09 February 2018
Church of England and Methodists move towards unity
More 'clarification' needed to show why proposals do not undermine the apostolic role, authority of bishops
The Church of England and Methodist Church took a step towards unity when the General Synod welcomed a report that proposed the Methodist Church embrace bishops in England for the first time since the two churches split in the late 18th century,.
The report also proposes that the orders of Methodist ministers be recognised by the Church of England.
Bishop of Coventry the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth said the proposals allow the Methodist Church to receive the historic episcopate and for both churches to be "in communion". He said: "We are confident that the proposals are faithful to the catholicity of the Church." He was also confident they were faithful to the "apostolicity" of the Church.
He admitted that "further clarification" was needed to show why the proposals do not undermine the apostolic role and authority of bishops.
The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said the proposals were "rich with the promise of greater mutual understanding and cooperation".
The Methodist Church chooses its presidents for just one year in office. Dr Sentamu referred to the concern that if the presidents are consecrated as bishops, they will only be consecrated for their year in office. He said more work is needed to elaborate on how the role of bishop will be interpreted in the Methodist Church, once the year's presidency is over.
The Rev Gareth Powell, secretary of the Methodist Conference, said: "Our call to unity is about more than church ordering, it is about a faithfulness to Christ." Complacency in the face of disunity hinders mission and impairs witness to Christ.
Ruth Gee, former president of the Methodist conference, told the synod: "The proposals that we are considering seek to enable our two churches to enter into communion with one another. At the heart of this is the sharing of the ministry of the historic episcopate and the interchangeability of ministry. Reception of the historic episcopate would mean that, for the first time, the Methodist Church in Britain would ordain presbyters as bishops."
The Methodist Conference has stated that it is willing to receive the episcopate as long as partner churches acknowledge that the Methodist Church "has been and is part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church", she said.
The synod agreed that more work will be done to address "areas for further reflection" and also affirmed its "confident hope" that any outstanding issues between the churches are resolved "quickly and satisfactorily".
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