Methodists step up to the challenge of the Covenant

The Methodist Church has made a commitment to taking a majorstep forward in its relationship with the Church of England.

The two Churches are committed to making their unity more visiblethrough the Anglican-Methodist Covenant signed in 2003.

Today the Conference received a report, entitled The Challenge of the Covenant, which recommends that bothChurches take action to enhance unity between them, with the workbeing fully embedded in Church structures.

Professor Peter Howdle, Co-Chair of the Joint ImplementationCommission, which produced the report, said: "I think that now isan auspicious time in ecumenical relationships and that theMethodist Conference has taken a courageous and historic step inendorsing our recommendations. A similar bold step by the Church ofEngland will completely change the relationship between our twoChurches and make our joint mission much more credible and deepenour communion together."

The Conference directed that proposals for a form of Methodistepiscopal ministry (such as a 'president bishop') be developed forconsideration. It also urged local churches, circuits and districtsto make the most of what Anglican and Methodist churches canalready do together in joint worship and in serving theircommunities. One example of this is the creation of 'CovenantedPartnerships in Extended Areas', which allow an increase in sharedministry in local areas.

"Covenanted Partnerships in Extended Areas are a very welcomeprogression for us in Cumbria," said the Revd Richard Teal, Chairof the Cumbria Methodist District. "We hope the whole of the countywill become one because they enable covenant partners to shareministry and develop strategies across the area. They also allowMethodist ministers to conduct baptisms and preside at holycommunion in Anglican churches and Anglican clergy to do the samein Methodist churches."

The Church of England is expected to consider the same report atthe meeting of the General Synod following the sessions in July.The report specifically challenges the Church of England to resolvethe issues that stand in the way of the interchangeability of theordained ministries of the two Churches.

In response to the publication of the report in May, theArchbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the President andVice-President of the Methodist Conference, issued a jointstatement welcoming the report.