From the Revd David Redrobe
Sir, - It is when the doors of the Anglican and Methodist
Churches are really opened (News, 23
May) that the significant differences between the two
Communions become obvious and cannot be ignored.
The ecclesiologies of the two Churches are fundamentally and
theologically very different. Episcopacy and ordination have unique
and significant differences in terms of ontology, function, and
sacramental emphases, and because the approach to these vital
aspects of the Anglican Church witness to the ancient historical
view of priesthood and ministry, it is the Methodist Church that
would have to completely alter its theology.
Recently, the Methodist Church produced a liturgy that would
enable a lay person to preside fully at the eucharist, thus
removing one of the unique gifts of presbyteral ministry, something
that the Church of England could never accept.
In theory, perhaps, the Methodist superintendent is the
episcopal figure, and every Methodist circuit has such a person,
responsible for the overall life of a Methodist circuit; but the
country would be overrun with Methodist bishops if they were
consecrated such by the Church of England. The Methodist chair(man)
is not an episcopal figure, and the role is a collaborative one and
has no unique individual authority, as with an Anglican bishop.
The Church of England has differing aspects of Catholicity and
biblical commitment, expressed in the daily life of those parish
churches that are Catholic and High Church, and Evangelical. The
Methodist Church has never had this kind of inclusiveness, although
the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship has been there to offer
pastoral support to those presbyters and lay people who are
committed to the centrality of the eucharist, a group that is very
much in the minority.
Liturgically, the two Churches have very different approaches to
worship. The Methodist Church is not committed to the centrality of
the eucharist as is the Church of England, and, although it has a
magnificent Worship Book, full of seasonal approaches to
the eucharist, in many places it is hardly ever used; and, although
there are lovely Services of the Word, many local preachers, who
conduct most of the Services of the Word, never use them.
Sociologically, the two Churches are very different. The Free
Church principle abounds in Methodism, and, in many rural areas,
the "Church" and "Chapel" attitudes still keep the two communities
apart, and very often this still applies even in so-called local
I believe it is very important, where it is possible, and that
should not be forced, that the two Churches should work together in
the community, having first of all agreed on a definition of
mission that in no way interferes with the historical esse
of the two Churches. As for ministry, if the Methodist Church would
agree to being embraced by the historic episcopate - but no: we
have been down that road before, and it was a cul-de-sac. It is an
opportunity, however, to look again at the theology of the
presbyteral ministry, which would give Methodist Catholics a unique
opportunity to witness to the centrality of the eucharist. This
would certain thrill the hearts of the Wesleys.
St Andrew's Vicarage
28 South Cliff Road
Kirton in Lindsey
Gainsborough DN21 4NR
From the Revd Bruce Bridgewood
Sir, - Your report about the Covenant between the C of E and
the Methodist Church, "Covenant: 'We'll turn our key if you turn
yours'" is worrying.
The Joint Implementation Commission notes that no progress has
been made on "removing obstacles to the interchangeability of . . .
ministries". Quite so. And why? Because, as usual, no one is
prepared to tackle the theology. The elephant in the room is the
same elephant as was there 40-odd years ago. The fact is that,
whatever else Methodist ministers are, they are not priests in the
Church of God, not having been ordained by a bishop. So we can't
just cox and box at the eucharist as if they were.
As things stand at the moment, RC and Orthodox priests (both
species, of course, episcopally ordained) could celebrate the
eucharist in Anglican churches without further ado. Reformed and
Lutheran pastors would need to be made priests by the laying on of
hands of the bishop. There is no way round this. No amount of
glad-handing and being nice to our fellow Christians gets round
this. That Methodist ministers are ordained to a ministry of Word
and Sacrament is not in doubt; but it's not a rover ticket. Of
course, there will be Methodists who will resist the idea of
reordination as insulting; and they are entitled to that view.
Nevertheless, they cannot then expect to be given an Anglican altar
for the asking.
The answer here may well be conditional ordination, something,
mutatis mutandis, along the lines of conditional
Just to mix the metaphor, no amount of key-turning in various
locks will make any difference, unless various nettles are grasped
first: so let us grasp them.
15 Temple Orchard
High Wycombe HP13 6PH
From the Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan
Sir, - I read with regret but no surprise that the Joint
Implementation Committee writes in frustration about the Covenant
that it is supposed to implement. It is now more than 20 years
since the Methodists first approached the Church of England for
talks, and the history is a sad one. May I pick out some crucial
features that time may have eclipsed?
First, the commission that produced in 2002 the report An
Anglican-Methodist Covenant was asked only to make a statement
of common faith. It was not charged with recommending anything that
would move the Churches towards organic unity.
Second, the Covenant we were all to embrace therefore contained
no requirement of any particular steps in any particular direction.
It was solemnly sent round the dioceses as needing assent as
changing the relationship with another Church. It changed virtually
nothing; for it was devoid of content.
Third, it is true, as your report states, that the Churches said
that, as a matter of priority, they would work to "overcome the
remaining obstacles to organic unity". But "organic unity" was not
defined; the obstacles were not identified, and the steps needed to
overcome them were correspondingly absent. So we were engaged in
making a pretty empty pledge, and it is not surprising if no one
has done anything about it.
Fourth, in Southwark diocese, where I was then, we returned a
following motion to the General Synod saying that we reckonedthat,
for the Covenant to have content, it needed actual steps tobe taken
to enable the interchangeability of presbyters between the two
Churches. I moved this in the Synod on Southwark's behalf; it was
opposed by the chair of the Council for Christian Unity; and it was
carried in the Synod despite his opposition. We are now told, 11
years later, that "no progress has been made" in this. One has to
ask why, when the Synod has passed a policy-making resolution, that
policy has not been put into legal language and brought back to the
Synod for "implementation". If someone has sat on it (and the 2008
report as well as this one look as though no one has noticed it),
did anyone in the Synod ever ask who had sat on the policy and
Fifth, in summary, this interchangeability needs unilateral
action by the Synod, which itself asked for it; and if "no
progress" has been made, that is where the problem lies. How is it
that the Implementation Commission has not thrust this point hard
at those responsible?
21 The Drive
Leeds LS17 7QB