This is a transcript of a conversation between the chair of Dignity and Worth, the Revd Sam McBratney, and the Rev Paul Smith, a past Chair of Headway, now Methodist Evangelicals Together.
The conversation has been included in the latest edition of ‘The Connexion’ magazine, published by the Methodist Church.
Sam and Paul have both contributed to two Connexional Working Parties on Marriage and Relationships and have got to know each other well.
It’s an article full of grace and an example of ‘living with contradictory convictions’ and is well worth a read.
Sam (photo right): Remind me how we met?
Paul (photo left): Like all good Methodist friendships, it began at the Conference! I seem to remember that you had been invited to speak about preaching and you said some rather complimentary things about me – much to my embarrassment!
S: Yes, I remember now. I remember, too, the shock on people’s faces when they saw us in the local café having lunch together! But out of that came a Notice of Motion about excellence in preaching, and I think that shared passion for scriptural preaching has been at the heart of our friendship all along.
P: Yes, I believe in preaching. I suppose part of the reason is that I have sat under great preaching in the past and seen how God met with people through it.
S: Your preaching ministry has been an inspiration to me. But the last ten years have allowed me to get to know you and I really appreciate that. Having a laugh together has helped to cement our friendship! But over that time, we’ve also experienced difficulties in our lives and our friendship has enabled us to be honest and care for one another.
P: We may disagree profoundly about some very important issues, but that does not mean that we have any excuse for not caring about each other and recognising Christ in one another. I have come to admire very much your personal integrity, your pursuit of truth and your deep desire to live under the lordship of Christ – which is quite a challenge when the conclusions you come to are so different from mine.
S: You’ll make me blush! If I had to say what has been foundational for me in our friendship, it has been your utter commitment to the truth. We have now served on two working parties on marriage and same-sex relationships, which has not always been easy. But I have never doubted that what you said comes from that commitment. I admire, too, that your determination to speak honestly has not always been popular in the Church and you’ve been made an outsider. That experience feels familiar…
P: I guess in that respect, but for very different reasons, our experiences are quite similar – but if popularity had been our goal we would never have got into this in the first place!
S: I don’t know about you but I have been surprised and humbled by the way our friendship has touched others in the Church: “If you two can get on, there’s hope for the rest of us!”
P: There’s a strange irony here I think. We were both recruited on to the working parties because we represented different perspectives on a serious issue. But the progress we have made has not been because we concentrated on those things, even though we did; but because we saw the things on which we disagree in the light of the things on which we agree absolutely. So I am brave enough to believe that if we can unite on this common ground there’s a pretty good chance that we will be able to work the rest out.
S: I want to give you the last word, Paul, but also to acknowledge publicly the loving care and wisdom you have shared with me. I feel really blessed we have been on this journey together. Thank you.
P: Well thank you, and your friendship continues to mean so much to me too. In my more ambitious moments I dare to hope that our friendship might serve as an example to others. We do not have to agree about everything, but we do have to agree about some things: the redeeming grace of God, the lordship of Christ, the transforming power of the Spirit, the heartbreaking lostness of the world and the vision of lives made new in Jesus. Given all that, there’s hope – for the Church, but more importantly for a world that is dying for want of knowing him.
If you want to have a look at the whole Connexion magazine then it is available to download HERE