INTERVIEW: Laferty Takes on Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome

MEOR director Rev. Matthew A. Laferty was interviewed for the World Methodist Council’s newsletter First Friday Letter.

The Rev. Matthew Laferty began his duties as the new Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome (MEOR) in September.

As he looks to the future, he shares his vision for MEOR includes several points. “First, the MEOR continues to build upon the strong work between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church. We continue to find opportunities to educate those in the Methodist and Wesleyan family about the importance of Christian unity and Ecumenical engagement.” He added that he believes, “ MEOR not only is an important center of Methodist/ Catholic relations but becomes a place where Methodist can encounter Christians from all different traditions for mutual understanding, learning, and personal growth.

“It is important to point out that the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome is a ministry of the World Methodist Council. So, while it has its distinct features, including how it is governed, it is a ministry of the WMC and promotes the work and ministry.” Laferty shared in explaining the WMC’s role. “Part of how the WMC can help is by thinking about how [the Council’s] member churches can be engaged with the work.

“Of course, with COVID, things have been upended. Normally we would have opportunities for study and for learning. We are discerning how we might expand those programs after COVID to bring people to Rome for types of pilgrimage and learning opportunities. We need people in member churches to come and participate. We are also exploring, during particularly the next year, how realistically, we may be able to use online platforms to do both short-term and long-term programs. There would be several educational opportunities,” he stated.

“Promoting the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, I think, is one of the ways member churches can be involved in their churches about MEOR’s offerings and opportunities for growth.” Laferty explained that by sharing the other work that MEOR is related to, such as international dialogue, which takes on a very different feature and has a different purpose, these resources could be shared with the member churches for education and ecumenical engagement.

In response to why he wanted to be Director of MEOR, Laferty, who grew up in a small town in Northern Ohio, USA says, “Our life as a Methodist family was shaped deeply by ecumenism, such as Vacation Bible School, Lent, helping out local food pantries, etc. So, I grew in an environment where it was explicit that we seek opportunities for learning, worship and discipleship with other Christians for social action together. The older I got, the more I realized that it wasn’t a given in every place.

“In my pastoral work, I have sought opportunities to work ecumenically. While in Moscow for four years serving a Methodist, Lutheran and Reformed Congregation.” Most recently in Vienna, Laferty said the United Methodist Congregation he served drew its membership from many different Christian traditions.

“I want to share the experiences that I have had as a Pastor, “ Laferty explained. “The things I have learned and the struggles that I have encountered allow me to use the opportunity as the Director to address them head-on, to encourage those in the Methodist/Wesleyan family to work more closely with other Christians, wherever they are, so that together they might proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and invite people into God’s saving love. “

In conclusion, Laferty said that he is interested in the field part of it. “The professional part of it is around the work I have already done as a Pastor. I like strategic thinking, I think where we are as an office right now, that long-term planning and strategic thinking is an important piece of the work,” he concluded.

WMC Communications Director Michaela Bryson met with MEOR Director Laferty via Zoom for this interview.