ABC speaks at #methconf on covenant, and women

Rowan Williams spoke before the Methodist Conference in Portsmouth, England where he spoke on the subject of covenant and mutual recognition between the Church of England and the Methodist Church. He was cautious in his remarks according to this report from Christian Today (UK):

Responding to a question from the Conference floor, the Archbishop said the Church of England was unlikely to recognise the ordained ministry of the Methodist Church any time soon because such a move would have to grow out of reconciliation at the ground level.

“If we recognised all Methodist ministers as ordained it would short circuit a lot of important work on how ministry grows out of communities and if we want reconciliation in ministries we have to have reconciliation in communities,” he said. “I want to see how growing together makes the common recognition of ministry absolutely natural and inevitable.” He added, “We recognise Methodist ministers as ministers of word and sacrament and authentically holding their place within the apostolic church.”

The Archbishop went on to affirm the importance of the Covenant, saying that it had made it possible to “take risks” and do mission together through the Fresh Expressions joint initiative.

“That’s no small thing, that’s a huge step forward,” the Archbishop said. The two Churches could work harder, he continued, in the area of ministerial formation and to overcome remaining “institutional complications”.

More from The Way:

Dr Williams was asked what risks the Church of England was taking in relation to the Covenant with the Methodist Church. “The answer is not a lot,” Dr Williams replied. “We are being invited, in the short to middle term, to work out flexibility on models of ‘dual nationality’; that is, how two communities with two different histories can develop some genuine overlapping life.”

Dr Williams also answered a question as to whether a Covenant relationship between Anglicans and Methodists was exclusive. “A covenant ought to be a friendship written down,” he said. “It doesn’t mean there are no other friendships. If it becomes us against them; a little friendship against the world, well, God help us really.” “Any act of reconciliation has to be mutual; Anglican clergy at every level accepting the ministry of those they are being reconciled with.”

The Methodist Church and the Church of England are in a covenant relationship. On 1 November 2003, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the General Secretary of the General Synod, together with the President, Vice President and Secretary of the Methodist Conference signed the Covenant at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen. The Covenant puts the two Churches on a path of ever-deepening relationships, mutual trust and co-operation on the road to a richer unity.

Does “covenant” mean the same thing in all C of E contexts? And are all signed in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen?

Speaking before the Church of England General Synod in February, The Rev David Gamble, president of the Methodist Conference, said the Methodist Church would be prepared to end its separate status and go “out of existence” as part of a covenant with the Church of England.

Upcoming debate on women bishops

Christian Today further reports, the ABC told Conference:

“My hope and prayer is that we shall see women ordained as bishops in the Church of England. My hope and prayer is also that we shall do that in a way that does not violently disrupt some of the features of our common life, that we actually lose one another in a sense.

“Yes, we will have some mess afterwards but making that mess something other than rancorous and resentful is what I would like to see. I am quite prepared to be Petrine for quite a long time on that one [a reference to the leadership style of Peter who compromised on certain principles in order to preserve order and hierarchy within the church].”

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