Methodists and Anglicans move closer
The Methodist Church took the first steps yesterday towards ending two centuries of separation from the Church of England when its conference voted in favour of a ìcovenantî scheme reports the Times.
After nearly four hours of debate the Methodists, meeting in Llandudno, North Wales, voted overwhelmingly ìto overcome the remaining obstacles to the organic unity of our two Churchesî.
Although delegates emphasised repeatedly that the covenant is not a unity scheme, it will, if successful, lead to unity in all but name, provided it is passed by the Church of Englandís General Synod this month.
All forms of eucharistic sharing will be encouraged. Attempts will be made to co-operate wherever possible in mission, fellowship and worship. Most significantly, the Churches will work to develop joint decision-making structures ìon the way to a fully united ministry of oversightî.
The agreement brings the million-strong Church of England closer to the 320,000-plus Methodists than they have been for more than two centuries, since the Methodist movement, founded by John Wesley, was separated from its mother Church in a dispute over episcopal authority and ordinations.
Already dozens of Methodist and Anglican churches share premises and services, although an earlier attempt at unity, in 1972, failed at the last minute because of opposition from Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England.
The Rev John Walker, co-chairman of the Methodist-Anglican joint liaison group, said the covenant would simply be an extension of much that was already happening.
ìIt is not a takeover, but a proper, equal partnership,î he said.
The Bishop of Peterborough, the Right Rev Ian Cundy, the groupís Anglican co-chairman, said: ìWe have walked together for many years, but the imperative of the goal of unity has eluded us. We are all aware of the failures of the past for which the Church of England has acknowledged its own part.î
In voting by Methodists in circuits, three quarters were in favour. Most Church of England diocesan synods had more than 90 per cent who supported the scheme.