The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, have today(22 May) issued a joint statement to their Churches.
The Most Rev Justin Welby, the Most Rev John Sentamu, the Rev Ruth Gee and Dr Daleep Mukarji have issued the statement in response to a report that will be debated by the Methodist Conference and General Synod this year.
The report, entitled The Challenge of the Covenant, recommends that both Churches take action to enhance unity between them, with the work being fully embedded in Church structures. It also encourages the Church of England to address the question of interchangeability of ordained ministries between the two Churches, and the Methodist Church to consider the possibility of a form of episcopal ministry (such as a 'president bishop').
The statement from the Archbishops and Methodist Presidency welcomes the report, stating that:
"The time has now come for our churches to take further, significant steps to achieve that level of reconciliation between us and partnership in the gospel that will enhance our mission together in local communities and our shared witness to the whole of society."
The full statement follows:
As we look ahead to important debates in the Methodist Conference and the General Synod on the future direction of the Covenant between our two churches, we affirm our commitment to the Covenant and give thanks for the many ways the Covenant is beneficial to both our churches at all levels of church life and to our common work of service and witness. We welcome the final report of the Joint Implementation Commission (JIC) to the Methodist Conference and the General Synod entitled 'The Challenge of the Covenant'. In preparation for the debates, we encourage prayerful study of this and of the Quinquennial Report published last September.
The Methodist Conference will consider the JIC report in early July, before the July sessions of the General Synod, at which the main business will be the final stage of the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure. The outcome of this vote in the General Synod is immensely important to Methodists as well as to Anglicans, and will have an impact on the future outworking of the Covenant.
Owing to the focus on and time needed for the women bishops legislation in July, the expectation is that the General Synod debate on the JIC Report will be in November. The debate and vote on the JIC Report in July at the Methodist Conference, the vote on women bishops in the General Synod and its debate on the JIC Report in November will all be important building blocks for the next stage of the Covenant journey.
We are grateful to the JIC for setting before our two churches a clear challenge. This is a moment for thankfulness as we reflect on the journey already travelled since the Covenant was signed more than ten years ago and for trust and boldness as we each consider, in our respective governing bodies, the challenge now set before us.
It is our shared conviction that the time has now come for our churches to take further, significant steps to achieve that level of reconciliation between us and partnership in the gospel that will enhance our mission together in local communities and our shared witness to the whole of society. Our Churches are called to proclaim the good news of God's kingdom and, in the words of John Wesley, to 'spread scriptural holiness through the land'. This calling includes the prophetic role of speaking out with and for the poor and marginalised, and the common task of evangelism. We believe that we will grow in unity the more we fulfil this calling together.
May we hold faith with each other and be guided by the Holy Spirit, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
* The Anglican-Methodist Covenant was signed in November 2003. Further information here: http://www.anglican-methodist.org.uk/