Brian Edgar Beck (1933-2022)

It is with great sadness that Wesley House announces the death of the Revd. Dr Brian E Beck, alumnus, former Tutor and Principal of the College.

Brian was educated at the City of London School, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and Wesley House, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge he met and married Margaret Ludlow and together they had three children.

After his theological education at Wesley House Brian was appointed Assistant Tutor at Handsworth College (1957-1959); he was ordained at the Methodist Conference of 1960 while serving as a circuit minister in Suffolk (1959-1962). He served on the staff of Saint Paul’s United Theological College, Limuru, Kenya (1962-1968) during which time the Methodist Church in Kenya became autonomous from the British Methodist Conference.  Brian was instrumental in drawing up the constitution and standing orders of the new church, many of which still stand, and he is fondly remembered in Kenya today.  Only a couple of weeks ago Brian and Margaret were recalling travelling to Kenya by boat through the Suez Canal, and then their journey home which involved packing their belongings and their children into a small Renault which they then drove from Nairobi to Cape Town!

On his return to Britain Brian was appointed Tutor at Wesley House where he taught New Testament in the college and in the Faculty of Divinity of the University of Cambridge.  He published two books on the New Testament: Reading the New Testament Today (1977 & 1992), and Christian Character in the Gospel of Luke (1989).  In 1980 Brian became Principal of Wesley House before becoming the Secretary of the Methodist Conference in Britain in 1984 until his retirement in 1998.

From 1969 to 2007 Brian shared in the leadership of the international Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies and during this time he deepened his own interest in Wesleyan theology, which, in retirement, he taught to Wesley House students.  Many of his essays on Wesleyan and Methodist theology were collected into a volume published by Routledge in 2017 entitled, Methodist Heritage and Identity.  He also published,Exploring Methodism’s Heritage, the Story of the Oxford Institute (2004) and contributed to Ashgate’s Research Companion to World Methodism (2013).

In 1993 Brian served as the President of the British Methodist Conference, chairing the difficult debate on human sexuality with great wisdom and patience, that resulted in the six resolutions that for more than 20 years held the church together across deep differences. In his letter to the Methodist people immediately afterwards, he wrote, “The Conference had been invited to adopt resolutions which took divergent views of the issues…. in the event, the Conference did not adopt any of those resolutions. Instead it adopted a pastoral rather than a legal approach and decided to affirm both the traditional moral teaching of the Christian church, and the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men in the church, while leaving decisions about particular cases to be taken by the appropriate committees against this background.”

In 1998, in the year he retired, Brian was awarded the Lambeth DD – a doctorate awarded to eminent and much-published scholars in the field of theology.  He and Margaret retired to Cambridge where Brian continued to serve the connexion in a wide range of capacities, and lead worship in the circuit and in the college until January of this year when he preached his last service at Haslingfield, seventy years after he received his first note to preach.  He was actively involved in college life, teaching Methodism, and on occasion, New Testament Greek.  He looked after the college’s archive and rare books until this summer, only surrendering his keys after the college’s centenary celebrations in July as his health began to decline.

Brian’s spirituality was rooted in the hymns of Charles Wesley.  Of Charles’ work, published as Hymns on the Lord’s Supper in 1745, Brian wrote in 2007 in the Epworth Review, “gratitude is due, not just for the book and its contents but, in the communion of saints, for the one who wrote it… who in the offering of his own poetic gifts exemplified his own words:

Take my soul and body’s powers,

Take my memory, mind, and will,

All my goods, and all my hours,

All I know and all I feel,

All I think, and speak, and do;

Take my heart but make it new”.

Brian also exemplified these words, offering his considerable powers of memory, mind and will, dry humour, kindness and wisdom to the church in the many offices he held, as a scholar, as a liturgist, as a preacher and as a teacher. 

His choice of funeral hymn, (by Charles Wesley, of course), assures us, as his presence with us has for so long, that all is well:

I rest beneath the Almighty’s shade,

My griefs expire, my troubles cease;

Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed

Wilt keep me still in perfect peace.

He died peacefully at home in Cambridge on 18 November in the 90th year of his age and the 66th year of his ministry.

Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission Communique on the Plenary Meeting in October 2022

The Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission (MERCIC) met at the Casa Maria
Immacolata, Rome, Italy, from 2 nd -8 th October 2022, for the first plenary meeting of a new round of
dialogue. The Commission has met without interruption since its foundation in 1967 and now begins
its twelfth round on the theme of unity and mission. The gathering was hosted by the World
Methodist Council with the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome as the local meeting organizer.


The Commission met with a broad agenda of mission and unity, conscious of the forthcoming
anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, the current needs and developments of both communions, and
the pressing need for unity between us “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). In order to discern
its focus for this round of dialogue, the Commission heard papers on: scripture texts from John 17
and Acts 15; the Missio Dei; hearing the cry of the poor; the Council of Nicaea; synodal and
conferencing practices within our communions; the implications of mission for belief; recognition;
the Wesleyan essentials; and the hierarchy of truths. On the basis of these contributions, the
Commission developed a schema for its future work which will seek to chart a pathway towards unity
with a missiological lens, taking account of the theological convergence that the dialogue has already
achieved.


The Commission began its meeting on 3 rd October with prayer at Ponte Sant’ Angelo Methodist
Church in Rome, praying the historic Wesleyan Covenant Service together. Commission members
were joined by ecumenical representatives and members of the diplomatic community. The Rev.
Prof. Edgardo Colon-Emeric preached the opening sermon on Ephesians 4, stating the ecumenical call
is perennial, hopeful, and missional. Following the prayer service, the Rev. Deacon Alessandra Trotta,
a Methodist deacon currently serving as the moderator of the governing council (Tavola Valdese) of the Waldensian Evangelical Church (Union of Methodist and Waldensian Churches), addressed the
Commission, describing the current ecumenical challenges for Methodists in Italy as well as the
special union between Methodist and Waldensian churches in Italy. Additionally, Rev. Prof. Daniele
Garrone and Rev. Luca Baratto, respectively the president and the executive secretary of the
Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, shared with the Commission members the work of the
Federation.


On Wednesday 5 th October, the Commission met Pope Francis in a private audience and presented to
him the report of the eleventh round of dialogue—God in Christ Reconciling: On the Way to Full
Communion in Faith, Sacraments and Mission. Commenting on the parable of the two sons (Luke
15:11-32)—the text chosen by the Commission for its scriptural reflection—Pope Francis noted that
both Catholics and Methodists need to repent and return to the Father in order for unity to come
about, because through their divisions, both have sinned and strayed from the Father.


The Commission met H.Em. Cardinal Mario Grech and Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, Secretary General
and Undersecretary respectively of the General Secretariat of the Synod, on 5 th October. Following a
shared meal with Commission members, Cardinal Grech and Sr Nathalie explained the current
progress of the synodal process being pursued by the Catholic Church and how ecumenical and inter-
religious voices constituted an important part of the Catholic Church’s listening to the Holy Spirit.
Commission members shared about Methodist theologies of conferencing and discernment,
expressed their hopes and fears for the process, and discussed their own experiences of the synodal
process thus far.


On Thursday, 6 th October, H.E. Chiara Porro, the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, and her
spouse, Mr Rien Schuurhuis, hosted the Commission for dinner at their residence. Over dinner the
Ambassador explained aspects of the Embassy’s collaboration with the Holy See regarding questions
of environmental justice, the dignity of women, and counter human trafficking.


On Friday, 7 th October, the Commission launched the report of its eleventh round, God in Christ
Reconciling, presenting the text as the first of a new series of Tillard Chair Lectures on the theme of
reconciliation, held at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome
[https://youtu.be/B8C35EFJPhk]. The Rev. Prof. Edgardo A. Colón-Emeric, Prof. Catherine E. Clifford,
Dr Clare Watkins, and the Rev. Dr Hermen Shastri, all members who participated in the eleventh
round, presented chapters of the report. The current Catholic co-chair, Bishop Shane Mackinlay, read
a message from the previous co-chairs at the beginning of the presentation.


At the closing dinner on 7 th October, Fr. Anthony Currer, outgoing Catholic co-secretary, was
recognized for his distinguished service to the Commission as he concludes his tenure at the
Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity. Fr. Martin Browne OSB will succeed Fr. Currer as the new
Catholic co-secretary.


The Commission is grateful to all who met with them and received them so graciously during their
plenary meeting. In particular, the Commission extends its gratitude to the community of the
Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and all who work at Casa Maria Immacolata for their
gracious hospitality and to the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome for their excellent organizing.


The Commission will meet again in October 2023.

The Commission is made up of:


Methodist Members
Reverend Prof. Edgardo A. Colón–Emeric (Co-Chair), USA
Reverend Matthew A. Laferty (Co-Secretary), Methodist Ecumenical Office, Rome
Dr Jung Choi, Korea/USA
Dr Geordan Hammond, United Kingdom
Bishop Lizzette Gabriel Montalvo, Puerto Rico
Reverend Prof. Glen O’Brien, Australia
Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri, Malaysia
Prof. Lilian Cheelo Siwila, South Africa


Catholic Members
Bishop Shane Mackinlay (Co-Chair), Australia
Reverend Anthony Currer (outgoing Co-Secretary), Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome
Reverend Martin Browne OSB (incoming Co-Secretary), Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome
Prof. Catherine E. Clifford, Canada
Reverend Prof. Gerard Kelly, Australia
Sister Prof. MarySylvia Nwachukwu DDL, Nigeria
Reverend Prof. Daniel Franklin Pilario CM, Philippines
Reverend Prof. Jorge Scampini OP, Argentina
Dr Clare Watkins, United Kingdom

Prayers answered, Nigerian Methodists released

Bishop Michael Stephen of the World Methodist Council Steering Committee and former Archbishop of the Methodist Church Nigeria shares the following from the latest news of the kidnapping of the Prelate alongside the Bishop of Owerri Diocese Dennis Mark and the Prelate’s Chaplain, The Very Rev. Shittu, which was received with great shock and sadness when it happened.  

“We are thankful that God heard the prayers of the people that went out across the country. After about 24 hours, the news of their release rent the airwaves. 

We all are thankful to God for his intervention. This incident points to the state of insecurity that has enveloped our country and the need to request the prayers of the people of God all over the world for divine intervention in the affairs of Nigeria. 

We are grateful for the prompt statements and concerns from the World Methodist Council, Africa Methodist Council and other Ecumenical partners.”

President of the World Methodist Council, the Rev. Dr. JC Park, added, “Let’s praise God who rescued the beloved Prelate just as King David praised God when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies. ‘I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies.’ (Psalm 18:3) We want to join the joyful praise of our Nigerian people called Methodists: Worthy is the Lamb!”

 

Global religious leaders representing half a billion Christians urge G20: “climate emergency demands deep-seated transformations”

In a letter to G20 leaders, global religious leaders representing half a billion Christians in over 100 countries warned that rising global temperatures will have increasingly disastrous consequences on impoverished and vulnerable communities that contribute least to the climate crisis.

Hurricane Eta hit hard on the north coast of Honduras on November 2020. Before the local population has been able to begin recovery hurricane the population is braced for hurricane Iota, now entering the region.

 Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

Many of our congregations are already experiencing devastating and intensifying climate impacts and many are also responding with concrete actions and proposals,” reads the letter. The root cause of the climate emergency is the current development model and ideology that is founded upon fossil fuel-driven economic growth.”

The faith-based groups note that, as some economies have grown wealthier, the climate and frontline communities have paid a heavy price. Unless a radical change is made to the current economic model, the goals of the Paris Agreement will not be met, and the climate crisis will not be averted,” the letter reads. Today, humanity is at a turning point. The climate emergency demands deep-seated transformations towards net-zero economies by the middle of the century, within a framework of justice and solidarity.”

And, the letter further notes, these changes must happen within a rapidly closing window of opportunity.

The path to a just and sustainable future and flourishing earth community is to be found in bold economic policies that re-embed economics in society and ecology, account for social and ecological risks and costs, as well as promote the redistribution of resources to allow space for low- and middle-income countries to combat poverty aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and to respond to the existential challenge of climate change,” the letter urges. Economic policies should be directed towards improving the health and wellbeing of communities and the planet as captured by alternative measures including decent work, health, and ecological sustainability, rather than merely increasing income and production.”

The letter urges G20 leaders to release countries, especially those at the forefront of climate change effects, from their onerous and historic external debts. Debt cancellation would enable indebted climate disaster-stricken countries to break free from costly build-rebuild cycles that force them further into debt,” the letter notes. It would make available resources for transitioning to a decarbonised economy.”

The letter also urges G20 leaders to implement progressive carbon and pollution taxes at various levels, and to invest heavily in climate protection and the restoration of ecosystems. In particular, we must privilege such areas as agro-ecology, reforestation and community-based renewable energy systems in our COVID-19 recovery strategies and longer-term plans,” the letter reads. Now is the time to incentivise a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels toward clean, renewable energies like solar and wind.”

Read the full letter

Organisations representing a half billon Christians worldwide urge G20 to fix a broken global tax system

In a letter to the G20 finance ministers before the International Tax Symposium on 9 July, organizations representing a half billion Christians worldwide urged that it has never been more urgent and necessary to fix our broken global tax system.

      Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

The World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council, and Council for World Mission urged strong social protection measures in all countries to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are able to weather COVID-19s unprecedented health and economic consequences.

The pandemic has revealed once again the importance of peoples access to essential health care and basic income security throughout their lives,” reads the letter. To date rich countries have spent 35.6 percent of their GDPs on responding to the health emergency and supporting employment and businesses.”

In contrast, low-income countries were only able to expend a meagre 6 percent of their GDPs on fighting the pandemic and are even now struggling to meet the demands of protecting their citizens, the letter notes.

As the most sustainable source of revenue, tax systems have a pivotal role to play in bolstering social sector initiatives and financing the recovery from the crisis,” the letter continues. We acknowledge recent efforts by the international community at tax reform, not least the G7 proposal for a 15% global corporate minimum tax.”

The endemic injustices of global poverty, racial inequity, health inequality and climate change are rooted in the legacies of colonial exploitation and resource extraction, and call for systemic change, urges the letter. The pandemic shows us peoples lives and livelihoods are at stake, at a time when the life of the earth is also under threat, the letter reads. Not only is tax justice at the heart of any recovery plan, it is crucial for mitigating widening inequality and stepping up to the challenges posed by a rapidly warming climate.”

Read the full letter

AME Pastor Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman to deliver benediction at inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

The Reverend Doctor Silvester Beaman will deliver the benediction at the 59th Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021, where Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States.  Dr. Beaman is the pastor of Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, and a long-time friend of the Biden family. During the 2020 Presidential election campaign, a photo of  President-elect Biden holding a community at Dr. Beaman’s church after the murder of George Floyd was placed in a Republican attack ad characterizing the attendees as “thugs”.

Dr. Beaman stated, “It is an extreme honor to have the President-elect ask me to do this. The benediction is a priestly function where the pastor stands as the voice of God to announce God’s grace. I will be standing in the place where the rioters stood; in front of a building built by slaves. I hope to speak a word of healing through this prayer. As an AME, I’m proud to represent in this way.”

AME clergy have participated in several high-profile public celebrations led by leaders over the last few years. At the 2008 election night celebration for President Barack Obama in Chicago, Bishop Phillip R. Cousin delivered the opening prayer. The invocation at the 2011 White House Easter Prayer Breakfast was delivered by Bishop Vashti McKenzie who also gave the benediction on one evening of the 2016 Democratic National Convention. BIshop Sam Green delivered a homily during the official worship service before the 2020 Democratic National Convention.