodists that birthed our movement. It has been a core value that makes steady appearances throughout our early history. It’s also been a steady value in our more recent history. Just as a point of fact, I was looking at one of the papers from SCOD that was presented at the first General Conference I had ever attended. In a document called The Defining Elements of a Methodist Ethos we adopted this maxim from Augustine, “In essentials unity… in non-essentials liberty… and in all things charity.” I was a newly minted church planter at the time. I will admit to coming to my first “Gen Con” unsure of what to make of these Free Methodist people. But I do remember hearing those words and thinking to myself, “If they are serious about that kind of freedom then I think these folks have a future. I also think that’s a future I’d like to be a part of.” Twenty years later I still haven’t changed my mind. If we still think that offering one another freedom through the tools of unity, liberty, and charity then I think we have a very bright future ahead. It’s still a future that I’d like to be a part of.
Director, Church Planter