The process in England to bring a full communion agreement between the Church of England and the Methodist Church of Britain (separate from the UMC) is sort-of moving forward, but at a pre-global-warming glacial pace.
There is some confusion on how to interpret the recent actions of the CoE’s General Synod meeting in York. Britain’s Christian Today news magazine has the headline; “Church of England moves towards communion with the Methodist Church,” while Church Times, the independent CoE news site has “Division over Anglican-Methodist plan prompts Synod to decelerate process.”
The original motion would have directed the introduction for legislation on full communion between the two churches as soon as next year. After passioned debate, a measure calling for a “more measured pace” which removed all references to legislation was approved 220 to 127.
According to a story in Church Times;
The division among the Bishops was evident in their speeches. The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, spoke in support of an unsuccessful amendment from the Revd Paul Benfield (Blackburn) which also removed all reference to legislation. While there was a danger of being accused of kicking the ball into the long grass, “the alternative might be to lose the ball altogether, which would be a real tragedy.”
But the Bishop of Liverpool, co-chair of the Methodist-Anglican Covenant working group, spoke strongly in favour of an unamended motion: “I hope today that we won’t embrace our own security so tightly that we will smother our moment of grace.”
The amended motion offers instead a timetable for updating General Synod on progress made by the Faith and Order commissions of the two Churches on drafting a series of texts, including a formal declaration of a new relationship of communion between the two Churches.
While the amended motion affirms the “priority of doing mission together” it also expressed the fears of many by adding that “for some within the Church of England, concerns about the proposals remain.”
Several CoE interest groups also expressed their concerns over the mutual recognition of ordained ministry according to Christian Today;
The Anglican Catholic Future group said that its concerns have not been allayed by the latest recommendations and that “rather than serving the greater unity of the Church, [they] will divide the Church yet further”.
It added: “Difficult though it may be to say, the Church of England simply does not hold that a Methodist presbyter is entirely equivalent to one in our own church. Our practice makes that clear.”
Speaking ahead of the debate, Forward in Faith agreed, saying that it would be “premature and irresponsible” for the General Synod to vote for legislation to be drawn up while the proposals are still in a developmental stage.
“Proposals that sacrifice doctrinal integrity to ecumenical expediency are unlikely to prove wholesome, fruitful or – in the end – unifying,” it said.
Forward in Faith and the Anglican Catholic Future network have previously expressed concerns over the Methodist Churches decision at its just completed conference to move forward with marriage equality.