ANGLICANS and Methodists know enough about each other, and need
to stop timidly "watching every careful step", seeking "impossible
perfection" before agreeing to unity.
This is the message of a report by the Anglican-Methodist
International Commission for Unity in Mission (AMICUM), launched by
the World Methodist Vice-President, Gillian Kingston, and the
Archbishop of Canterbury on Tuesday.
Into All The World: Being and becoming Apostolic
Churches, a report to the Anglican Consultative Council and
the World Methodist Council, is the outcome of 20 years of work. It
hints at an impatience also noted in last year's report by the
Joint Implementation Commission, which warned of "frustration and
even boredom" with the Anglican-Methodist Covenant (News, 23
The Anglican co-chair of AMICUM, the Rt Revd Harold Miller, and
the Methodist co-chair, the Revd Professor Robert Gribben, write:
"We have surely reached the point where we know enough about each
other. Those who know Anglicans and Methodists from the outside
truly wonder what prevents us from taking the next steps. . .
"If we are honest, we are often willing to be friendly as long
as nothing changes. If we do act ecumenically, we do it minimally,
watching every careful step. Or, in our unity discussions we ask of
each other an impossible perfection. . .
"The Churches themselves are in need of repentance and
conversion, of metanoia, which means a willingness to turn
from our own self-absorbing, restricting concerns, to Christ
The report argues that "there are no church-dividing differences
between us in faith, in ordered ministry, in the succession of such
ministries, and in the value of episcopacy." The only remaining
barrier to union is, it suggests, "for Methodists and Anglicans to
come together under the sign of the historic episcopate, "for that
represents the larger history of transmission of which Methodist
Churches are already a part".
Into All The World provides examples from around the
globe of where unity is already a reality, including united
Churches in the Indian sub-continent, and places where bilateral
agreements have been developed. Union must be "full" and "visible",
the report says. It argues that there is an "inseparable biblical
connection between mission and unity", and points to missional
challenges, particularly declining congregations in the West.
The Commission's chairmen call on local churches to take on the
work. "You must decide whether we have given evidence enough of our
unity in Christ to enable you to move forward."
The report's appendix contains "toolkits" with questions for
debate at national and local level; and it recommends the creation
of a new committee "to oversee and foster relationships".
It notes: "It is very important that each party in a bilateral
relationship be honest with themselves, and before God, about any
attitude of superiority which they may have about their Church. . .
There can be factors of race, wealth, size, style, or culture which
lead to a subconscious and unspoken sense of dominating or being
dominated. These need to be handled sensitively."
There is also a reference to the need to face "painful things"
that have happened in the past rather than avoid them. Other
matters to be explored include worship styles ("the danger, if
there is no conversation about this, is that the stronger wins"),
discipline and authority, and disparity of stipends.