01 July 2002
Methodist Conference asks church members to vote on Anglican-Methodist Covenant
The Methodist Conference has today asked Methodists across Britain to decide whether to accept a proposed Covenant between the Church of England and the Methodist Church.
First published last December, a report of Formal Conversations of the Methodist Church and the Church of England proposes the Covenant between the two churches. This report is to be considered by the Church of England General Synod on Saturday 6 July.
The Methodist Conference, meeting this week in Wolverhampton is now asking Methodist Districts and Circuits to study the report and vote on whether to approve the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.
Responses will be considered by a joint group of Anglicans and Methodists. Unless there is a clear sense from the responses that the two Churches will not accept the Covenant, those responses will help to frame proposed resolutions to adopt the Covenant in 2003. The General Synod is to be asked to approve the same process for the Church of England.
The Covenant, if accepted by both churches, would be a mutual affirmation for the first time of the life and ministry of each other's churches. It could then be likened to an engagement to be married. During the next stage of the growing relationship, both churches would strive to remove the remaining obstacles to fuller visible unity.
In the Methodist Conference debate today, the Rev Dr John Taylor, Methodist Co-chair of the Formal Conversations, said that the Methodist-Anglican Covenant would be "a small step, an invitation to a pilgrimage to get to know each other. We will have to recognise diversity but we will have to grasp the nettle on important issues so as not to leave the Church with any kind of fudge".
Dr Taylor said that among outstanding issues to be resolved by the two Churches include women's ministry, episcopacy, lay presidency of the eucharist and establishment.
The Covenant will apply to the two Churches in England only, even though the Methodist Church also covers Scotland and Wales.