The Methodist Church of Great Britain has debated proposals that could see it enter into a full communion agreement, including the interchange of ministries, with the Church of England. The proposals are contained in a report “Mission and Ministry in Covenant”, which was published last year. The C of E’s General Synod debated the report in February, and called for additional work to be undertaken on it. This morning (Monday), the Methodist Church adopted similar motion at its annual conference, which is meeting this week in Nottingham.
The proposals would see future Presidents of Conference being ordained as bishops in the apostolic succession and have the title President Bishop. As Methodist Presbyters in Britain are ordained by the Conference, this would mean that, should the proposals be accepted, future Presbyters would be ordained by a bishop in the apostolic succession. The C of E is being asked to recognise existing Methodist Presbyters, who haven’t been ordained in the apostolic succession, as a “bearable anomaly” until, over time, all future Methodist presbyters are ordained under the new system replace those ordained under the existing system.
There is division in the Church of England’s House of Bishops about the proposals, which were formulated by the Faith and Order bodies of both churches. The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, addressed the Conference this morning and acknowledged the lack of unanimity in the C of E.
“Not all my episcopal colleagues share my enthusiasm for an Anglican Methodist Covenant”, he told conference representatives. “I am quite sure that not all of you are quite committed to it either. But, my brothers and sisters, I plead with you as I plead – frequently – with them, to give it a go.”
Another C of E bishop – Anne Hollinghurst of Aston from the Diocese of Birmingham – also addressed the Conference She told them that “things that are deeply embedded in the culture, traditions and self-understandings of our Churches would have to shift – on both sides” if they were to deal with the legacy of hurt caused by previous failed unity proposals.
“If we are serious about mission together, we need to be serious about ministry together,” she said.
After a debate, the Conference received the report and requested further work to be undertaken and brought back to next year’s meeting.