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Anglican-Methodist Conversations

In 1946 Archbishop Fisher invited the Free Churches to consider taking episcopacy into their system. Only the Methodists responded positively to this and conversations began in 1955, with 12 Anglicans and 12 Methodists led by Bishop Bell and Dr Harold Roberts. By 1958 they were ready to propose that the two Churches should unite their ministries on an episcopal basis. Their 1963 Report included a strong Methodist 'Dissentient' section, resulting in the formation of groups such as the 'Voice of Methodism' opposed to the proposals, which they saw as a take-over of Methodism, and especially the 'Service of Reconciliation' as implying re-ordination. The eventual Scheme of 1968 was accepted by the Methodist Conference, but did not gain the required 75% majority in the Anglican General Synod, either in 1969 or 1972, because of the combined opposition of Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics. Since then, despite the failure of the 1980 Covenant proposals (involving other Free Churches), there has been some local growing together, e.g. through Local Ecumenical Partnerships (LEPs).

A new round of exploratory talks in 1995-96, co-chaired by the Rt. Rev. David Tustin, Bishop of Grimsby, and Brian E. Beck, led to the report 'Commitment to Mission and Unity'. This paved the way for the resolutions in the General Synod of the Church of England and the Methodist Conference in 1997-98 to set up a process of Formal Conversations, co-chaired by the Rt. Rev. Barry Rogerson, Bishop of Bristol, and the Rev. Dr. John B. Taylor. The resulting report, An Anglican-Methodist Covenant, was published in 2001, setting out a 'Common Statement' and proposing that a new relationship be initiated in the form of a Covenant, consisting of a preamble and mutual affirmations and commitments. After full consultation, the General Synod and Conference so resolved by large majorities in 2003, and the Covenant was duly signed by the church leaders in the presence of HM the Queen on 1 November 2003 at a ceremony held at Westminster Central Hall, followed by a service at Westminster Abbey.

A Joint Implementation Commission was set up to monitor and promote the Covenant's implementation and to make recommendations for future theological work. Its first report, Embracing the Covenant was presented to the Conference of 2008. A second phase followed, with a second Quinquennial report in 2013, The Challenge of the Covenant: Uniting in Mission and Holiness. The Methodist Co-Chair for both these phases was Professor Peter Howdle. Following consultation on the 2013 report, the Commission brought to the Conference and to the General Synod of the Church of England in 2014 resolutions, which were adopted by large majorities, committing the two churches, through their Faith and Order bodies, to working on “two bold initiatives” which would address the remaining questions about interchangeability of ministries. A Joint Covenant Advocacy and Monitoring Group, to replace the Joint Implementation Commission, was set up.

See also Church of England

Quotations

'We the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the Church of England, on the basis of our shared history, our full agreement in the apostolic faith, our shared theological understandings of the nature and mission of the Church and of its ministry and oversight, and our agreement on the goal of full visible unity,… hereby make the following Covenant:

1. We affirm one another's Churches as true Churches belonging to the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and as truly participating in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God.

2. We affirm that in both our Churches the word of God is authentically preached and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are duly administered and celebrated.

3. We affirm that both our Churches confess in word and life the apostolic faith revealed in in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the ecumenical Creeds.4. We affirm that one another's ordained and lay ministries are given by God as instruments of God's grace, to build up the people of God in faith, hope and love, for the ministry of word, Sacrament and pastoral care and to share in God's mission to the world.

5. We affirm that one another's ordained ministries possess both the inward call of the Holy Spirit and Christ's commission given through the Church.'

Anglican-Methodist Covenant, 2001

Sources

  • Henry D. Rack, The Future of John Wesley's Methodism (1965) pp.58-79
  • Rupert E. Davies, The Church in our Times (1979)
  • G.T. Brake, Policy and Politics in British Methodism, 1932-1982 (1984), pp.99-150
  • J. Munsey Turner, Conflict and Reconciliation (1985), pp.194-225
  • Rupert E. Davies, 'The Postponement of Unity: a personal account', in WHS Proceedings, 48 pp.191-201
  • Rupert E. Davies, Methodism and Ministry (1993), pp.29-42
  • Commitment to Mission and Unity (1996)
  • Kenneth Greet, Fully Connected (1997), pp.129-33
  • An Anglican-Methodist Covenant (Peterborough, 2001)
  • Methodist Recorder, 6 November 2003; 26 June 2008
  • Michael J. Townsend, 'Implementing An Anglican-Methodist Covenant, in Epworth Review, 31:3 (July 2004) pp.7-14
  • Andrew Atherstone, 'Evangelical Dissentients and the defeat of the Anglican- Methodist unity scheme', in Epworth Review, 34:4 (online version), October 2008
  • Conference Agenda, 2014, pp. 125-145

Entry written by: JHL
Category: Subject

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