Proposal for full communion between TEC and UMC unveiled

by

from the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs

 

The Episcopal Church – United Methodist Dialogue group have prepared A Gift to the World: Co-Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness; The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church – A Proposal for Full Communion, the result of dialogue for a formal full-communion relationship.

In a recent letter, Bishop Frank Brookhart of Montana, Episcopal Church co-chair of the committee, with Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, the United Methodist Church, Ohio West Episcopal Area, offered, “The relationships formed over these years of dialogue, and the recognition that there are presently no theological impediments to unity, paved the way for this current draft proposal.” The entire letter is available here. 

A Gift to the World: Co-Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness; The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church – A Proposal for Full Communion, is located here.

In the coming months, opportunities for feedback, regional gatherings, and discussions will be slated.

Additional related information, including historical documents, is available here.

The work of the Episcopal-United Methodist Dialogue is enabled by two General Convention resolutions here and here.

For more information contact the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations at mrose@episcopalchurch.org.

Members
Members of the Episcopal-United Methodist Dialogue are:
Episcopal
Bishop C. Franklin Brookhart
Bishop David Rice
The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson
The Rev. Dr. Deirdre Good
The Rev. Jordan M. Haynie Ware
The Rev.  Margaret R. Rose – Staff

United Methodist
Bishop Gregory Palmer
Reverend Patricia Farris
Reverend Dr. James Howell
Reverend Dr. Pamela Lightsey
Bishop Michael Watson
Reverend Dr. Robert J. Williams
Kyle Tau, PhD, MTS – staff

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38 Responses to "Proposal for full communion between TEC and UMC unveiled"
  1. Having been raised in a Methodist family, as my husband had also; we chose the Episcopal Church as our family church. I would be very glad to see this happen. We have so much in common. we are now in communion with the Lutheran Church, so this would just bring 3 like minded churches into Communion with each other.

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  2. Looking forward to full communion with our brothers and sisters.

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  3. How is apostolic succession of bishops going to be reconciled with the Methodist idea of superintencency? Wesley considered the top brass to be superintendents. Asbury came up with calling them bishops, something of which Wesley, a priest of the Church of England, never approved or accepted. Other than that, I would say, "Welcome Home."

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  4. Paul Woodrum, the proposal addresses this matter specifically in section 8 of the document "A Gift to the World" lines 266-298.

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    • It's in the document, go read it. But basically it parses the difference between the "historic episcopate" (the Quadrilateral's term) and "apostolic succession."

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  5. Superintendents/Bishops: You must work this out and promptly. But full communion must happen. Please.

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    • Rev John Horner,
      Perhaps you should read the document and then comment.

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  6. It is my understanding from news media that the Methodist Book of Discipline currently forbids homosexuals full activity in the church -- a case in point being a homosexual woman in the far west of USA has been elected bishop, and this point, I believe her recognition is being held in abeyance.

    If this is still an impediment to full communion, I hope the discrepancy will soon be removed, and we can all celebrate diversity and full inclusion.

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  7. OK. Read Lines 266-298. In no way does it really deal with apostolic succession, just that historically both faith communities have had head honchos they call "bishops." and that the Holy Spirit has been present in both, not what the Lambeth Quadilateral meant by "historic episcopate."

    Practically every store front Pentecostal Church in my neighborhood in Brooklyn lists its pastor as a bishop. The Methodists have no more claim to a commission or line going back to the Apostles than they do.

    I would love to see the Methodists come home, but this document is just fudging the issue and misrepresenting the phrase "historic episcopate."

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    • I can't imagine it would happen without some form of mutual laying on of hands. After all, it was done with both the Moravians and the ELCA.

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    • You stopped reading too soon Paul. Section 9, starting at line 300, including the full section, addresses the acceptance of TEC priests and deacons as UMC elders and deacon and the acceptance of UMC elders and deacons as TEC priests and deacons. It also states that both communions accept that they have both adapted the historic episcopate, as stated in the LQ and commits both communions to include three bishops from our full communion partners; TEC, UMC, ELCA & MC in all future episcopal consecrations, starting on 1 JAN 2022.

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  8. Brother Paul, I think this will be addressed as something "grown into," as with the ELCA, specifically by our bishops participating in the ordination of their bishops. I think this would be considered in explicating what we understand the Quadrilateral to address in the phrase locally adapted.

    I do think, though, that there will be an issue in the UMC about this, related, Wharton, to your comment. The churches in Africa that were established by the UMC are still part of the UMC (as opposed to supporting autonomous national churches in the Anglican pattern). Indeed, their stance on, as I commonly put it, "opening all God's sacraments to all God's children" is directly affected by the number of votes in General Conference of their African conferences. We will have long discussions about sacramental theology and historic episcopate. I will be surprised if they do not have long discussions about moral implications of associating with us.

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  9. Respectfully, but it is not fudging historic episcopate at all -- it is using the term the way it has been used in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, Baptism Eucharist and Ministry statement of the WCC endorsed by The Episcopal Church, and our full communion proposal with the ELCA. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral says nothing about apostolic succession: it says Anglicans must share in the historic episcopate to be in full communion. The proposal says that we will share in the historic episcopate by having all subsequent consecrations of United Methodist bishops include three bishops in historic succession participating in laying-on of hands. This is more or less the same process with the ELCA in "Called to Common Mission."

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  10. BTW, the English almost beat TEC/UMC to full communion. The Church of England and the Methodist Church of Great Britain had worked out the issues and the Methodists had accepted, but the English Synod nixed the deal.

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  11. The document references the Chicago-Lambeth Quad. but then latches onto the ordained ministry issue and fails to address some practical elements of the Lord's Supper/Holy Eucharist. I think our House of Bishops needs to get our own house in order before going with the proposals of this document in two regards: 1) Methodists allow non-baptized persons to receive communion (though they encourage such persons to be baptized soon) - IMHO we need to appropriate that practice - since our own HOB rejected this stance a while back, they need to revisit that issue; 2) Methodists mostly use non-fermented grape juice while our Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral strongly implies that wine must be used. There are good arguments to be made for us to allow the use of any form of grape juice in Holy Communion (wine, grape juice, de-alcoholized wine). We need to clarify this for our own practice . I commend to all fellow Episcopalians the UMC document "This Holy Mystery" at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/the-meaning-of-holy-communion

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    • Whether it's in the rules or not, most TEC churches allow the non-baptized to receive communion and many were disappointed when GC refused to make it officially acceptable.

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      • Sort of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

        I have, however, in meeting a visitor who states that he or she is a Buddhist, Muslim or whatever, advised that person to simply observe the service and not go up for communion.

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  12. With many others, I long to see the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus that we "may be one" as he and God are one. This document is a welcomed effort to achieving that goal - there is much to celebrate which moves us closer to unity - but there is just a bit too much "Anglican fudge" and not enough solid theological groundwork around ordination, Eucharist and the episcopacy for me. It might also be that I'm too dull to appreciate the nuances. I'm hoping that many of the finer points might be worked out in the wider discussions and find greater clarity of expression and articulation.

    That said, I am very curious how this will work out in the pragmatics - especially the hot-button issue of the ordination of Queer people (LGBTQI) as well as full marriage equality. The issue of liturgics also raises questions for me. Many, if not most, UMC churches create new liturgies - sometimes weekly - and lift up and celebrate occasions in life that would seem as strange to Episcopalians as the structure of the BCP and calendar of saints might be to the UMC. Finally, I'm also curious about employment, deployment, compensation and pension issues are worked through.

    In its present form, I don't see this passing General Convention. I can't imagine this passing the UMC General Conference three or four years from now - especially over the issues of human sexuality, homosexuality and reproductive choice and justice. But, we live in sure and certain hope that we might find a way forward to achieve "full communion".

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    • How many TEC priests actually follow the liturgies to the letter? Those I've been around had no problem fudging the liturgy. TEC has so many alternative liturgies already available, with more on the way, how much difference is there really between having a dozen authorized options and do what you want?

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      • Hi, Chris,

        Obviously, you haven't been to a UMC service to see and experience the Very Wide diversity of UMC liturgy. We follow the "Shape of the Liturgy" in the BCP. My experience is that the UMC do not. Not that UMC liturgy doesn't have integrity and its own beauty and meaning for Methodists. This is not a criticism of their liturgy. It's just not anything like the BCP, even in our "dozen authorized options".

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  13. What justifies the dramatic difference in how the historic episcopate is discussed in this document compared with Called to Common Mission (the 1999 concordat with the ELCA? The latter document makes clear that the ELCA is receiving the historic episcopate through the Episcopal Church's apostolic succession. This document says that the UMC already has the historic episcopate in the continuity of the faith (while quietly providing for bishops in succession to participate in UMC episcopal consecrations). Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry was written in 1982. The ELCA agreement was finalized in 1999. Why are we applying BEM so differently now?

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  14. As the Methodist church is very stressed and on the verge of splitting, which Methodist church is being envisaged? TEC has avoided this by consolidating around progressivism. The Methodist church as many will know is inhabited locally by the international membership which creates a totally different reality on the ground.

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  15. Re: Elizabeth Kaeton's post:

    I attended a Methodist college, and the Methodist church was by far the largest church in town.

    That church was incapable of celebrating a Sunday without giving it a fancy name. "X Sunday after the Epiphany" or, as the Roman Catholic Church puts it, "Sundays in Ordinary Time," wouldn't do.

    No, every Sunday had a theme. "Mother-in Law Sunday." "The Sunday after the Election." "Pastor Appreciation Day." Whatever.

    And when it was sermon time, the lights were dimmed dramatically, leaving a single spotlight on the pulpit.

    One Sunday was labeled "Communications Sunday." (I am not making this up.) I decided that this church wasn't communicating with me, so I quietly snuck out and never went back.

    It wasn't until later that I discovered the Episcopal Church. One factor that impressed me: in my ecumenical seminary, the Episcopalians held weekday Eucharist at 7 am.

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  16. I have great affection for the United Methodist Church. When my colonial Virginia Anglican ancestors moved west to till the great plains, stopping in Iowa before it was a state, it was the Methodist Circuit Riders who baptized their children, officiated at their marriages and buried their dead, while Episcopalians, for the most part, sat on their hands in the comfort of their East Coast chairs.

    However, those were extraordinary circumstances, probably not to be repeated, calling for extraordinary means. The only validity Methodist bishops can claim is to have descended from regional superintendents elected from presbyters, some of whom had been ordained in the C of E. Practical under the circumstances but opposite to an essential understanding of descent and authority vested in bishops by the Apostles and by them shared with deacons then presbyters.

    This is a thorny issue not easily fudged. If I were an Episcopal Bishop, redundant as that is, I would be hard pressed to concede Apostolic Succession. And were I a Methodist Bishop, I would be profoundly insulted at any suggestion my episcopacy was not historically, theologically, or sacramentally valid. Just as Anglicans are when the Latin Church challenges our claims.

    The heart of catholic episcopacy is sacramental. That of Methodism is administrative. Or, as it has been put in past discussions, what Presbyterians fear are bishops with Episcopal pomp and Methodist power. I pray this can be worked out, but I fear we're not there yet. But keep driving.

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  17. I'm reminded of James Alison's image of the church as a restaurant, in which the wait staff believe that the restaurant exists to serve them! Much to do about who gets to be the Maitre'D, or if there even should be a Maitre'D, as well as the sexual orientation and gender of the waiters, and what the uniform should look like, and who should set the table. Meanwhile the Chef is preparing a delicious meal for the honored guests at the table. Nobody goes to a restaurant for the waiters. They go for the food. Though in truth, the waiters can ruin the experience with their drama queen antics, and positioning for status.

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    • Ahhh, but there's one particular restaurant near our home that my wife and I frequent. The food (Mexican/Spanish) is delicious but it's also a pleasure to view the wait staff in action.

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  18. I believe that we need to do everything we can to make this happen without impediment from the TEC side. After consolidating all the conservative forces it could muster in it's large worldwide church, and in the US, the control of the voting needed to change anything in the UMC lies in the hands of the traditionalist, conservative majority. We need to give progressive Methodists a fully connected partner and, perhaps a refuge that they aren't going to get from their own denomination. It has also been my experience that the average Methodist has very little experience of liturgy, let alone the ins and outs of Bishops and how they are in "succession" or not. After it's merger with the Evangelical United Brethren church in 1968, a lot of the Methodist churches prayer book derived liturgy got left behind in order to ease that transition. The service you get on Sunday depends on where you are and who your pastor is. As a full disclosure, I left the UMC and was confirmed an Episcopalian at age 57, another thing that isn't well understood, even by my still Methodist wife.

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  19. Liturgically, Methodists are all over the sanctuary, from high church adaptations of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (The Wesley Orders) to free-form Pentecostal. But then, Episcopalians cover a pretty broad spectrum from low to high. Both have their own conservative to progressive positions on social issues. I don't see any of this as a barrier to intercommunion though I have no doubt they will be bandied about in the discussion.

    However, Holy Orders have a direct bearing on intercommunion, their validity and that of the sacraments. It's not just host and wine v. bread cube and grape juice, but the very presence of Christ in the breaking of bread v. a symbol or metaphor. Let's move toward unity, but with caution and with clarity.

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    • One of a number of hymns for eucharist by Charles Wesley;
      We need not now go up to Heaven,
      To bring the long sought Saviour down;
      Thou art to all already given,
      Thou dost e’en now Thy banquet crown:
      To every faithful soul appear,
      And show Thy real presence here!

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  20. There is an old joke;

    The Gospel was originally taken West by Baptist clergy who walked as part of wagon trains. Then Methodist clergy spread it far and wide riding horseback circuits. The Presbyterian clergy spread their version from Wells Fargo stagecoaches. While the Episcopal clergy hung back and didn't go West until the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the invention of the Pullman Coach.

    The same spirit that embodies that joke is manifest in many comments here! So much arrogance about our proper liturgies and real bishops.

    Having attended a United Methodist seminary, my experience with US Methodists is much different. And what we were taught liturgically doesn't differ so much from what I see in other churches;
    Gathering - Prayer - Proclamation - Response - Sending forth
    With choral and congregational singing appropriately intersperced. As to eucharistic prayers, the printed UMC resources of which I am aware, follow the same shape as any other denomination that was involved in the liturgical renewal of the 70s and the 80s;
    Opening dialog - Sanctus - Words of Institution - Ananesis - Epiclesis - Intersessions - Doxology

    If I were a Methodist representative at a General Conference considering full communion with TEC and I had read many of the type of comments represented in this dialog, I would be inclined to vote No, until the folks in TEC got down from their high horse.

    The Methodists have never tried to claim that their bishops stood in any line of succession, yet the post-Revolutionary War Methodists in the US chose to be episcopally led and stated it even in the church's name, the Methodist Episcopal Church. It's obvious from the agreement that TEC is jointly giving Apostolic Succession to the UMC with our full-communion partners, the ELCA & The Moravian Church, without trying to rub their noses in the fact.

    Yes, the agreement for full communion with the ELCA spelled out that it was the intention of TEC to share with them Apostolic Succession, but the ELCA has recently backed away from that a bit. And in what the ELCA determines to be an extreme case, will consecrate a bishop without a TEC bishop involved and without checking to see that at least one of the Lutheran bishops consecrating the new Lutheran bishop was consecrated with a TEC bishop's participation. The ELCA could have as well received Apostolic Succession from the Lutheran churches in Europe that have bishops with Apostolic Succession.

    The Moravians have claimed the Apostolic Succession for centuries, however, their bishops are not administrative leaders of dioceses and have no set jurisdiction as such, but are called as general pastoral leaders and advisors to the entire Moravian province.

    I think that it is more appropriate to look forward and rejoice in the possibility of full communion with yet another Christian denomination, than picking at every way they may be different to Anglicans/Episcopalians.

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  21. It will be a gift to small isolated places-- Methodists are much more willing to go wherever. Oregon currently has a Lutheran pastor serving Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal Congregations -- they are lucky to have his pastoral presence. I think this is one of those starting on the ground ideas -- out of necessity and friendship.

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  22. I'm a little fuzzy on details here.

    1) Say I work in ATL as a TEC priest. Am I liable to UMC authorities? If not is this unity or just a verbal agreement that we both prefer similar ideas?

    2) If we work together and agree on everything which side has the better insurance and retirement plans for clergy and diocesan employees?

    3) If TEC is replacing Apostolic Succession (form and matter) with Historic Episcopate (just matter, ie hands laid on), them does this mean that Reformed Episcopal, ACNA, Amia, Anglican "Catholic," and any group that's broken from TEC is also a valid church with valid orders? If so how could the Historic Episcopate ever be a source of unity since TEC is clearly not in union with these bodies? Reductio ad absurdum?

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    • This agreement is very similar to that with the ELCA or the Moravians. It is an agreement that allows closer cooperation in mission but it is not a merger. We aren't being called to give up anything essentially "Episcopalian," but it does say that our differences won't be barriers to closer cooperation.
      To your specific questions:
      1. Of course not. We remain two separate and distinct bodies
      2.Again, not a merger. Each church will continue to operate separately and maintain their own systems. Mind you, there's likely the possibility of improvement for all if we had a larger pool for health insurance.
      3. I'm pretty sure the Episcopal Church already recognizes the validity of orders of those bodies. I have met priests received from ACNA and the Reformed Episcopal Church who were considered validly ordained.

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  23. For those claiming the lack of theological reflection on such matters as the episcopacy, I would recommend reading through some of the related documents from the dialogue over the last several years. The page for the UMC-Episcopal Dialogue can be found at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/united-methodist-episcopal-dialogue. I'd especially recommend the document on the theological foundation
 for 
full 
communion (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/documents/eir.theological_foundation_for_full_communion_tec_and_umc.pdf) and the study guide that came out with the interim eucharistic sharing agreement (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/MUOCFINALTXT.pdf)

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  24. Well, there we have it. In the spirit of blessed Esau, willing to trade near 2,000 years of tradition for a mess of pottage like insurance rates.

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  25. I've pondered this Proposal for a new relationship with the United Methodist Church since the posting. Typically, I find these greater-Church-issues difficult to discern because I lack the basic understanding of the complexities involved; therefore, I rarely comment on them.

    In this instance, however, I find I'm perplexed about the motivations for this change. Who benefits from full communion with UMC? How does TEC benefit? More importantly for me, how do we faithfully reconcile UMC's stance regarding LGBTQ communities with our own? Further, how do we reconcile our cardinal tenant of apostolic succession with UMC's? ---the proposed solution to this seems somewhat tortured.

    I guess what it comes down to for me is that this move doesn't appear to be a theological slam-dunk.

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  26. I am greatly concerned about TEC requiring the MC to acknowledge the necessity of apostolic succession. This identifies we Episcopalians as holding to the orthodoxy because we hold to our Bishop. A Bishop is not just an administrator. I believe a first century or thereabout Church leader stated where there is the Bishop there is the Church. No Bishop no Church.

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