Anglican-Methodist reunion likely

An Anglican-Methodist reunion is on the cards after a Church of England general synod overwhelmingly backed plans to reunite the two churches.

Although some synod members consider the moves as being controversial and threatening to the fundamentals of the Church of England, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York both backed the proposals for an Anglican-Methodist reunion.

The move was backed by 290 synod members, with 59 voting against it and 24 abstaining.

If the Methodist Church agrees, priests and presbyters will be able to minister in other’s churches. The opportunity to reunite will be considered at the Methodist Conference later this year.

If approved, the new relationship of the two churches “being in communion” could end a 200 year-old schism between them.

The Bishop of Coventry says the proposals “work towards healing a tragic division in the Church of England that John Wesley fought hard to avoid and brought such anguish to his brother – a tear in the fabric of our church”.

He says the next phase of unification will help end “the scandal of the body of Christ being divided”.

Rev Gareth Powell, who is the secretary of the Methodist Conference, said both churches “have an all too easy acceptance of the scandal of disunity.

“Complacency in the face of our disunity hinders not only mission, but impairs our witness to Christ, our ability to live in the image of God, and be effective channels of the Holy Spirit”.

Two matters are of particular concern in relation to reuniting the two churches.

One is whether Methodist presbyters would have to be re-ordained to provide a unified and public catholic witness. The synod report proposes the Anglican Church recognise Methodist ministers’ holy orders.

The other issue is about how churches should be led.

Anglican churches operate under an episcopal model with bishops seen as following on from the apostles, as the Church’s leaders. As bishops consecrate more bishops and ordain new clergy, the “apostolic succession” continues.

Methodists do not accept the idea of “apostolic succession” in the Anglican sense.

If the churches were to reunite, an Anglican bishop would take part in ordaining new Methodist ministers, enabling them to enter the “apostolic succession”.

The Methodist Conference says it is willing to receive the episcopate as long as partner churches acknowledge that the Methodist Church “has been and is part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church”, Ruth Gee, former president of the Methodist conference says.

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