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John Wesley rides again

By Elaine Bolitho

John Wesley rode into Waikanae on May 27th to address 160 members of the Vision Network Congress 05. Local people too were drawn by the news of his presence. The man from Aldersgate who said "The world is my parish," captivated his audience for 90 minutes, recounting his life and travels. Once again he brought the powerful message that salvation is by grace alone, received through repentance and faith, and the Holy Spirit empowers lives today – just as Wesley himself was empowered.

Presenting Wesley live has been the ministry of actor Roger Nelson for 26 years in 32 countries. For 13 years he has also portrayed St Patrick live by presenting his Confessions.

Congress members appreciated this too, glimpsing the rich heritage and history drawn on by the churches. Roger also talked about his work at Congress 'substream' meetings looking at ways today's churches can use the arts to communicate God's news.

The format of 'streams' and 'substreams' was inspired by the image of a braided waterfall flowing together in unity – an image reinforced by people from Roman Catholic and diverse Protestant Churches, educational, ecumenical and mission groups working together. Seven Methodist participants, including the president and vice president, took part in the programme. Seventeen 'substreams' and eight practical workshops covering aspects of theology and mission, church renewal and transforming society made up the 'micro' aspect of Congress. These small groups complemented the 'macro' picture gained through shared worship, conversations and leaders' addresses.

Principal of Carey Baptist College Paul Windsor pointed out the need to better reflect both the character of Christ in grace and truth and the command of Christ to be salt and light. Each church can learn from those who highlight different aspects of this challenging combination.

In his address Moderator of New Zealand's Presbyterian Church, the Very Rev Garry Marquand, shared his vision for Christian co-operation and consultation rather than competition and announcing independently planned ventures.

"Is there not a fundamental unity in faith? Surely there is a core vision in common? Can we not engage in the practice of mission out of that unity and reality?

“Is there not a compassion for those outside of the Christian faith and life, and outside the community of faith, that could take us beyond being so concerned about ourselves.

Is there not an imperative to be good stewards of Kingdom resources?"

It was agreed that Vision Network will continue to encourage work on theology and mission, church renewal and transforming society, that the fifth Congress will meet in March 2008 and, in the final words of affirmation in Congress 05's 13-point statement:

"We affirm that the values of the Christian tradition provide the best basis for the development of a healthy New Zealand – a nation that is compassionate and caring, offering to all support and opportunity, shelter and freedom, resources and vision.

“As Christian leaders we would encourage all Christians in New Zealand to work that these vital values of the Christian tradition are widespread in the leadership, institutions and structures of New Zealand."