Image by Heath O'Fee via FlickrI have received exclusive news of a major new initiative from the Methodist Church. Documents have been drawn to my attention that suggest plans are far advanced for the Methodist Church to join the Roman Catholics in offering a haven for dissenting Anglicans.
Last year, Pope Benedict XVI announced an Ordinariate for Anglicans who could no longer continue with the Church of England, owing in particular the possibility of the ordination of women Bishops. This is all very well for Anglo-Catholics but many evangelicals object to ordination of women too and they have nowhere to go until now. The Methodist Church does not have women Bishops and so, as an evangelical denomination, it is a very attractive haven.
Furthermore, it seems many liberal Anglicans are dissatisfied with the Anglican Covenant and look towards the Methodist liberal ethos as a way out.
It seems calculations suggest over 70% of Anglicans might well take advantage of this special offer. Avril Flew, a member of the Connexional Team this morning stated, 'this could be a real shot in the arm for Methodism. We'll have anybody and with them all joining us we'll be the biggest church in the land. This will mean the aims of the Anglican Methodist Covenant will be achieved in a matter of months.'
So, what would taking the Methodist Ordinariate entail? Avril reckons the Methodist Church is offering a very exciting package to lay and ordained Anglicans alike:
- Given the Methodist Church almost recognises Anglican orders already, we could see a radically reduced re-training course for Anglican ministers. They would only need to reinterpret everything in terms of Methodist Doctrinal Standards and so this could take as little as 2 years out of the usual 3.
- Readers in the Church of England will only have to complete 16 of the 19 units of 'Faith and Worship'.
- One big advantage of being a Methodist, is the membership card. Members of the Methodist Ordinariate will have a special redesigned card and Anglican clergy, after re-training, will have the honour of signing them all.
- And this opens up some fantastic opportunities for lay people. Owners of a membership card have a right to sit on Methodist committees. The good news is the Ordinariate will mean the Church will need several new committeees in each District. Plenty there for everyone to get their teeth into.
- Best of all, there is no shortage of small village chapels to accommodate all the new members. Clergy who make the transfer will be able to continue using Anglican rites in the context of Methodist Worship in remote and beautiful rural settings.
- If incoming clergy get a manse they will alo receive use of a standard Methodist lawn mower and cooker.