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Liberal Methodists seek like-minded individuals for possible relationship

The liberals of the Methodist Church have some questions to ask. Such as: how many liberals are out there these days? Do they want to get together to form a group within the NZ Methodist Connexion? And what is a liberal anyway?

These issues were a hot topic of discussion for the Auckland Synod’s email chatroom late last year. Now some who took part in the on-line discussions want to expand the conversation to see if there is enough initiative in the wider church to get some sort of movement off the ground.

Eric Laurenson is the initiator and monitor of the Auckland-based chatroom. Eric says the term liberal has a number of meanings. One is the general meaning of someone who is open-minded about the ideas of others and willing to agree to disagree. Another is the political meaning of liberal, which can include those to the left of center but might be more accurately described as social democrat.

“I think we are using the term in both ways. We don’t want to split the Church down the middle along the lines of conservatives versus liberal. Anyone who is willing to respect other people’s opinions can call themselves liberal.

“That doesn’t mean liberals let it all hang out and accept everything. There have been a number of social issues that have defined liberals over the years. Recently this has been attitudes toward gay and lesbian people.

“During the Vietnam war, the Church went through serious debates about war and peace before it came out in a left-wing position. Today I think the liberals don’t have the confidence to debate serious issues through to a conclusion because they are too scared of losing another section of the Church. But if we simply accommodate everyone for the sake of unity what is the value of that unity?”

Eric believes the greatest issues facing the church today are theological. New ways of conceiving the nature of Jesus and Christianity have been developed but they have not yet found expression in the Church.

“There have been no significant concessions to those voices who discuss Jesus in a different way than as a historic icon to whom one must pay absolute respect. In some ways these issues are more important than social issues because they shape how we view other people and other faiths,” he says.

Currently Eric and fellow liberals are asking for expressions of interest from others linked to the Methodist Connexion who see themselves as liberal and would welcome the opportunity to make contact with others of a similar “open and enquiring outlook”.

The most likely scenario is a meeting during Conference in Wellington this November. This could be followed by setting up an email chatroom. For further information or to be placed on a contact list, contact laurensonarch@xtra.co.nz.