You will have gathered that my aim to blog while away at the Methodist Conference didn't work so, now that I have returned, I have much to catch up on.
Very important, and first on the list, is our new President's inaugural address, even if I am a little late in posting it:-
5 July 2008
Inaugural address by Revd Stephen Poxon, new President of the Methodist Conference
The new President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Stephen Poxon, has called on the Church to celebrate God’s grace and transform the world. Speaking on the opening day of the 2008 Methodist Conference in Scarborough, Stephen invited the Church to “begin to grapple with how this wonderful grace of God might transform the world.”
Stephen also spoke passionately on the situation in Zimbabwe: “We look in horror and sorrow at what has been happening in Zimbabwe. How slow as a nation we have been to condemn Mugabe and his regime, and only now are people waking up to the violence and genocide? We must continue to find ways to express our solidarity with all those who struggle for justice, freedom and peace."
Stephen also offered his “thoughts and prayers to our friends in the Anglican communion” on the eve of the Lambeth Conference. The five-year-old Anglican-Methodist Covenant will be discussed by both the Methodist Conference and the Church of England’s General Synod.
In his address, which marks the start of his year of office, Stephen recalled how he and his wife Myrtle arrived as a young couple in Jamaica to work with a church there. He said that the love showed by the people there did much to shape both of them, and gave examples of other acts of extraordinary kindness shown by people who had little or nothing for themselves.
Following the 2007 decision by Sheffield to become the UK’s first “city of sanctuary,” Stephen called for more places to follow that example by recognising “the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees to the city of Sheffield, and committing ‘to offering hospitality to people who come here in need of safety from persecution.’”
Stephen spoke about hospitality as a key example of grace, and expressed regret that the Church has not been more hospitable in the past towards people who moved to Britain. But he celebrated the modern examples of church work with asylum seekers and how Methodist churches are being hospitable to their communities, to children and young people and to other faiths. As Chair of the Methodist North Lancashire District, Stephen has seen many examples of churches working with the large Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities there.
Stephen is married with four children. His wife, Deacon Myrtle Poxon, was Vice President of the Methodist Conference in 2004-5, and they are the first married couple to have held both posts.