16 November 2003

Historic joint meeting of churches in Yorkshire gives go-ahead for closer unity

Methodist and Anglican ministers in West and North Yorkshire are to be allowed to preach and lead services in each other's churches under radical proposals which this weekend have received the backing of an historic 'Joint Synod' held in Harrogate.

At what is believed to be the first regional meeting of the two churches since the historic signing of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant at Westminster on 1 November, 250 representatives from the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds and the Leeds District of the Methodist Church agreed 'overwhelmingly' to a joint resolution allowing Methodist and Anglican ministers in the region to lead and preside at services of Holy Communion in each other's churches - part of series of proposals designed to lead to closer co-operation between the two churches.

The Joint Synod, meeting at St Aidan's High School, Harrogate, was chaired by Chairman of the Leeds District of the Methodist Church, Rev Michael Townsend and the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, who said that the decision went beyond the nationally agreed Methodist Anglican Covenant statement. "I think we have made a significant move in the relationship between our two churches with the decision to allow the sharing by ministers of worship and ministry in each other's churches."

Bishop Packer said that under the joint resolution he would be able to give permission to allow Methodist ministers to conduct worship at any Church of England church which sought his permission. "The Covenant signed on 1 November between the Methodist Church and the Church of England creates a new situation in which we are called to a still closer relationship. Because of this, and as a result of today's decision, I am willing to grant permission for the sharing of ministers where a local Methodist and Anglican church have reached that stage in their journey together where it is appropriate. It might for example be between two Dales churches in different villages where it would make sense to allow ministers to lead services in each other's churches. But the resolution will not be imposed - any permission will be at the request of the incumbent and the PCC (Parochial Church Council)".

The new measures will only apply between churches in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds and the Leeds District of the Methodist church, but the resolution will allow the sharing of ministry between local Anglican and Methodist churches to take place without the need for a 'Local Ecumenical Partnership' (LEP) or complex and bureaucratic structures. Permission will be given to churches for a limited and renewable period of three years.

The joint resolution agreed in Harrogate also calls on local Anglican deaneries and Methodist circuits to explore practical ways of collaborating together which could include the use of buildings, resources, preachers, training and communication.

Full text of the Resolution adopted by the Synods of the Anglican Diocese of Ripon and Leeds and the Leeds District of the Methodist Church

Saturday 15 November 2003

In the light of the covenant agreed between our two churches we commit ourselves to the joint actions for mission outlined below

1. We believe that our respective structures, procedures and boundaries should always be open to scrutiny and the possibility of modification as we pursue:

  • Ways in which our councils and committees can work closely together
  • Ways of addressing together some of the fundamental issues facing us at the this time, eg rural and urban challenges, multi-faith issues and international problems
  • Consultation about the deployment and support of clergy
  • Consultation concerning buildings, resources and finance
  • Joint training of Readers and Local Preachers
  • Opportunities for the training of lay people and for further training for ministers and clergy
  • Working on communications together

2. We wish to encourage our circuits and deaneries to commit themselves to a similar process of exploration and collaboration as outlined in (1) above.

3. We wish to encourage local Methodist churches and PCCs to explore regular invitations to Ministers of each other's churches, making use of Canon B 43 of the Church of England and the "authorized to minister" status of the Methodist Church.

4. We establish a smaller steering and monitoring group to assist and support this work, to review progress and to report to our respective Synods on an annual basis.

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