The Methodist Church has made a commitment to taking a major step forward in its relationship with the Church of England.
The two Churches are committed to making their unity more visible through the Anglican-Methodist Covenant signed in 2003.
Today the Conference received a report, entitled The Challenge of the Covenant, which recommends that both Churches take action to enhance unity between them, with the work being fully embedded in Church structures.
Professor Peter Howdle, Co-Chair of the Joint Implementation Commission, which produced the report, said: "I think that now is an auspicious time in ecumenical relationships and that the Methodist Conference has taken a courageous and historic step in endorsing our recommendations. A similar bold step by the Church of England will completely change the relationship between our two Churches and make our joint mission much more credible and deepen our communion together."
The Conference directed that proposals for a form of Methodist episcopal ministry (such as a 'president bishop') be developed for consideration. It also urged local churches, circuits and districts to make the most of what Anglican and Methodist churches can already do together in joint worship and in serving their communities. One example of this is the creation of 'Covenanted Partnerships in Extended Areas', which allow an increase in shared ministry in local areas.
"Covenanted Partnerships in Extended Areas are a very welcome progression for us in Cumbria," said the Revd Richard Teal, Chair of the Cumbria Methodist District. "We hope the whole of the county will become one because they enable covenant partners to share ministry and develop strategies across the area. They also allow Methodist ministers to conduct baptisms and preside at holy communion in Anglican churches and Anglican clergy to do the same in Methodist churches."
The Church of England is expected to consider the same report at the meeting of the General Synod following the sessions in July. The report specifically challenges the Church of England to resolve the issues that stand in the way of the interchangeability of the ordained ministries of the two Churches.
In response to the publication of the report in May, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, issued a joint statement welcoming the report.
1. The Conference is the body that agrees policy for the Methodist Church. It meets annually as a group of 306 representatives, along with a number of ecumenical and World Church associate members. This year's Conference is being held at Birmingham Metropole Hotel from 26 June 3 July. For more information, visit the Methodist Conference website.
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