Anglicans, Methodists inching towards unity

By on March 1, 2002

London After three years of discussion, a common statement is proposing concrete steps toward unity between Anglicans and Methodists in England. “All the essential theological ingredients to bring about an integrated ministry in the future seem to be in place,” the statement said. The only possible obstacle could be opposition in the Church of England to female bishops. The report proposes a sweeping new relationship between the two churches at every level, including sharing of worship and exchange of clergy. By recognizing in each other the signs of “a true church,” the churches are also recognizing “the authentically apostolic nature of its ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral oversight,” the report says. Proposals for a move towards unity failed in 1972 over attempts to reconcile the ministries of the two churches. The report acknowledged those failures and admitted that there are “strong feelings that could continue to keep the two churches apart. These feelings, however caused, arise not only out of present unease, but also out of past conflicts…. But the goal we were set was realistic and deliverable.” Despite the rocky road, “We need to proceed in a steady but resolute way towards our goal which is, as ever, the full visible unity of Christ’s Church.” Bishop Barry Rogerson of Bristol, Anglican co-chair of the dialogue, said that he hoped that unity could be achieved by 2010. While there is substantial agreement on the theology and practice of baptism and the Eucharist, there are some differences in approach to ministry. The Methodists, for example, allow laity to preside at the Eucharist for “pastoral reasons.” The two churches agree on the role of oversight and the office of bishops. The Methodists will not budge, however, in their commitment to women as bishops.

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