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

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

At what is believed to be the first regional meeting of the twochurches since the historic signing of the Anglican-MethodistCovenant at Westminster on 1 November, 250 representatives from theDiocese of Ripon and Leeds and the Leeds District of the MethodistChurch agreed 'overwhelmingly' to a joint resolution allowing Methodistand Anglican ministers in the region to lead and preside atservices of Holy Communion in each other's churches - part ofseries of proposals designed to lead to closer co-operation betweenthe two churches.

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

Bishop Packer said that under the joint resolution he would beable to give permission to allow Methodist ministers to conductworship at any Church of England church which sought hispermission. "The Covenant signed on 1 November between theMethodist Church and the Church of England creates a new situationin which we are called to a still closer relationship. Because ofthis, and as a result of today's decision, I am willing to grantpermission for the sharing of ministers where a local Methodist andAnglican church have reached that stage in their journey togetherwhere it is appropriate. It might for example be between two Daleschurches in different villages where it would make sense to allowministers to lead services in each other's churches. But theresolution will not be imposed - any permission will be at therequest of the incumbent and the PCC (Parochial ChurchCouncil)".

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

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

Full text of the Resolution adopted by theSynods of the Anglican Diocese of Ripon and Leeds and the LeedsDistrict of the Methodist Church

Saturday 15 November 2003

In the light of the covenant agreed between our two churcheswe commit ourselves to the joint actions for mission outlinedbelow

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

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

2. We wish to encourage our circuits and deaneries to committhemselves to a similar process of exploration and collaboration asoutlined in (1) above.

3. We wish to encourage local Methodist churches and PCCs toexplore 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 toassist and support this work, to review progress and to report toour respective Synods on an annual basis.

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