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Covenant: ‘We’ll turn our key if you turn yours’

23 May 2014


THE "logjam" preventing the closer union of the Anglican and Methodist Churches must be broken through "bold initiatives", including the appointment of Methodist presbyters to Church of England posts, and the creation of a Methodist bishop, a new report argues.

The report of the Joint Implementation Commission (JIC), The Challenge of the Covenant, is blunt about the current atmosphere surrounding the proposed union. Some people feel "frustration and even boredom" with the Covenant, it warns.

"The question being asked is whether our churches are committed to bring about change. If not, they are not being fair to each other."

When the Anglican-Methodist Covenant was signed in 2003, the two Churches pledged "to overcome the remaining obstacles to organic unity", and "bring about closer collaboration" (News, 7 November 2003).

The report, published yesterday, is the final contribution of the JIC, which was set up to implement the commitments of the Covenant. Its authors - the co-chairs of the JIC, the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, and a former Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, Professor Peter Howdle - note that no progress has been made on "removing obstacles to the interchangeability of . . . ministries". This "seriously questions the integrity of the commitments which our churches have made in the Covenant."

If the Church of England were to tackle these obstacles, the Methodist Church might undertake its own "bold initiative", by creating a form of episcopal ministry, such as a "president bishop", the report suggests. "It is as if we face a locked door, which can only be opened with two keys: each of our Churches holds one of the keys which will open the way to a new stage of our Covenant journey."

The authors say that "the lack of clarity about what sort of visible unity is envisaged has made the Covenant process susceptible to a lack of direction and intentionality."

The report was welcomed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference.

Their statement read: "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 report will be considered by the Methodist Conference in July. It will not be considered by the General Synod until November, because much of the meeting in July will be devoted to a final consideration of the draft women-bishops Measure.


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