Unity with Methodists
A BILL that would assert and provide for the interchangeability
of ministry between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church
in Ireland was moved by the Dean of Cork, the Very
Revd Nigel Dunne, and seconded by the Bishop of
Cashel, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows.
The Bill had its origins in a 2002 covenant between the two
Churches which recognised that the ordained ministries of each were
equally given by God, and looked forward "to the time when our
ministries can be fully interchangeable, and our Churches visibly
united." The covenant also acknowledgedthat personal, collegial,
and communal oversight was embodied and practised in both
Working groups were established by both Churches, and produced a
Statement of Agreed Principles on the subject for the Synod in
2010, followed by the Methodist Conference a year later. The Bill
gives legislative effect to interchangeability and shared
The polities of both Churches are recognised as distinct,
including the threefold ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon in
the Church of Ireland; and the recognition of collegial, communal,
and personal episcope in the person of the Methodist
President, and his or her predecessors and successors in the
Methodist Church in Ireland, so that interchangeability may now be
permitted to take effect.
The recognition of sufficient consonance in the threefold
ministry of each is such that the logic of the Bill is not to seek
to "reordain" or "further consecrate" those already considered to
be so, but to enable an exchange of ministry to happen in practice
without the presumption that a Methodist presbyter is de
facto a Church of Ireland priest, or that a Church of Ireland
bishop is de facto a president of the Methodist
Instead, recognising the validity of each other, an ordained
minister in either denomination may come under the discipline and
oversight of the other for the exercise of ministry, thus allowing
participation in the liturgies and rites of the other Church.
The Bill also provides for the participation of two bishops of
the Church of Ireland in all future installations and consecrations
of the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, whose
presidents, past or present, will be entitled to participate in the
laying on of hands in the ordination of bishops and priests in the
C of I.
Proposing the Bill, the Dean of Cork, the Very
Revd Nigel Dunne, said that it was not, as was the ultimate goal of
the covenant, a merger into full organic unity, but a crucial step
along the way.
The threefold ministry of the Church of Ireland had not been
compromised, he said. "Those who may hold a more traditional
'pipeline' view of episcopacy and episcope ought to be
greatly reassured by the involvement of at least two of our bishops
in all future installations and consecration of Methodist
Presidents - just as Methodists who may fear that this is in some
way a 're-absorption' back into Anglicanism ought to take
reassurance from the involvement of the President in Church of
Neither Church had done a "solo run" on the developments towards
interchangeability, as both had maintained involvement with the
relevant inter-Church commissions. "Therefore," he said, "whilst
this initiative is a local arrangement, confined to this island, it
has received significant international attention and endorsement,
and, I would suggest, may well bring new life to the international
scene", he said.
The President of the Methodist Church in
Ireland, the Revd Dr Heather Morris, told the Synod: "This
is a truly significant momentin the history of both traditions. Now
the challenge is that we allow our traditions to help each
She said that she was grateful to those who had voiced their
hesitations, and thanked them for their honesty and integrity.
The Bill was passed by the required two-thirds majority.