WPHS Symposium 2018

Working Party on Human Sexuality (WPHS) Symposium on Biblical Interpretation and Human Sexuality  

in Edgehill College on Sat 17th February 2018 


One of the terms of reference given to the WPHS by Conference is “to examine afresh how Holy Scripture may be faithfully interpreted in the MCI in respect of issues concerning human sexuality and, in particular, homosexuality and in the light of the major Biblical and theological themes respecting Creation and New Creation.” 

The Working Party, and the Faith & Order Committee, gave some thought as to how best this might be progressed, and as an initial step, organised a symposium where representatives from departments and organisations across the Methodist Church in Ireland came together to consider and reflect on the question of how Scripture speaks to issues of human sexuality.  

Four speakers were invited to take part to aid our thinking. These were: Rev Dr Katherine Meyer; Mr Paul Jeffrey; Rev Canon Vaughan Roberts and Rev Donald Ker. Additionally, Dr Andrew Pierce was invited to act as rapporteur. 

Who was invited? 

Representatives from the following departments and organisations were invited. 

The Faith & Order Committee; the Working Party on Human Sexuality; the Council on Social Responsibility; IMYCD; Edgehill College; Headway Ireland; Accepting Sexuality; the Board of Education; the Local Preachers’ Committee; the Home Missions department; World Mission Partnership; World Development and Relief; MWI. 

Additionally, the Rev Roy Cooper, as MCI Press secretary; Mrs Lynda Neilands, as Lay-Leader Designate; and an observer from the Church of Ireland were invited. 


Rev Dr Katherine P Meyer 

Katherine is originally from the United States but has lived on this island for over 30 years.  She is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and is currently serving as the minister of Christ Church, Sandymount (United Presbyterian and Methodist) in Dublin.  She previously served in partnership with the MCI as Methodist and Presbyterian Chaplain to Trinity College Dublin, and is proud at this stage to be able to call herself an honorary Methodist!  Her PhD thesis explored the use of the Bible in the ecumenical movement. 

View notes from her talk here.

Listen to her talk here

Mr Paul Jeffrey 

Paul grew up in Belfast, but is now living in Ballymena with his wife, Amy. He studied Theology to Master’s level at Queen’s University Belfast, and following a call to Christian ministry, completed the Living Ministry Programme at Westminster College, Cambridge. He was licensed for Christian ministry in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, which Paul describes as a small, non-credal and liberal faith community. He served as trainee assistant minister at First Church Belfast (Presbyterian + Non-Subscribing), which is located on Rosemary Street in the city centre.  He regularly leads worship at congregations throughout the NSPCI, and is currently seeking a call to serve a church as minister (as of Feb 2018). 

View notes from his talk here.

Listen to his talk here

Rev Canon Vaughan Roberts 

Vaughan came to faith as he read through Matthew’s Gospel for himself as a teenager. After studying law at Cambridge University and a brief spell doing student ministry in South Africa, he moved to Oxford to study Theology at Wycliffe Hall and has lived in the city ever since. In 1991 he joined the staff of St Ebbe’s Church to lead the student ministry and since 1998 he has been Rector. He is also the Director of the Proclamation Trust, an organisation that encourages and equips Bible teachers.  In his spare time Vaughan writes books and plays tennis and golf. 

View a transcipt of his talk here.

Listen to his talk here

Rev Donald Ker 

Donald is an Irish Methodist minister, now retired and living in England. His ministry in Ireland has included Circuit appointments in Dublin and Belfast, chaplaincy to Universities in both of those cities, and a number of years as Senior Tutor in Edgehill Theological College (where his particular interest was in New Testament Studies). His final appointment before retirement was as Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland.  He has been married to Sandra for forty five years. The have four children, all now married, and eight grandchildren.  In retirement, as well as seeking to offer support to their family, they are both involved in various aspects of the life of Solihull Methodist Church and the wider Birmingham Methodist Circuit. 

View notes from his talk here.

Listen to his talk here.

Q & A Panel 

Those attending were given the opportunity to submit questions for the fours speakers to answer as a panel.  

Listen to the recording here

Dr Andrew Pierce (Rapporteur) 

Andrew is Head of Discipline with the Irish School of Ecumenics. He obtained a scholarship, First Class Degree with Gold Medal, and Ph.D. in Trinity College Dublin, where he also held the Elrington Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship.  Before his appointment to the Irish School of Ecumenics in 2001, he was Lecturer in Church History and Theology at the Church of Ireland Theological College in Dublin. Since 2009 he has been a consultant to, and member of, the International Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO). Between 2010 and 2012 he was president of Societas Oecumenica, the European Association for Ecumenical Research.  

Andrew acted as rapporteur for the symposium. Listen to his closing reflections here.

Access his written thoughts on the day here.

Further work 

WPHS are planning further events across the Connexion on the subject of biblical interpretation and human sexuality which will be publicised in due course.