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Pastoral Letter - 2018-02-22

Dear Table View Methodist Family,

During the season of Lent we will be reflecting on prayer.  Learning to pray from the Bible's leading characters.  Sermons and discussion notes will be available on the church website www.tvmethodist.co.za.  The series is inspired by a similar series preached by Rev Adam Hamilton at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas.

This Sunday our focus is on Elijah, whom James calls: "A man, just like us".  The scriptures for this Sunday are

From Moses example I encouraged you to:
1 - Pay Attention.
2 - Argue with God if Necessary (Dare to say "No!" but be ready for God to argue with you.)
3 - Pray for your enemies and those who you struggle to forgive.
4 - Listen more than you speak.

I look forward to exploring the lessons we might learn from Elijah this Sunday at 8, 930 and 11am.

Condolences

I'm very sorry to share the sad news that Arthur Stolke passed away on Wednesday morning. Arthur and Anne were at Groote Schuur on other business when Arthur started to feel poorly. Dr's and nurses did all that they could to help him - but weren't able save him.

A memorial service for Arthur will take place this Monday at 11am.

As many of you know Arthur and Anne were among the founder members of the Table View Society. Please continue to lift Anne up in your prayers.

As we remember Arthur we give thanks for the hope that we have in Jesus - this week the evangelist Billy Graham also passed away and I love his words:

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.

Dedications and Inductions

On Saturday 24 February at 2pm the Cape West Coast Circuit at will celebrate the dedication of the Witteklip Church Building in Vredenberg. Rev Michel Hansrod (our district bishop will lead the dedication). Please keep the Witteklip Society in your prayers as we give thanks for the gracious ways in which God has provided for us. As the church is dedicated we remember Mr Gilbert Perez who played an instrumental role in helping the Witteklip Society with their building project.

The dedication starts at 2pm and the Witteklip Church Building is on the corner of Saartjie Baartman and Kootjies Kloof Streets in Witteklip.
The induction of our two new circuit ministers - Revs Kganyape and Masoabi will take place at the Witteklip Society on Sunday 25 February at 10am.  Please keep them in your prayers as they commit themselves to ministry in the Cape West Coast Circuit; and we join with their congregations in pledging our support for their ministry.

Mission Theme - Welcome

One of the words that Jesus offers his disciples - in a parable of the judgment of the nations - Jesus announces to those who are 'sheep', who have shown themselves to belong to his Kingdom:

I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.
- Matthew 25:34

The following people have volunteered to 'champion' our welcome ministry at Table View Methodist:  8am - Bronwyn Courie; 930am - Tony Demmer; 11am - Gilbert Khoza.  Each of these ministry leaders will need a team of:

Door Stewards: Greet people at the door and help them to find their way (especially if they're visiting for the first time.)
Data Capturers:  People who will make sure we get the details of those who visit and want to keep in touch with Table View Methodist Church.
Callers:  Once people have shared their details with us we would like someone in the congregation to give them a call, let them know that they are welcome, and find out if they have any pastoral needs.

I could rephrase Jesus' words from Matthew 25:34 - 

I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
(I didn't belong.  And you let me know that I belong.)
- Matthew 25:34

If you're a regular at Table View Methodist, even if you're relatively new here, then you are a part of the team tasked with helping others to know that they are welcome and beloved.

You have no idea what difference your kindness might make.

God bless,
Rev Angus Kelly

Learning to Pray with the Bible's Leading Characters

Icon of Jesus' parable about the prayer of the
Pharisee and the Tax Collector - Luke 18:9-14

For the Sundays in Lent we will focus on learning lessons in prayer from the Bible's Leading Characters (As far as possible I will ask our visiting preachers to help with the theme, but it is not always practical for them to do so):

18 Feb - Moses a Friend of God - Sermon - Study Notes
25 Feb - Elijah - a man, just like us. - Sermon - Study Notes
4 Mar - David - His thirst, our wellspring - Sermon - Study Notes
11 Mar - Paul - Passage and Perseverance in Praying
18 Mar - Jesus - Listening to Jesus with the Disciples
25 Mar - Palm Sunday - Learning to Pray from the Master Himself

[I will be drawing on Rev Adam Hamilton's Series preached in 2010 for some inspiration - you're welcome to listen to his sermons here.]

Lent, Valentines, Love, Repentance, Welcome

Hello Table View Methodist Family,

Happy Valentine's Day for yesterday and happy new president day for today 15 February 2018.  As Christians it is our task to pray for our leaders.  As Christians in a democracy it is our responsibility to be responsible citizens.

As we pray we need to thank God for South Africa's robust democracy.  For some of the dedicated prophets of our time - the news media.  Let us keep fighting for the right to know (www.r2k.org.za).  But we also need to pray that whoever our leaders are they do the work of leading this country into justice.  

As much as our leaders lead us - we pray - especially at this time of Lent - that God would plant a deep love and thirst in us for his righteousness, justice, his Kingdom to come.

Thank you to all of you who joined us for our Ash Wednesday service last night.  Being Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday I thought it would be important for us to think about why we 'repent' which means we turn to God.  Is it out of fear?  Or out of love?

Although us preachers often preach from the premise of fear.  Trying to scare people into repentance.  Jesus tends to preach from the premise of love.  This foundation might affect our relationship with God for our entire Christian walk.  I believe that in this season of Lent we should work on making Love our first motivation.  Our highest reason for turning to God.

This quote from Catholic Author, Father Richard Rohr helped me to put my thoughts into words:

“God does not love you because you are good; God loves you because God is good. And then you can be good because you draw upon such an Infinite Source. The older I get, the more I am sure that God does all the giving and we do all of the receiving.
God is always and forever the initiator in my life, and I am, on occasion, the half-hearted respondent. That’s just true! My mustard seed of a response seems to be more than enough for a humble God, even though the mustard seed is 'the tiniest of all the seeds' (Matthew 13:32).”
- Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

For the Sundays in Lent we will focus on learning lessons in prayer from the Bible's Leading Characters (As far as possible I will ask our visiting preachers to help with the theme, but it is not always practical for them to do so):

18 Feb - Moses a Friend of God.
25 Feb - Elijah - a man, just like us.
4 Mar - David - His thirst, our wellspring.
11 Mar - Paul - Passage and Perseverance in Praying
18 Mar - Jesus - Listening to Jesus with the Disciples
25 Mar - Palm Sunday - Learning to Pray from the Master Himself

[I will be drawing on Rev Adam Hamilton's Series preached in 2010 for some inspiration - you're welcome to listen to his sermons here.]

Being a Church that Welcomes

The Methodist Book of Order declares (inter alia):

Membership is not conditional upon the profession of theological tenets, or dependent upon traditional authority or ecclesiastical ritual. It is based upon a personal experience of the Lord Jesus Christ, brought about by the Spirit, ranging from the earliest signs of Divine Grace in the soul to its crowning blessedness in the joy of 'perfect love'...
- Book of Order 3.1

All persons are welcomed into membership who sincerely desire to be saved from their sins through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and show the same in life and conduct, and who seek to have communion with Christ Himself and His people by taking up the duties and privileges of the Methodist Church.
- Book of Order 3.2

We can boldly declare that All are Welcome.  This means that there will always be a variety of opinions, ideas, ideals within our church - but the overarching goal of joining our community is described in paragraph 3.3 - our Ethos:

As the law of love is the law of Christ for all His disciples, the spirit and practice of Christian love is an indispensable condition of faithful membership in the Methodist Church. The spiritual and ethical ideal of this fellowship has always been, and still is, that its members should constantly seek to be made perfect in love – ‘pure love filling the heart and governing all words and actions’.
- Book of Order 3.3

Being a welcoming church means that we have had to learn a lot about what it means to welcome people as Jesus welcomed them.  And to care for people as Jesus cares for them.  An area of deep pain for the church and more so for those people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, or Queer (LGBTIQ) has been the way in which we have responded to them.  We have not loved and listened to them as I believe Jesus would have us love and listen.

As a minister I believe that I am called to share the good news of God's love with all people.  I believe I am called to care pastorally for all people in every situation of life - regardless of their race, gender, creed, class... etc.  I believe I am called to care pastorally for all households and family units whether they are divorced, happily or unhappily married, unmarried, gay or straight. 

The Conference of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa has asked that Circuits respond to the following resolutions that resolve as follows (this is a summary):

1 - 
The MCSA calls on all of its members to stand up and speak out against such hate
crimes; to desist from any demeaning, derogatory and inflammatory speech and
behaviour against LGBTIQ persons; and where it has failed to do so, asks for forgiveness.
2 - That Methodist ministers are free to follow their conscience in the kind of pastoral care they offer to LGBTIQ persons; and that ministers stationed in South Africa who wish to be licensed marriage officers under the Civil Unions Act of 2006 are free to do so...
3 - Conference resolves that LGBTIQ voices within the church be afforded opportunities at CQMs, District Synods, Conventions and Conference to lead Bible Studies, facilitate workshops and share their stories.

You can read the document in full here.

The Leader's Meeting held on 13 February at Table View Methodist Church agreed with the proposals received from conference and will inform the Circuit Quarterly Meeting of our response.

I continue to pray that the Methodist Church would continue to wrestle with what it means to love all people and care for them pastorally and prophetically.  I pray especially that as a church we would continue to learn to love each other in our diverse opinions and understandings as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Eleven years ago I wrote an article about why I think the church needs to change its attitude to caring for people with different sexual orientations.  I'm sure my thinking has grown, adapted, matured, since then.  But if you'd like to read it here is a link.  I wrote the article at a time when my convictions seemed to bring me into conflict with the Law and Doctrine of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and I wanted to be held accountable for my opinions.

If you are struggling with these issues.  If you, or someone you love is of a different sexual orientation I want you to know that for my part I will love and accept you and them.  If you find my opinions and wrestling with these issues too difficult; I understand.  

I will always do my best to see both sides of any argument and am always willing to wrestle with my own understanding in the light of Christ's love.

God bless,

Rev Angus Kelly

PS - Some wise words from John Wesley:

9. Are you persuaded you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. Point me out a better way than I have yet known. Show me it is so, by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the path I have been accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it, labour with me a little ; take me by the hand, and lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace: I can go but feebly and slowly at best; then, I should not be able to go at all.
- Wesley, John. John Wesley's Forty-Four Sermons (p. 6). Hargreaves Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Covenant Service This Sunday

Hi Table View Methodist,

This Sunday at our 8, 930 and 11am services we celebrate communion and renew our covenant commitment to God as we pray the Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

As a church we take the opportunity once a year to renew our covenant with God.  To take a look at ourselves and see how well we have surrendered to God’s will.

CS Lewis wrote in his book, “The Great Divorce” -

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”  All that are in Hell, choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  Those who knock it is opened.”
- CS Lewis, The Great Divorce

It is when we insist on our own will all the time that we find ourselves separated from God.  Our constant lack of listening doesn’t mean that God stops speaking - it just means that we stop hearing.

It is one thing to pray this prayer of surrender - another thing to take it forward and consciously live every day, every moment, in surrender to God.

When we surrender ourselves we allow God to convict us, challenge us, change us and draw us to himself again.  We trust God to do this for us - because we know that he loves us.  He loves us more than we love ourselves, and what God desires for us - is better than what we want for ourselves.

Sexual Harassment Policy of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa

Sexual Harassment Policy

This is heart breaking.  

On Sunday 28 January at the Central Methodist Church in Pretoria several young women bravely stood up to protest against their experience of sexual harassment at the church.  Their story has been featured on television and radio and circulated widely in social media. You can watch an interview with one of the women here - https://youtu.be/8B-OdmfUrsw

The #metoo campaign and Thursdays in Black campaigns have highlighted our need as a community to deal with the scourge of sexual violence against women.  At work, in public and even at church.

Jesus instructs us -
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
- Matthew 5:28

In 2015 the Methodist Church drafted a sexual harassment policy, adopted in 2017 which you can find at this address -

The goal of the harassment policy is to create a safe space for those who feel that they have been harassed or abused in any way to be properly heard in a way that empowers them to stand strong with the help of a community.  It is also to help us to disciple those who might transgress norms of acceptable behavior and conduct.

Nothing stops us from establishing our own anti-harassment team or teams at the Table View Methodist Society.  If you are interested in this form of ministry - please read through the policy, pray about it and let me know, or speak to one of our society stewards.  I imagine that a dedicated team might be key to a ministry of empowerment that extends beyond the walls of our church and into our neighboring community to help those who have nowhere else to turn.