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Episcopal ordination of Methodist ministers

05 January 2012


From Mr Adrian F. Sunman

Sir, — As an ex-Methodist who is now an Anglican, I have followed the correspondence (25 November, 2 and 16 December) regarding the reordination of the Revd Dr Stephen Plant with considerable interest, and I hope very much you will allow me to comment.

Since 1972, the Church of England has routinely welcomed baptised non-Anglicans to receive communion at its altars (Canon B15A). More recently, it has allowed them to have their names on church electoral rolls, and, subject to the bishop’s permission, serve on PCCs. All of these measures have been good and sensible responses to changing pastoral and ecumenical realities. No one can seriously doubt that the Church of England is a better place for the flexibility that they have provided.

The Church of England, however, rightly expects those undertaking leadership positions or any form of licensed ministry to be at least confirmed and, where appropriate, episcopally ordained. This is so that they can demonstrate an understanding of, and commitment to, discipleship as Christians within the Anglican tradition. It is not about having barriers for their own sake.

I cannot imagine for one minute that, in accepting reordination, Dr Plant was ever required to repudiate either the grace or validity of the orders that he already had.

There may come a time when the Church of England and the Methodist Church have reached a point where they have a common understanding of ministry and are able to hold joint ordination services. That time has not yet arrived, and, until it does, the two Churches have to abide by one another’s rules as they stand, while at the same time endeavouring to do those things together that can be undertaken jointly.

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