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Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church take steps toward full communion partnership

Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church take steps toward full communion partnership

The United Methodist Church Council of Bishops made moves last week to bring their denomination one step closer to full communion with the Episcopal Church.  At their meeting, the United Methodist bishops approved legislation to carry out the full communion proposal, entitled “A Gift to the World: Co-Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness.”   This decision means that the proposal will be evaluated by the UMC General Conference in 2020 and the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2021.

This full communion proposal comes after years of intentional interdenominational dialogue between the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church, according to the full communion proposal:

“In the 1950s, there were substantive conversations between the (then) Methodist Church and the (then) Protestant Episcopal Church. However, these bilateral conversations were set aside in favor of both churches’ membership in the Consultation on Church Union (COCU). For nearly forty years, The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church related to one another by means of our participation in COCU. Following COCU’s reconstitution as Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) in 1999, The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church each decided in 2000 to commence the first direct bilateral dialogue with one another in nearly fifty years.”

The most recent round of bilateral dialogues began in 2002.

Despite these connections in recent decades, though, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church share common heritage in the Church of England that far predates any modern dialogue.  Just as the Episcopal Church traces its roots to the Church of England, the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century was founded by John Wesley, an Anglican priest.  These common roots, and a conviction in Jesus’ words that we “all may be one” in the Gospel of John, serve as foundational principles guiding this work.

In an interview with UM News, the Rev. Margaret Rose, the Episcopal Church’s deputy for ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, reflected on this dialogue, saying:

“One of our prayers in communion is that we reveal the unity of the church…That, to me, is about uncovering something that is already there. Part of this full communion conversation is exactly about that.”

Yet, the full communion proposal wouldn’t quite make us all one.  A full communion partnership wouldn’t merge the two traditions but would recognize the validity of the sacraments of the partner tradition and allow the sharing of clergy between the two traditions.  Under the agreement, Episcopal clergy could serve in Methodist churches and Methodist clergy could serve in Episcopal Churches.  Furthermore, beginning in 2022, consecrations of bishops in either tradition would include bishops of the other church participating in the consecration.  Each of the two traditions already has multiple full communion partners and the UMC and Episcopal Church even share some of these partners, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Moravian Church.

The complete full communion proposal can be found online on the Episcopal Church’s website.


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Vince Chiumento

But what about the Methodist problems of inclusivity: sacraments, priesthood, marriage

Paul Randall Dickerson

As a United Methodist congregant, I pray the special general conference in February does away with hurtful and limiting language regarding LGBTQ persons and know the Holy Spirit can work among delegates. Should the desired outcome occur, I would love for my denomination to be in communion with the Episcopal Church.

Susan Forsburg

IIRC, the Methodists do not support the full inclusion of LGBT people in marriage or in the clergy. That would seem to be a potential problem for sharing.

Philip B. Spivey

There will be no Partnership without reconciling the essentials. After three score and ten years of discernment in these matters, it seems that God’s will has been affirmed for these two traditions. The tent of ‘apostolic succession’ may have to be enlarged, but that’s doable if we believe efforts like this are moving us towards “One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”.

Christ planted this Church. Centuries of “cuttings” have produced prodigious offspring in new soil. Fine in theory, but two problems arose: each cutting left home mad; so angry, they left the neighborhood. Second problem: they never visited one another; the only time they met was “ecumenically”.

Many siblings; all from the same tree; speaking different languages with the Holy Spirit in absentia.

“Mi casa es su casa”. Throughout His ministry, Jesus modeled that. UMC and TEC are modeling that for us now.


It’s my understanding that in the full communion agreement ,TEC accepts the validity of UMC orders and apologizes for ever questioning them;UMC accepts the concept that we are One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church..If their 2019 convention does not accept full and equal status for LGBTQ persons, I see no path forward to full communion.

Kurt Hill

Hmm. Hopefully UMC will ask forgiveness for the Methodist Schism of 1779-84, too. Charles Wesley disagreed with the actions of his brother and was outraged at the “ordination” of Asbury. He even wrote a poem about it : “A Roman emperor, ‘tis said,
His favorite horse a consul made:
But Coke brings greater things to pass—
He makes a bishop of an ass.”

Philip B. Spivey

Agreed, S.R. Don’t lose faith in what the Holy Spirit can enable. If you’re from my Boomer Generation, who in that generation could imagine—in their wildest dreams—of finding marriage equality at City Hall and in a majority of TEC parishes.

I can’t imagine Presiding Bishop Curry signing-on for anything less with UMC.


First year of the Boomers ,1946, so deep in rural Georgia that some of my classmates cheered at the announcement of President Kennedy’s death.Didn’t know gay people existed until laterr college years even though Bishop Gene Robinson was in the same small fraternity at Sewanee.As Bob Dylan predicted”The times they are a’changing”

Philip B. Spivey

Oh, that’s news! I thought Edna Turnblad coined that phrase…. 🙂


Album by same name released by Columbia Records,1964,worth googling along with Don McLean “Bye Bye Miss American Pie”

Philip B. Spivey

Thank you, S.R.

Angel Figueroa

The agreement addresses that. It talks about the exchange of deacons and presbyters, according to the standards and polity of each church.


The Methodist Church has.called a special convention in Feb.2019 to address issues of full inclusion of LGBTQ members and clergy.

B. D. Howes

And apostolic succession? Aren’t there issues there?

Marshall Scott

Susan, unlike Anglicans and Episcopalians, the United Methodists have continued to have their conferences in other parts of the world as part of one denomination. Methodists with whom I have discussed this agree that their African conferences are likely to make an issue of this. As to how that would work out – God knows.

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