29 June 2005

Methodist Church moves towards Bishops

The Methodist Church of Great Britain has moved towards adopting Bishops. The annual Conference of the Church voted to receive the report What Sort of Bishops, which commits the Church to make a final decision on the topic in 2007 after a consultation throughout the Church.

What Sort of Bishops is one of a number of reports at this year's Conference looking at the structures of The Methodist Church, including the role of District Chairs, Circuit Superintendents and the Conference itself.

The Revd David Deeks, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, said, 'it is important that the Church is organised so that it can be as effective as possible in its mission, and none of the decisions relating to this can be taken lightly. There are many complex biblical, theological and practical issues concerning bishops, and I am sure that there will be widespread and passionate discussion of this before it returns to Conference in 2007.'

British Methodism has historically had two ordained orders, ministers and deacons, and the Church is now invited to think about both whether or not it wants bishops and, if the first answer is 'yes', what sort of bishops it wants. The possibilities range from only the President of the Conference becoming a bishop, through to arrangements where each District could have up to four bishops.

'Although the driving force for the whole review of oversight has been to ensure that the Church is set up for effective mission,' said David Deeks, 'we must also take into account our ecumenical relationships, especially the Covenant with the Church of England. Discussing Methodist bishops helps us gain a better understanding of what they mean to the Church of England and other Episcopal partners, and this in turn enables us to work better together. We will only adopt bishops if we feel that it will make a positive difference to the Church's work in the world.'

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