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Ken's Letter for September

Dear Friends,

‘I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name. 3 John 13, 14

So writes the Apostle John to his friend and brother Gaius the Elder. All that is known of Gaius is that he was overseeing one of the churches that was in turn under John’s spiritual oversight. The main reason for writing appears to be to challenge the thinking and practice of another leader, Diotrephes, who was behaving in a manner contrary to the grace, hospitality and humility expected of a Christian minister. Diotrephes appeared to be holding court and building for himself an exclusive ministry, refusing to recognise John’s ministry over him, turning away travelling missionaries, and even putting out of the church those who disagreed with him. This had to be challenged as it was already leading to nonsensical accusations against John, out of step with Christian conduct, and that far removed from the truth of the actual character and ministry of the apostle. This is the meaning of ‘prating against’ in v 10. Mavericks can be hugely effective in ministry but if they are shot through with character flaws as Diotrephes was then extremes of leadership and even heresies can be the outcome. Happily, we are protected from much of this by the structure and constitution of our denomination.

The strength of Methodism is its connexionalism: the idea that we are a church located within a circuit, which in turn is located within a district, that again in turn is part of a national connexion. Ministry is focused at circuit level and as such we see ourselves as outreaching together to our communities and are constitutionally set up to share resources towards that end. So, our ministers are not ours, they belong to the connexion, and are stationed to a circuit and not just to our churches. As such we benefit from ministries wide and various and operate in exactly the opposite manner to the erroneous and arrogant Diotrephes, who wanted to be unchallenged and un-compared!

Next month the beginning of the Methodist Year sees three significant developments for the life of this circuit: the arrival of a new presbyter and a fresh ministry in the person of Revd Suva Catford, the merger of the Oldham & Saddleworth Circuit, 19/11, with the Shaw & Royton Circuit, 19/12, to form the new Oldham Circuit, 19/6, and one other, that of the ongoing process of emerging out of lockdown into the new normal and the joy, if cautiously, of seeing each other in person again as we resume church and social gatherings.

We therefore look forward to new faces, fresh ideas, from ourselves as well as from our new friends in the Faith, and to shared resources enabling us to redouble our efforts in sharing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I opened my letter to you with John’s closing remarks to Gaius. Let me close mine this time with his opening ones:

‘Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.’

3 John 2

Yours always in Christian love,


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