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President-bishop proposed

26 June 2008

THE joint commission for the implementation of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant has suggested in its quinquennial report, Embracing the Covenant, published last week, that the President of the Methodist Conference should be consecrated as a bishop.

“An episcopal President of conference would be a bishop for the whole Connexion, which, as we have pointed out, already has certain characteristics of a large diocese. . . As now, the President, working with the Vice-President, would have a Connexion-wide ministry of leadership. But, while the first ordination could very well be of one bishop, some more bishops would be necessary for an effective episcopal ministry throughout the Connexion (including ordinations) and in relation to wider society and to other Churches.”

As incoming Presidents were ordained bishop, there would, in a few years, be a small group of bishops, “ordained for a lifelong ministry”, the commission says.

The ordination of the first “President-bishop” could be obtained, it suggests, by inviting one of the Churches that is both in communion with the Methodist Church and “ordered in the historic episcopate” to send a bishop to take part in the laying on of hands: it mentions the United Churches of South Asia, and some Lutheran Churches of Northern Europe.

“The Connexional nature of Methodist episcopal ministry could challenge the Church of England to be a more united Church, with more internal coherence,” the report says. “The Church of England would be challenged to anticipate, as far as it could, a future that was already becoming a reality, and therefore to take a constructive view of what the 1998 Lambeth Conference called ‘bearable anomalies’ in order to make it possible for Anglican and Methodist bishops, presbyters and deacons to work together on equal terms.”

It set outs various areas of church life in which there could be greater sharing in decision-making, but warns that the Covenant relationship must be allowed to unfold gradually. “The energy for implementing the Covenant is mainly at local level and among senior church leaders,” the report says. “We wonder whether the Churches have either the energy or the will to adapt institutionally to each other in any significant way.”

Guide to bishops debate. The Revd Simon Killwick, chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod, has produced “A Simple Guide to the Manchester Report” for Synod members, writes Pat Ashworth. It summarises the options, and makes a few comments on each one. The advantages and disadvantages attached to each will “depend upon your perspective”, it says.

Embracing the Covenant (Methodist Publishing House, £5.99; 978-1-85852-346-9).

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