10 July 2013
Ten years since signing of historic Anglican-Methodist Covenant
This November will mark ten years since the historic Anglican-Methodist Covenant was signed by the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the Church of England. The Methodist Conference meeting in Methodist Central Hall, London, today agreed the timeline for two reports for assessing the progress achieved over this past decade.
The Joint Implementation Commission (JIC) for the Anglican Methodist Covenant will publish its report with the working title 'The Challenge of the Covenant' electronically in September for anyone to read and respond. A draft of a shorter report will be signed off at the same time for more limited circulation. The short report will focus on how far the Covenant journey has come and what the next steps will be for the two Churches as they move closer together in unity and mission. The longer report will present all the material needed to inform the shorter report. Various bodies, including The House of Bishops, the Church of England Council for Christian Unity, the Methodist Council, the Methodist Ecumenical Stakeholders' Forum and a joint meeting of the Faith and Order bodies of both Churches, will be invited to respond as appropriate to either one or, in some cases, both reports by the end of January 2014. In the light of responses, a revised version of the short report will be brought to the Conference and the General Synod in 2014.
Professor Peter Howdle, Co-Chair of the JIC, said: "Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, my Anglican Co- Chair, and I are very pleased to offer the two reports which will be published this autumn. They are the result of a lot of reflection and discussion by the members of the JIC and provide much thoughtful material for our two churches, and our ecumenical partners, as we seek to discern the way towards the greater unity of our churches. The reports will ask some challenging questions of our churches about how they need to change and adapt for the unity and mission of the Church. I look forward to the feedback and debates next year in the Conference and the General Synod as our two churches respond and explore the next steps in our pilgrimage together."
Three years ago, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, told the Methodist Conference that he wanted to see the Church of England and Methodist communities growing much closer together (see here). In 2010, the then President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd David Gamble, posed the question of how the two Churches could respond to the challenges of the 21st century: a society of different faiths, cultures and histories.
"Methodists approach the Covenant with the Church of England in the spirituality of the Covenant prayer," the Revd David Gamble said to the Church of England's General Synod in February 2010. "So when we say to God 'let me have all things let me have nothing', we say it by extension to our partners in the Church of England as well. In other words, we are prepared to be changed and even to cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom." (See here for the press release in full.)
As a Pastoral Letter to the Methodist People in March 2010 put it: "We have voted consistently over the years for unity schemes that are designed to increase the whole Church's effectiveness in mission. This is not a death wish, but a desire to be obedient and a willingness to be transformed. We can countenance ceasing to exist as a separate Church because we know that we will still be the Methodist people within a wider Church. (This) will require not just us but other churches to be prepared to move forward together and to leave some things behind in the process for the sake of the Kingdom. So it is not a question of Methodists being submerged or absorbed in the Church of England or any of our other partners. It is not a matter of Methodists returning to the Anglican fold, but of seeing whether together we are prepared to become a 'new fold'."
Full information about Covenant, including its Affirmations and Commitments, and how it is worked out locally can be found at www.anglican-methodist.org.uk. Please note this website is now rather dated and there are plans to create a new website for the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.
Notes: 1. Read the Joint Implementation Commission report to the Conference here.