Thinking Anglicans

Publication of Mission and Ministry in Covenant

The Church of England has published the press release below with proposals to bring the Church of England and the Methodist Church in Britain into full communion.

The Methodist Church has published its own press release. Although this ends “The report has now been released for discussion in the Methodist Conference this week and the Church of England’s General Synod in July” the report is not on the agenda of either meeting.

Publication of Mission and Ministry in Covenant
27 June 2017

The Church of England and the Methodist Church in Britain are to consider proposals that would bring them into a new relationship of full communion, after a period of some 200 years of formal separation.

The proposals are presented in Mission and Ministry in Covenant, a joint report from the two churches’ faith and order bodies. It sets out how the Methodist Church could come to have bishops in the historic episcopate, and how ministers from one church could become eligible to serve in the other.

The report builds on the theological convergence established by ‘An Anglican-Methodist Covenant’, signed in 2003, and the subsequent work of the Covenant’s Joint Implementation Commission.

In 2014 the General Synod of the Church of England and the Methodist Conference mandated the faith and order bodies to bring forward proposals that would enable the interchangeability of ministries in the two churches.

The report sets out a way by which the Methodist Church would become one of the churches with which the Church of England is officially in communion, alongside other members of the Anglican Communion and Lutheran churches in the Porvoo Communion.

The Bishop of Coventry, The Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, Chair of the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission, said: “I am grateful to the joint working group for their careful but imaginative work on bringing forward a workable plan for enabling interchangeability of presbyteral ministry in our two churches.

“The solution is built on the centrality of the historic episcopate and the bishop as minister of ordination.

“The scheme as proposed will enable dioceses, districts and local churches to engage in creative pastoral planning for the good of the mission of God in this country.”

The Bishop of Fulham The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Anglican Co-Chair of the joint working group, said: “The separation between Anglicans and Methodists in Great Britain is a tear in the fabric of the Body of Christ.

“The proposals in this Report are offered as a means of helping to repair that tear.

“They maintain the catholic, episcopal ordering of the church while at the same time acknowledging the real and effective ministry exercised by minsters in the Methodist Church.

“I warmly commend them for prayerful reading in the churches.”

The report has now been released with the aim of enabling a wider discussion in the Methodist Church and in the Church of England, and to allow consultation with other ecumenical partners.

Notes to editors:

Download the full report: Mission and Ministry in Covenant

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Marshall Scott
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This could also be of great interest across the pond. We have recently seen a document working toward full communion between the Episcopal Church based in the USA and the United Methodist Church in the USA. While most Episcopalians have worried about liturgical theology and historic episcopate, I have thought the biggest stumbling block would be the African conferences of the United Methodist Church. To have the Methodists in the UK in communion with Canterbury would give some additional opportunity to work toward full communion between TEC and UMC over here.

Disgraced
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Disgraced

What’s the point? Are there any Methodists left? I suppose it may be comforting to hold hands while you both sink out of sight.

Froghole
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Froghole

This is actually (to me) a fairly modest proposal. The 1968 scheme for reunion floundered because Synod approved it only by a 69% majority in 1969 and a 65.81% majority in May 1972 (compared with a 77% approval in the Methodist Conference in 1969): a 75% majority was then required. I once discussed the venture on separate occasions with a couple of priests (both now dead, and one a moderate Anglo-Catholic) who were members of the house of clergy at the time, and – twenty years on – they were still bitter about the 1972 vote, specifically its lack of… Read more »

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

Note the careful wording of historic episcopate…as most evangelicals like Bishop Cocksworth don’t believe it is of apostolic origin…but a later historic development not of the esse of the CHurch.

Pluralist
Guest

Many of the arguments for ‘old denominations’ [not Old Dissent!] are being lost, and shrinkage is the driver. The Methodists have either missing bishops or see them/ it in the Conference and Chairs of districts. So they can make adjustments. The Church of England can do it now as well, because the traditionalist Anglo-Catholic position has effectively been defeated after full female ministry. But think also of the URC, spiralling downwards, and no idea of its longer term future, and yet it doesn’t have three orders of ministry, and all of that, and so is rather stuck. With its own… Read more »

John Swanson
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John Swanson

Seems to me the Methodists are giving up more than the Anglicans. The Methodists accept that their church needs something from outside – the input of three validly ordained bishops from other churches to ordain the first Methodist President Bishop – to make it acceptable to Anglicans. So they are accepting that their church is currently deficient. The Anglicans, by contrast, merely have to accept for a transitional stage the ministry of presbyters who are not ordained by bishops in the apostolic succession, hardly radical when whole chunks of the CofE already don’t regard some of their own priests (women)… Read more »

T Pott
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T Pott

“So they (Methodists) are accepting that their church is currently deficient”. No. They are recognising that their are some, who might be seen as weaker brethren, in the Church of England who believe that the Methodist Church is deficient; and they may be willing to change their practices so as not to wound the consciences of these weaker brethren. The Methodists are not accepting that bishops are essential, any more than many Anglicans, from the Queen down, do. They are merely agreeing to have bishops if that will permit others to accept their ministry. One reason Methodists haven’t had bishops… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

Sibling Pott, help a poor North American. You note that the “Methodists haven’t had bishops….” Methodists over here have long used that title. Do they not in UK? Or, is this discussion of historic succession?

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Marshall Scott: no, Methodists in Great Britain do not and never have had bishops, nor called any of their ministers “bishop”.

I suspect that it’s partly historically because of the ecclesiological point that bishops are appointed to specific sees, and that in Britain the Crown’s authority was and is required to create a new see. Rome gives its bishops sees as well, but these sees don’t have standing in English law (though there are no longer any penalties for their use).

John Swanson
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John Swanson

“[the methodists] are accepting that their church is currently deficient” – me “they may be willing to change their practices so as not to wound the consciences of these weaker brethren.” – T Pott There are indeed things we believe in which we should be prepared to sacrifice so as not to cause problems for weaker brethren. And there are indeed things we believe in which we should not be prepared to sacrifice under any circumstances. The problem is, of course, working out which is which. A certain strand of Methodist theology believes that God’s grace is freely available to… Read more »

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

John Swanson, I understand that some Anglicans feel the apostolic succession is essential, and that the Methodist Church is currently deficient, but the proposal is to remove that perceived deficiency, so then the Anglicans would have no longer have an objection, would they? The other way round, the Methodist belief that grace cannot be limited to the clergy does not seem to be in any way challenged by these proposals, does it? Or am I missing something?

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

(in two parts – apologies – it’s too much like hard work to try to be concise…) The Methodists are clearly giving up something – they are giving up their existing way of ordaining presbyters. The question, clearly, is not “are they giving something up?” but “Is the thing they are giving up important or not?” The thing they are giving up is the belief, expressed in the practice, that the grace of God is freely available to all without any restrictions imposed by humans. They are being asked to accept that the full expression of the grace of God… Read more »

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

The parallel which those Methodists who worry about these things (a diminishing minority) often draw is with circumcision in the Acts of the Apostles. Circumcision is a human construct that many people found helpful as a visible sign of God’s presence, and some people believed is essential in order for the fullness of God’s presence. Some of the people who had been brought up with circumcision and who had found it helpful – for whom it had become integral in their understanding of how God works with humans – would have liked to insist that circumcision be required for all… Read more »