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Anglicans, British Methodists move towards unity

LONDON — British Methodists and Anglicans have announced a proposed covenant for greater unity between their two communions that church officials liken to an “engagement to be married”.

The proposed agreement is part of a December report resulting from formal conversations between the two traditions since 1998. For the first time ever, Anglicans and Methodists have agreed to the “mutual affirmation of the life and ministry of each other’s churches”. Both churches will vote on whether to accept the covenant at denominational meetings next July.

Like many who already work in ecumenical settings, the Rev Rosemary Wakelin, a prison chaplain and Methodist minister, said she welcomed the news of closer official ties between Methodists and Anglicans. At Norwich Prison, her supervisor is an Anglican priest, and her responsibilities regularly find her working with pastoral teams from a wide variety of faith traditions.

She is pleased that the official talks are progressing, but observed that when it comes to real ecumenical relationships, people at the grassroots had been “getting on and just doing it” for years.

The Rev John Taylor, who co-chaired the formal conversations, said: “As has often been the case at grassroots level, Christians in their local communities have led the way and are wondering what all the fuss is about. For years they have recognised each other as true Christians … Yet in terms of our national churches, this is a major and significant step that will make wider things possible.”

The “Anglican-Methodist Covenant”, as it is known, includes a series of affirmations, including the statement that both communions belong to the “One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ” and affirm each other’s “authentic ministry of Word and Sacrament”.

Topics on which there is still no formal agreement include the mutual recognition of each other’s ordained clergy, the role of women in church leadership, some matters of order and practice in communion, and concerns about “establishment” or the status of the Church of England as Britain’s official state church.

A longtime ecumenical activist and former British Methodist president, the Rev Stuart Burgess, said that these developments must be seen as a positive, creative step forward and a building block for the future.

He said: “I hope we could go much further much more quickly than we have, but the report is really a pragmatic stage; it provides a way forward, and that is what is important. The ecumenical journey is about patience and endurance.”

Bishop Barry Rogerson, who co-chaired the formal conversations for the Anglicans, said the covenant “could well change the face of English Christianity”.

“We have laid the foundations, which we hope will lead at some point further down the road to full communication with the interchangeability of ministers and subsequently to visible unity,” he noted.

The Rev Wakelin hopes it will happen. But her experience of nearly 20 years in the ordained ministry tells her
that real obstacles to such unity will not be overcome easily. — United Methodist News Service.

Kathleen LaCamera is a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in England.



United Methodists give $18.5m in response to 911

WASHINGTON — United Methodists have given more than US$10 million (S$18.5 million) to the church’s special offering in response to the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

More than US$6.4 million was raised last November alone for the special fund. By the end of November, gifts to the “Love in the Midst of Tragedy” fund totalled US$10.4 million. The church’s response to the attacks is being channelled through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the denomination’s relief and development agency.

From the time of the attacks, local churches in New York, the Washington area and central Pennsylvania have opened their doors and reached out to offer food and water, comfort and child care, and counselling and other forms of aid. — United Methodist News Service.



George Bush named ‘Layman of the Year’

NASHVILLE — President George W. Bush has been named “Layman of the Year” by Good News magazine, which features the country’s most well-known United Methodist in its January/February cover story.

The magazine’s editorial team cited Mr Bush’s leadership in the wake of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. “Few political leaders have been required to respond to such traumatic and dreadful moments,” the magazine said. “Fewer still have shown such moral courage, political deftness and Christian virtue as has this President.”

This is the first time the magazine has recognised someone this way, according to Mr Steve Beard, Editor-in-Chief. The magazine is published by the Good News organisation, an unofficial United Methodist evangelical group based in Wilmore, Kentucky. — United Methodist News Service.