I’m blogging here the first bit of news from the Methodist Church News Service in nearly a month. I can’t believe that nothing of interest has happened in the church in that period, or nothing worthy of comment. Perhaps everybody’s busy getting geared up to the Methodist Conference. Having said this, I post this more out of duty than interest, as I have always been underwhelmed by the Anglican-Methodist Covenant. It seems to me: (1) that where local Anglican and Methodist congregations want to work together they will, and where they don’t they won’t. (2) Like it or not, good ecumenical relations often boils down to the relationship between individual ministers/vicars. (3) The best ecumenism is bottom up rather than top down, where churches and individuals just ‘get on with it’; the best thing that denominations can do is make sure their rules and regulations do not get in the way.
Moving Forward in Covenant
The Methodist Church and the Church of England should work more closely together in their local communities, according to a new report from representatives of both Churches.
The Joint Implementation Commission, set up under the Anglican-Methodist Covenant of 2003, is recommending that the two Churches should share their mission and ministry more widely. Its new interim report Moving Forward in Covenant, due to be considered by both the Methodist Conference and the General Synod in July, urges Methodists and Anglicans to join forces on the ground in a more far-reaching way than ever before.
Professor Peter Howdle, Co-Chair of the Joint Implementation Commission, said: “Moving Forward in Covenant contains some significant material. First, it summarises where both our Churches currently are regarding their 2003 Covenant and states where further progress needs to be made in order to move towards closer communion. Secondly, it includes an important development by proposing the establishing of ‘Covenant Partnerships in Extended Areas’.
“This is a result of innovative thinking using the current regulations of both our Churches. It will allow an increase in shared ministry in many places where both Churches should and could be acting together which can only enhance the missionary imperative of the covenant relationship. I am encouraged by the positive comments we have received about ‘Covenant Partnerships in Extended Areas’ as we have developed this idea and I think it is an exciting way forward. I hope both Churches will receive it in this light as we seek to move closer together.”
“Looking back to 2003 there is no doubt in my mind that the relationship between The Church of England and The Methodist Church of Great Britain is closer and that our Covenant has been a positive influence on ecumenism in the UK.”
The report suggests that Anglican parish churches and Methodist local churches should work together closely through Covenanted Partnerships over wider areas. Covenanted Partnerships already exist in many places. The suggestion now is that greater numbers of Methodist local churches or circuits and Church of England parishes enter Partnerships that encompass wider geographical areas. Where the bishop, parish authorities and the appropriate Methodist Circuit and District authorities give permission, larger areas could benefit from shared ministry, so enabling a strategic approach to the deployment of Anglican clergy and Methodist ministers across all communities.
The report explains how Covenanted Partnerships in Extended Areas would relate to the existing law and rules of both Churches and gives guidance on good practice in implementing them. It recognises that they may not be appropriate in every area and that not all parts of the Church will move at the same speed.
The proposals are being referred to the relevant bodies in both Churches as part of a consultation process.