A new and groundbreaking regional partnership in Yorkshire between the Church of England and Methodist Church will be inaugurated on Saturday 6 October.
The agreement between the Leeds Methodist District and the Ripon and Leeds Anglican Diocese will be signed at a special celebration at Trinity Methodist Church in Harrogate on 6 October. It will lead to greater sharing of clergy, more joint services, working together to support mission and ministry and greater consultation over future deployment of staff and resources throughout the region.
Under the Covenant Area Partnership - the first of its kind in Great Britain - there will be greater consultation and co-operation between 85 Anglican parishes and their 65 neighbouring Methodist churches.
"The lives of both Churches have already been greatly enriched by our determination to work, worship and grow together," said the Rev Julian Pursehouse, Acting Chair of the Leeds Methodist District. "The new Covenant Area Partnership is a fantastic opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to one another and to live out our calling to serve our communities in a more dynamic and coherent way."
Methodist ministers in this area will be encouraged to apply for permission to minister in Church of England parishes and Anglican clergy will be encouraged to apply for 'Associate Presbyter' status with the Methodist Church. For example, an Anglican priest would be able to preside at Methodist services of Holy Communion and baptism, and at funeral services.
The two Churches will also seek to involve one another in their procedures of appointing new ministers, clergy and staff throughout the Covenant Area.
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, said the partnership was an important opportunity for the two churches: "This marks an important step for the diocese and the Leeds Methodist District. It will encourage us to strive for closer connection with other churches, both together as well as separately. We hope that through our own working more closely together, we will also be able to encourage unity between other churches."
"Christ calls us to unity with one another, but that doesn't mean uniformity," added the Revd Dr Mark Wakelin, President of the Methodist Conference, who will be present at Saturday's ceremony. "It will be a privilege to share in celebrating the gifts and heritage of both Churches, while looking to a more fruitful and exciting future together."
In 2003, a national Covenant between the Methodist Church in Britain and the Church of England was signed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Secretary General of the General Synod, the President, Vice-President and Secretary of the Methodist Conference in the presence of the Queen.