Thinking Anglicans

Ministry and Mission in Covenant

Updated

On Friday 9 February, from 5.15 pm until 7 pm, the General Synod will consider the Church of England’s relationship with the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Following an address from a Methodist Church speaker, there will be a debate on the document GS 2086 Mission and Ministry in Covenant. The 24 page joint report is prefaced by a 7 page Note from the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission which summarises itself thus:

Mission and Ministry in Covenant responds to a resolution of the General Synod in 2014 by outlining proposals for bringing the Church of England and the Methodist Church into communion with one another and enabling interchangeability of their presbyteral ministries. As Synod members prepare to debate the report, it is important they consider its proposals in the context of the Covenant relationship between our churches established in 2003 and of work associated with that. Members also need to be mindful of the longer history of relations between our churches, including the defeat of proposals for union at the General Synod in 1972. Having briefly outlined that background, this introductory note then comments on three key questions that have emerged from the reception of the report so far:

  • What difference will the proposals make?
  • Do the proposals fit with Anglican theology and with existing ecumenical agreements?
  • What consultation has there been with other churches?

Finally, it explains why some further work is being recommended before a decision is taken on initiating legislation, in response to discussion within the House of Bishops.

Today, a statement has been issued by Anglican Catholic Future which can be read in full at Statement from Anglican Catholic Future on the Report ‘Mission and Ministry in Covenant’. It begins this way:

Over the past 40 years the Church of England has invested an enormous amount of time and energy debating who may or may not be ordained, and therefore who may or may not duly administer the sacraments. Some catholic Anglicans have passed resolutions under the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests because they cannot accept the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Many catholic Anglicans have remained happily within the inherited structures of the Church of England: this is the place in which we have received, been nurtured in, and minister the catholic faith. With the publication of the report Mission and Ministry in Covenant, we are left wondering what all that debate was about, and quite what the future looks like for those of us for whom orders and sacraments are naturally a central part of what it means to hold to the catholic faith as the Church of England has received it.

Fundamental to the Church of England’s understanding of its catholicity is the historic episcopate. This, like the other aspects of the Lambeth Quadrilateral (the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist) we recognise as gifts from God for the unity of the Church, through which the Church is maintained in the faith once delivered to the saints. Through the Act of Uniformity, the Prayer Book, the Ordinal, and the Canons of the Church of England, English Anglicans recognise that a bishop focuses the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the whole Church, as well as calling the Church into ever closer fidelity to those marks. Astonishingly, it is proposed that these historic formularies, so long the repository of the Church of England’s self-understanding and a framework for her unity, be open to suspension or amendment simply because the principles they uphold – both Anglican and ancient – are taken to be inconvenient…

The Church Times had this report last week: Renewed plans to unite the Church of England and Methodist Church to be scrutinised by the Synod.

Update

Forward in Faith has also issued a statement: The Anglican-Methodist Proposals

..Of even greater concern are the consequences of these proposals for catholic order in the Church of England. To permit those who have not been ordained by a bishop to minister as Church of England priests, even for a ‘temporary’ period (which might last for sixty or seventy years) is for us not a ‘bearable anomaly’ but a fundamental breach of catholic order. We deeply regret that the report rules out further consideration of this issue. As loyal Anglicans, we uphold the doctrine and discipline regarding Holy Orders that is enshrined in the historic formularies of the Church of England, and in the 1662 Ordinal in particular. We shall oppose any proposals that would effectively set that doctrine and discipline aside. We note that it is to the inheritance of faith embodied in these formularies that all who minister in the Church of England must affirm their loyalty by making the Declaration of Assent…

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Charles Clapham
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I worked as an Anglican priest for a number of years in an LEP chaplaincy alongside a URC minister, and last week, to mark the week of prayer for Christian unity, we welcomed to my (Anglican) church the local Methodist minister who presided at a covenant service with communion (I had presided at an Anglican Eucharist earlier in the day). But I’m not unsympathetic to the concerns of Anglican Catholic Future, and this proposal does show the shift in power away from Catholics towards Evangelicals in the Church of England. Traditionalist Catholics opposed to the ordination of women keep themselves… Read more »

Paul Richardson
Guest
Paul Richardson

Anglican Catholic Future should rejoice in the historic Episcopate being introduced to the Methodist tradition of the Church, just as it has in those churches of the Porvoo Communion who had, like the Methodists, lost this visible sign of historic Apostolic succcesion.

Russell Dewhurst
Guest
Russell Dewhurst

Paul: presbyters in the Porvoo churches who have not been ordained by bishops are not permitted to exercise priestly ministry in the C of E. This is something in the new proposals which represents a departure from our tradition and from previous ecumenical agreements, including Porvoo.

Jo
Guest
Jo

Didn’t the churches in India go through a similar process in order to achieve unity? If the end result is repairing the schism with Methodism and a unified church where, in time, all Priests will be espicopally ordained then isn’t that worth trusting that God will put right any lack in the meantime?

Kate
Guest
Kate

I don’t personally believe in apostolic succession and I support lay celebration of the eucharist. In truth, I don’t believe ordination is a sacrament. In terms of my personal beliefs, I am at the opposite pole to Anglican Catholic Future. But, my views are not those of the Church of England and I believe that Anglican Catholic Future is (are?) correct in saying that the proposals are incompatible with core aspects of the traditions of the Church of England. This goes much deeper than women priests. Notwithstanding my personal views, I think the concerns expressed by Anglican Catholic Future are… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

It seems to me it’s difficult not to see that there has been shift doctrinally between ARCIC and Porvoo, and then between Porvoo and the Anglican-Methodist Covenant. I joined the Church of England as an adult, by conviction: I wanted an inclusive, sacramental, episcopally ordered church. This feels less and less the direction of travel for the Church of England.

John Holding
Guest
John Holding

It’s probably too much to hope for, but it would be nice if the Church of England considered the impact on other members of the communion of this kind of move. Most other Anglican provinces are not in communion with local Methodist incarnations — indeed, some have rejected such a move. I’m not saying the CofE should necessarily follow our lead, but as it likes to think of itself as a leader in the communion, and as long as Canterbury pretends to a leadership role in the communion, it would be nice if the CofE at least noticed the rest… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

I do hope that whoever is Chairing the General Synod for this debate calls upon Dean Lionel Pugh-Critchley to deliver his legendary sermon on the Anglican/Methodist Reunion Scheme.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“I don’t personally believe in apostolic succession and I support lay celebration of the eucharist. In truth, I don’t believe ordination is a sacrament. In terms of my personal beliefs, I am at the opposite pole to Anglican Catholic Future.” – Kate

Well, Kate, you certainly have many fellow non-believers in Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Australian Diocese of Sydney. They also share your desire for Lay Presidency at the Eucharist. However, this is not Anglicanism as most of us recognise it. These people in Sydney are also Founder members of GAFCON. Is that your stance?

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

I am not a Sydney evangelical but I do not believe ordination is a sacrament and the Articles make it clear that Anglicanism as expressed in that document does not either. This is not to say that orders are unimportant and I do not support lay presidency (which is a contradiction in terms.) I don’t accept apostolic succession in its literal form – tracing a family tree back to Peter and all that – as history won’t support that. I do think that we can see apostolic succession in a more general sense of going back to the early church… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

‘English Anglicans recognise that a bishop focuses the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the whole Church, as well as calling the Church into ever closer fidelity to those marks.’ This statement would be accurate if prefaced by ‘Many’. It’s not what my home church or my theological college taught, and I doubt if many evangelicals believe it. In fact, it describes the ministry of Jesus himself. The truth of the statement isn’t much evident in practice either. Still, if this is a sticking point with a large number of Anglo-Catholics, we need to take it seriously, discuss it thoroughly,… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“not Anglicanism as most of us recognise it” – Ron Who is “we” in that statement? Most Anglicans no longer regularly attend church so obviously there’s a chasm between their beliefs and the practices of the church. Isn’t it about time we examined that? And that’s why I am not in favour of communion with the Methodists right now. It puts the cart before the horse of honestly studying and accepting what is putting people off the Church of England. It is pretending that the problems in our church can be resolved by new external links rather than through honest… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

“…and as long as Canterbury pretends to a leadership role in the communion, it would be nice if the CofE at least noticed the rest of us from time to time.”

The alternative being that the whole leadership idea be dropped. The CofE has enough vexing problems of its own at present, without having them rebound into the Communion by virtue of a ‘leadership’ idea.

I might not have said this ten years ago, but the situation on the ground in the CofE is its own specific reality.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Is Russell Dewhurst quite right about Porvòo? All clergy in the Nordic Churches are ordained by bishops. Porvoo was about extending the historic episcopate to those churches ( Norway, Denmark and Iceland) that previously lacked it wasn’t it?

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

Charles Read: you said ‘I do not believe ordination is a sacrament and the Articles make it clear that Anglicanism as expressed in that document does not either.’ I’m just looking at what Article 25 says, and I don’t think it makes it clear! ‘There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.’ True, agreed, and that is clear. But it goes on to say ‘Those five commonly called Sacraments …[including Orders]… are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel.’ So they are ‘commonly… Read more »

Russell Dewhurst
Guest
Russell Dewhurst

Cathedral deans have sometimes ordained in the Porvoo churches. Mission and Ministry in covenant refers to this in section 71 “it was agreed that pastors who had been ordained by those not holding episcopal office would not be eligible to serve in Anglican churches within the Porvoo Communion,”

Robin Ward
Guest
Robin Ward

There were ordinations carried out by deans in some of the episcopally ordered Porvoo churches at the time of the agreement, I think during vacancies in sees and so forth. I think it is meant to have stopped by now.

Marshall Scott
Guest

We have both experience with communion with Lutherans and exploring communion with Methodists in the Episcopal Church on the western side of the Atlantic. I would note that some ELCA clergy resisted the thought of ordination by Bishops, and in that light those Pastors ordained by other Pastors without a bishop would not be eligible for an Episcopal cure. Since it seemed truly unlikely that a Pastor so ordained would *want* to serve in an Episcopal cure, *under an Episcopal Bishop*, few of us have held that concern for any length of time. Surely the same would be likely for… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Historic succession seems to me a defensible and prudent practice.

What I find interesting is that, at a time when churches are divided within themselves over theology and practice, “historic succession” starts to become such a critical factor. One wonders if this is why people regard it as a piece of mysticism without any real meaning, and why Roman Catholics themselves do not see it as having protected Communion.

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

As an ex-Methodist, I have a viewpoint that usually makes me unpopular with Anglicans. But let me pose a question anyway.

For those Anglicans who believe that Methodist presbyters are not validly ordained as priests in the apostolic succession – how do you feel when Roman Catholics say the same thing about Anglican orders?

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Historic succession seems to me a defensible and prudent practice. “What I find interesting is that, at a time when churches are divided within themselves over theology and practice, “historic succession” starts to become such a critical factor. One wonders if this is why people regard it as a piece of mysticism without any real meaning, and why Roman Catholics themselves do not see it as having protected Communion.” – CRS The concept is that apostolic succession passes on some sort of spiritual gift, or power. Man can request such inheritance but it is necessarily imperfect:the only agent able to… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Thanks, Kate.

I disagree with your blog mini-treatise at almost every point, but you have again made your views on this known. Grace and peace.

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

There is a pretty direct Anglican precedent for the kind of proposal in this report. In the late sixteenth century, ministers who had been ordained by presbyters on the continent were allowed to minister in the Church of England without being ordained by a bishop.

Jo
Guest
Jo

I don’t think that apostolic succession requires that humans be perfect, only that God will continue to honour what he honoured for the apostles – the passing on of apostolic authority. As God is unchanging it is not an unreasonable belief. If sacraments were dependent on the perfection of humans then there would be doubt every time someone was baptised, or every time communion was celebrated. Rather we trust God’s promises.

Marshall Scott
Guest

Brother Swanson, as we discussed it in conversation with the Lutherans, we felt we could acknowledge that they had maintained *apostolic teaching*, even if they hadn’t maintained the historic episcopate. That included *apostolic fellowship*, at least in that their practice of the Eucharist continued to reflect that *apostolic teaching*. With that in mind, we felt ELCA presbyters (Pastors) would certainly be real presbyters. They found Lutheran language to say the same of us. Historic succession has its value. Calling it “apostolic” requires that we be clear about just what is the relationship between the apostles and a current bishop, even… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

The whole point about the making of a bishop, if apostolic succession is accepted, is that they inherit some new power which they did not formerly possess: the power to make more bishops. And, crucially, the claim is that nobody who has been made bishop by someone without this magical power is a true Bishop. There is absolutely no parallel with the Eucharist which grants no new power. Baptism is more apposite. Does baptism confer the power to baptise others? No, because even a non-Christian can baptise – baptism of the celebrant is not necessary, everyone is born with the… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

When we, or others, talk about apostolic succession, which apostles are we talking about? Probably not the original 12, but the remaining 11 after Judas’ betrayal of Jesus? The 11 plus Matthias, the replacement elected by the tossing of a coin? The 11 + Matthias + St. Paul (who was not appointed or ordained by Jesus during his lifetime, or by the other 11)? Do we include Junia/Junias and Andronicus (Rom. 16:7)?

Jo
Guest
Jo

“And, crucially, the claim is that nobody who has been made bishop by someone without this magical power is a true Bishop” Please don’t denigrate the beliefs of others as “magical”. In any case, I don’t think you’re correct. The claim is that those consecrated as Bishops by existing Bishops are true Bishops. It makes no claim about other Bishops whom God may or may not have called at other times and in other ways. In much the same way those of us in the Catholic tradition would assert that when a validly ordained priest celebrates communion according to a… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“- baptism of the celebrant is not necessary, everyone is born with the intrinsic power to baptise.” – Jane –

How curious!

Then, why bother with Sacraments at all? If there is no intrinsic power’grace bestowed therein?

Richard
Guest
Richard

From the February 1892 issue of The Arrow, a monthly publication of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York City:

“THERE is a growing feeling among the Metho-
dists in this country in favor of using in their services the liturgy drawn up by John Wesley. One
of our metropolitan newspapers informs us that should that be adopted there would then be no difference between the Methodists and the Episcopal Church. Perhaps.”

Father Ron Smith
Guest

So Cross was I at Kate’s last remarks, I called her ‘Jane’ by mistake. Sorry Jane!

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

“But, as several of us have said, a number of our brothers and sisters in the Church of England do believe in apostolic succession. For them it is a big deal and clearly full communion between those brothers and sisters and the Methodist Church is not possible. Pursuing a policy which increases the divisions within the Church of England itself, seems foolhardy” – Kate
But, as well as increasing divisions within the CofE, it would reduce divisions in the church as a whole. Unless we say that the CofE is all that matters, there is surely a balance to be struck?

Tim Chesterton
Guest

It is often argued on this blog that Jesus had nothing to say on the subject of homosexuality. It seems to me he had even less to say on the subject of apostolic succession.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Ron http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2W.HTM “When an ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or another person designated for this function by the local ordinary, or in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly.” According to the Vatican, any person with the right intention can licitly administer baptism. You might not like it, but that is Catholic thinking on the matter. And there is no doubt that baptism confers grace but it is the sacrament which does so, not the celebrant. This is what liberals like me find offensive – the idea that somehow the background… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“”When an ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or another person designated for this function by the local ordinary, or in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly.” – Kate (per Vatican) – The term “A Catechist or other person designated for this function by the local Ordinary (Bishop) – or,in a case o NECESSITY, any person with the RIGHT INTENTION, confers baptism licitly” – in the first place, Kate, (1) you will notice that anyone licenced by the bishop is authorised, and secondly (2) in case of necessity – any person… Read more »

Jo
Guest
Jo

If memory serves, valid “intent” in Catholic theology means the intent to “do what the church does” in the sacrament, regardless of what the minister of the sacrament believes that to be. So in the event that an infant is born who is unlikely to survive long enough for a priest to be summoned a baptism carried by an unbaptised nurse at the bedside would be valid so long as they intended to baptise (and used water and a trinitarian form).

Kate
Guest
Kate

While it clearly is most likely that someone performing baptism will themselves be baptised, it is not actually necessary. There are good reasons, I think, why the Lord organised it that way. Suppose two or three people in a rural Afghan village heard the Good News. There might be no minister in hundreds of miles, quite possibly no access even to someone who has been baptised. Yet they could baptise each other and found a church. And that church would be fully the equal of any church claiming historic apostolic succession. “And how would you qualify that intention if they… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

Kate If those two or three people ‘heard the gospel’ in the middle of absolutely nowhere – it is not clear how, who from or what they actually heard – where would they even get the idea of ‘baptism’ or ‘church’ from at all? We might even wonder why God bothered to send Philip to Ethiopian eunuch. I agree that approaches to church order and authority can be become forms of godless power play – but your scenario is so speculative and on the remotest end of the spectrum as to be impossible to engage with.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

@Mr Runcorn The Ethiopian Eunuch was not on the internet, whereas Kate’s hypothetical remote Afghanis may have learned Christianity on line, perhaps even from Thinking Anglicans. The RC quote about persons authorised to baptise licitly by a bishop means an RC bishop. Yet RCs recognise Protestant baptisms as valid, not because they regard Protestant ministers as somehow authorised, but because illicit baptism is valid, by whomever administered. There were long running disputes in the nineteenth century, sometimes over whether people baptised by dissenting (e.g. Methodist) ministers could be buried in C of E churchyards, since at that time unbaptised persons… Read more »