Anglican-Methodist Covenant published

The official report of the Formal Conversations between theChurch of England and the Methodist Church is published today, 12December 2001. It proposes a national covenant between the twochurches.

The Covenant, if accepted by both churches, would be a mutualaffirmation for the first time of the life and ministry of eachother's churches. It could then be likened to an engagement to bemarried. It would be a formal, joint commitment to work togethertowards fuller visible unity, reflecting nationally what is alreadythe case in many local situations. It would open up new ways ofworking together. During the next stage of the growingrelationship, both churches would strive to remove the remainingobstacles to fuller visible unity.

Those involved in the Formal Conversations were appointed by thegoverning bodies of the two churches and the group also includedecumenical participants from the Baptist Union of GreatBritain, the Moravian Church, the Roman Catholic Church and theUnited Reformed Church.

The report is important for its method and direction as well asfor its immediate outcome. Both churches are committed to seekingunity by stages, so that the present report is but one stage of alonger journey. If the Covenant is adopted the two churches will bein a new place on their journey but with further work to do.

The report revisits the interlocking histories of the twochurches over two and a half centuries and seeks to dispel thestereotypes and caricatures each church holds of the other. It isrealistic about the hurt and frustration caused by the failure ofprevious attempts to enter into a closer relationship. But it alsoargues that relationships between Methodists and Anglicans are nowstronger than ever in many parts of church life.

It answers those who say that the search for unity is adistraction from the Church's calling to share in the worship andwork of God. It claims that mission and unity are inseparable fromeach other.

The report is described as a Common Statement - anindication of the degree of common ground the group found as itexplored the different features of visible unity:

  • A common profession of the fundamental Christian faith groundedin Scripture and expressed in the ecumenical creeds of theChurch;
  • The sharing of one baptism and the celebrating of oneEucharist;
  • A common ministry of Word and Sacraments; and
  • A common ministry of oversight

The report does not gloss over the fact that Anglicans andMethodists have different emphases and different ways of expressingtheir faith. It also recognises differences of practice and someareas where further work needs to be done. These include issues todo with the ministry and leadership of women in the Church andmatters of order and practice about the Eucharist.

The conclusion, however, is that now is the right time to take afurther step on the journey towards unity. The report concludes bysetting out the terms of the proposed Covenant and makingrecommendations to the governing bodies of the two churches: theGeneral Synod of the Church of England and the MethodistConference. They will receive the Report at their meetings in July2002.

They are being recommended to commend it for study and responsethroughout both churches and to partner churches in Britain andIreland, including a particular reference to the United ReformedChurch with whom both churches have been engaged in trilateralinformal conversations.

It would then be for the Methodist Conference and the GeneralSynod, subject to the support of the two churches, and in the lightof responses from partner churches, to enter into the Covenant onthe basis of the understandings reached in the CommonStatement.

Statement by Rev Dr John Taylor on the new report

Note: The full report 'An Anglican-Methodist Covenant: CommonStatement of the Formal Conversations between the Methodist Churchof Great Britain and the Church of England' (ISBN 1 85852 218 8) ispublished jointly by Methodist PublishingHouse (PB140) and Church House Publishing (GS1409). Eachcopy costs £4.25.