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.
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…