Remarks by Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council

2012 World Methodist Council Peace Award Celebration Service
Wesley Mission, Sydney
14 February 2013

It is a singular honour Joy and privilege to greet you on behalf of the World Methodist Council, which is comprised of 77 denominations ministering to 80 million people in more than 132 countries around the world. It’s those churches who share a common heritage that dates back to John Wesley.

The World Methodist Peace Award is made annually to individuals or groups who have significantly contributed towards peace, justice and reconciliation. The criteria for the Peace Award are courage, creativity and consistency. As you’ve most probably read, previous recipients of the Award include President Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Sir Allan and Lady Winifred Walker, Father Elias Chacour, the Community of St. Egidio in Rome, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, and most recently Rosalind Colwill who works with mentally challenged people in Nigeria.

As we begin our Lenten journey in 2013 it is appropriate that we honour one of Mr Wesley’s daughters, Joy Balazo, and that we have an opportunity to ourselves recommit to a journey for just peace, as we reconnect to our spiritual moorings, and to build this just peace – peace with others, peace with the Earth, and peace on Earth.

We give thanks to God today for the many mentors and sages and friends and family who have accompanied you and nurtured you, Joy, who have shared your journey that has brought you to this place and this time.

You follow in the path of peace of great visionary leaders, and I think here of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai – all of whose live and work and witness is an embodiment of soft power and non-violence. Yours and, I believe, their influence does not come from military might or economic might, but from the power of your humanity and the elegance of your spirit.

Thank you for being an exemplar – a model of peace for our time.

And I want to make bold to say that in the Methodist tradition much of our theology is embedded in our hymnity. If I just look at the hymns that we chose today, Methodists are a people who sing their faith, and you have recaptured I believe one of the essentials that we need to focus on again as we go into the 21st Century – and that is the simple word that you’d find in all Methodist literature and in our hymnity, and that is the word “all.”

In one of Charles Wesley’s hymns he says:

For all my Lord was crucified,
For all, for all my Saviour died!

In another hymn, he says:

Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast;
Let every soul be Jesus’ guest.
You need not one be left behind,
For God invites all humankind.

Joy though your work and through your witness we have caught a glimpse of what it really means to do theology in the public square. We have also caught a glimpse of what it means to be a missional community in a fiercely individualistic and consumerist popular culture where we often live a life of empty calorie spirituality, of instant gratification and quick fix solutions. I’m sure you will testify that working for peace is hard and no one comes out unscathed, and so you bear some scars as well.

In Wesley’s dictum For Mission you hold together a holiness that knows no distinction from social holiness, and it is my fervent hope and prayer that in making this award others may draw inspiration from your work for justice, peace and reconciliation and in the process will themselves become agents of healing and of transformation.

Thomas Hardy in one of his more cynical moods says:

“Peace upon earth!” was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
After two thousand years of mass
We’ve got as far as poison gas.

 Friends I’m not as pessimistic as Thomas Hardy. I believe that we live in a world that is pregnant with hope and possibilities and the new is waiting to be born. And this afternoon, I want to urge us all, let us with Joy became midwives of hope. Let us march with unmatched boldness and determination into the future, because a different world is possible and the future belongs to us all. Let us serve it well.

Joy, hearty congratulations on behalf of the World Methodist Council. It bestows upon you its highest honour – the World Methodist Peace Award.