Friday, 15 April 2011

A Glimpse into the Future

Pipeline im BauImage via Wikipedia
This is the last of my posts for a fortnight and so watch out for the resumption of Methodist Ecumenical News on Tuesday 3 May 2011.  I will keep an eye on comments and might occasionally Tweet if anything comes up.

I thought I would review some of the initiatives which together might re-shape local ecumenism in Britain over the coming months and years.  Rest assured Methodist Ecumenical News will report on these in detail as they come live.  In the meantime, let me know if you would like more information. 
  1. Hopefully, sometime in May will see the launch of a new model constitution for Methodist United Reformed United Areas.  Up to now, each new United Area had to write its own constitution.  This new constitution should simplify the process for setting up a United Area.  (Please note, the link takes you to a draft of the constitution.  I will post about it when the final version is ready.  If you need to use it before then, please contact me before you do anything.)
  2. The Church of England will soon publish a new Memorandum of Understanding for single congregation Local Ecumenical Partnerships.  This will clarify the relationship between the Parochial Parish Council (PCC) and the Ecumenical Church Council, where the LEP is the only church in the Parish. 
  3. An enormous report about Fresh Directions in Unity in Mission, is being prepared by the Church of England. 
  4. There is a lot of exploration of shared ministry going on and a number of initiatives are in the pipeline.  This will have implications for everyone and particularly for Methodist, Church of England and United Reformed Churches.
  5. The Joint Implementation Commission will present their interim report to Methodist Conference and General Synod later this year. 
These are all ideas and initiatives that are in the pipeline.  It is in the nature of things that not everything comes to fruition, but it has to be said there is a lot of potential here for real changes to how we experience ecumenical work in the future.  Methodist Ecumenical News will keep its readers up to date with developments as and when they happen.
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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Induction of New Free Churches Moderator

Here is a press release issued by the Free Churches Group, in advance of yesterday's induction service.

The Revd Michael Heaney, General Secretary of the Congregational Federation, was inducted as the new Moderator of the Free Churches in England and Wales at a service held at the Bunyan Meeting Free Church in Bedford yesterday at 3pm.

Michael was elected by the members of the Free Churches Group to serve a period of four years, succeeding in this post Commissioner Elizabeth Matear of the Salvation Army who has served as Moderator since 2007.

The Free Churches Moderator represents the twenty-four denominations in membership with the Free Churches Group at significant national occasions and generally in the public arena. The Moderator also serves as a Patron to over forty Christian and charitable organisations.

The Moderator is ex-officio a President of Churches Together in England, alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminster and Bishop Jana Jeruma-Grinberga of the Lutheran Church.

The Service of Induction was held in the historic Bunyan Meeting Church, which is affiliated to both the Congregational Federation and the Baptist Union and, with its museum, is a focus for the life and writings of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress.

Michael currently serves as the General Secretary of The Congregational Federation (a fellowship of some 300 independent congregationally ordered churches across England, Scotland & Wales). He is also a Director of the Free Church Federal Council (Incorporated); Governor of Northern College (United Reformed and Congregational); Director of Congregational & General Insurance Charitable Trust; Chair of Council and Trustee of Congregational Memorial Hall Trust; Member of the Partnership Forum of the Fresh Expressions Network.

Coming to faith as a teenager in a Baptist Church, Michael subsequently embarked on a career in banking. Following a move to Northampton, Michael encountered the Congregational Federation, joining a small village fellowship and being appointed Lay Pastor. Undertaking training and leaving behind a 13 year career in banking Michael then received a call to full time ministry at Witney Congregational Church in 1990. This involved 10 very happy and blessed years of pastoral ministry during which time the church experienced significant growth and successfully transformed its premises by way of a major rebuild. Following a brief period as Assistant to the General Secretary Michael became General Secretary of the Congregational Federation in 2000 based in Nottingham. (pto)

A passion for mission has been an ever present motivation in Michael’s ministry and service within the church. He has served the world church through the Council for World Mission (CWM) family of 31 member denominations across 5 continents. This included 4 years in the office of Honorary Treasurer and steering through a major restructuring of this global mission partnership. Michael has also served on the World Council of Churches Commission on World Mission & Evangelism.

Coming from a congregationally ordered body Michael believes it to be one of the gifts God has given to the world wide church. In this regard he believes that the collection of churches that is represented as the Free Churches Group has a significant contribution to make in the wider ecumenical scene, and more importantly within our communities which should be encouraged and celebrated.

Michael has been married to Rose for some 32 years. They have three children and one grandchild. Michael and Rose are both Beaver Scout Leaders, running a colony of 30 young boys in their local village. These relationships and local commitments together with a life long support as a ‘season ticket’ holder of Coventry City Football club keep Michael’s feet very firmly rooted in the realities of life.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Methodist Responses to Embracing the Covenant

embraceImage by fusion-of-horizons via Flickr
One paper MAPUM (see yesterday's post) will be discussing is a summary of responses to the Joint Implementation Commission's first quinquennial report, Embracing the Covenant.  In this post I will summarise some of the findings of the report from the Methodist Church.  There is some material from the Dioceses too but as this is a Methodist blog, I will forbear from providing this information unless someone asks for it!  Please note the material below has been edited.

In July 2008, the Methodist Conference requested the Methodist Council to consider the report Embracing the Covenant and to ensure that it was studied in appropriate ways in Districts, circuits and local churches. The Conference also requested responses from the Methodist Faith and Order Committee and the Methodist Law and Polity Committee. The F and O response is summarised below, the L and P committee raised no major questions at this stage.

In March 2010 the Methodist Church Faith and Order Committee produced a formal response to 'Embracing the Covenant'.

  • It concludes that the report contains nothing that either contradicts or else is inconsistent with the teaching of the Methodist Church as expressed in its doctrinal standards, together with the adopted statements and resolutions of the Conference.
  • The Committee commends the move to extend the scope of the Covenant by involving the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales in the work of the JIC.
  • In commenting on the JIC proposals about Eucharistic practice, the Committee recommends that ‘for the sake of the Covenant, Anglicans and Methodists should explore whether it is possible to articulate a common theology of Christian symbolism that provides for legitimate diversity in worship, liturgy, sacred space and those other elements that shape the respective ethos of the two traditions’.
  • In speaking of who may preside at the eucharist, the Committee helpfully points to a need to clarify the relationship of presbyteral or priestly ministry to diaconal ministry, and the nature of presbyteral ministry to the ministry of the whole people of God (and, in particular, the nature of ministerial priesthood in relation to the common priesthood of the faithful).
  • The Committee goes on to note a potential development in the understanding of the goal of the Covenant from ‘organic unity’ to ‘full visible communion’. It asks whether these are indeed equivalents, and suggests that the institutional implications of each might be different.
  • It also asks for more work on what type of relationship is being identified in calling it a Covenant, commenting: ‘How the New Covenant in Christ and the proposed Covenant among the churches of the Anglican Communion may each contribute to understanding the nature of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant requires further investigation.’
  • The Committee concludes that subject to the detailed observations made in its commentary, it affirms both the intent and direction of Embracing the Covenant as consistent with the vision, hopes and expectations of the Methodist Church. 
  • The Committee also concludes that the most significant and far-reaching proposal in Embracing the Covenant is for the creation of a Methodist episcopate within the historic episcopate in the form of a President-bishop. Whatever the merits or demerits of this proposal, the Committee concludes that it is possible to state unequivocally that it neither contradicts nor is inconsistent with the teaching of the Methodist Church concerning the nature of episkope and the ordained ministry, though it identifies a number of issues that need to be further investigated, not least whether the episkope of a ‘bishop in synod’ in the Church of England and that of a President-bishop in the Methodist Church would sufficiently resemble each other to provide a sufficient basis in principle for an interchangeable ordained ministry.
The Methodist Council gave a considered response, as did 5 Districts of 8 that were requested. Six of 20 circuits requested responded. Ten individual responses were also received.

The reports received were of varying length and depth. Many were responding to general issues in the relationship between the Church of England and the Methodist Church and did not specifically centre on ‘ Embracing the Covenant’.

The reports were assessed qualitatively and the comments have been grouped under 6 headings:
  1. Local Covenant relationships.  Local mission initiatives are important and, as local projects, are often easier to work on jointly. The attitudes of local clergy have a significant impact on local relationships. Collaboration is often easier in rural areas. Joint Local Preacher/Reader training should be developed and their shared ministry encouraged.
  2. Structural issues/differences.  Culture, structures, boundaries and legal status all make covenant working difficult. Regulations for ecumenical cooperation should be made more permissive.
  3. Connexional Issues. Relationships with other denominations tend to complicate relationships within the Covenant. Scottish and Welsh dimensions must be considered. The relevance of the JIC’s work to local situations was queried – ‘mission is local, ecumenism is national’. Joint training of LP/Readers and ordained ministers should be encouraged.
  4. Unity and Diversity.  Structural unity of the two churches seems a distant goal. The future needs to be one of’reconciled diversity’. Mission rather than structural unity is important.
  5. Episcope and Episcopacy.  There is Methodist resistance, especially. to a diocesan model of episcopacy. The role of women is of paramount importance to Methodists.The JIC’s proposal for a President-Bishop is often not fully understood.
  6. Faith and Order issues raised.  Issues where more clarification and work is needed to reach agreement include episcopacy, interchangeability of ordained ministries, confirmation and Holy Communion.
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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Methodist Anglican Panel for Unity in Mission, April 2011

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Just in case you don't know what this is, here is an excerpt from the Methodist Anglican Panel for Unity in Mission's remit:

The Methodist – Anglican Panel for Unity in Mission (MAPUM) was set up in July 2009 through the merger of the Local Unity Panel of the Council for Christian Unity and the Committee for Local Ecumenical Development of the Methodist Church. The Council for Christian Unity approved the formation of the new Panel in December 2008, and the Methodist Conference gave its approval in July 2009.

The Methodist Review of Ecumenical Relationships in endorsing this proposal expressed the importance of MAPUM having due regard for ecumenism in Wales and Scotland. The CCU welcomes and encourages this dimension of MAPUM’s work, which reflects the three nations focus of the Joint Implementation Commission in its second quinquennial which includes Welsh and Scottish appointees.

The aspiration of both the CCU and the Methodist Council is that MAPUM must be wholly owned by both Churches and not become semi-detached from either.

The aims of MAPUM are to:
  • Affirm and uphold the inseparability of Unity and Mission with the conviction that neither can be fully addressed in isolation.
  • Promote working together in mission under the Covenant,
  • Share insights, address issues, and develop resources in local unity in mission for both Churches.
So, MAPUM meets this morning through to tomorrow lunchtime and here is a summary of some of the highlights:
  1. Fresh Directions in Unity in Mission, is a long long paper (now standing at 133 sides of A4!  A part of it is illustrated.) which covers all aspects of the ecumenical work of the Church of England.  This paper is to go to the College of Bishops in the autumn.  I will cover it in some detail once we have a reasonably final version.  The Panel has seen the paper before and so will focus on responses to the paper from the Methodist Church as well as the URC, Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Moravian Church.
  2. Last year, Dioceses and Districts were invited to respond to the report of the first Joint Implementation Commission, Embracing the Covenant.  I will report on this tomorrow morning.
  3. Bipartite relations between the URC and Church of England and the URC and Methodist Church.  MAPUM will ask discuss possibilities for triangulation, whatever that is!
  4. The Panel will spend a lot of time considering Shared Ministry, especially through covenanted partnerships in extended areas.
As always I can provide more information on request.  I will get around to most of these in loads of exciting detail in due course.
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Monday, 11 April 2011

Inter-Orthodox Consultation: The Nature and Mission of the Church

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.Image via Wikipedia
This article about the Orthodox Church is from the April 2011 edition of the Council for Christian Unity's European Bulletin.  This featured in an earlier post which reported on the start of the consultation.

A week-long inter-Orthodox consultation studying the WCC Faith and Order document “The Nature and Mission of the Church” had its first meeting on Thursday 3 March in Ayia Napa with the gathering hosted by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

The aim was to offer distinctly Orthodox insights as part of a world-wide discussion of ecclesiology.

Nearly forty participants from Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, church leaders, university professors, theologians, men and women as well as youth, most of whom are members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on Faith and Order, will produce a common Orthodox response to this important theological text.

Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima, co-moderator of the consultation, said that “walls of separation and division still exist in the world and one of our priorities as Orthodox is to continue our struggle for peace, reconciliation and friendship among peoples and nations.”

Archbishop Chrysostomos underlined the importance of the theme. “Orthodox theology is primarily ecclesiological,” he said. “Christianity cannot be understood except as the church”. He said that by his incarnation Christ made all human beings part of his own body. Orthodox contributions to ecumenical theological reflection consisted in the fact that Orthodoxy, rather than defending a “confessional” interpretation of ecclesiology, shared the existential experience of the church.
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Friday, 8 April 2011

What is a Local Ecumenical Partnership?

God's reminderImage by Windsors Child via Flickr
OK, I know what you're thinking ...  not more technical stuff!  I'll go onto something else next week, I promise.  It might seem odd to ask the question 'What is a LEP?' after describing the documenting of them and how to amend their constitutions.

After hundreds of years of separate development, it should not be a surprise that the various traditions have incompatible structures.  This is not merely a question of their organisational structures but it is also to do with their ecclesiologies.  Ecclesiology is perhaps the main thing that divides the churches and it is about how they understand authority.  So, for the Church of England authority is exercised through the Bishops, sometimes called personal episcope.  The Methodist Church's authority is through Methodist Conference and so its episcope is communal.  Some (eg Baptists and Ref ormed)churches are congregational and so their episcope is exercised through their local church meetings.

You don't have to be a genius to see these different church structures are (a) incompatible, and (b) based on radically different understandings of authority.  LEPs enable churches with radically different understandings of episcope to work together. 

Every LEP is a covenant between the participating traditions but not every covenant is a LEP.  There are arrangements called local covenants.  These are informal agreements between churches in a local area.  They don't include the church authorities and some seem to work quite well.  The problem is they are not recognised by the church authorities and so are likely to be ignored; they are particularly vulnerable when the ministers change and local arrangements are not recognised.

So, it is worth considering a LEP when local churches want to commit to long term collaboration over mission, worship, formation or pastoral care. 

There is another advantage to becoming a LEP.  Not only do the participating church authorities approve the LEP, but also the local sponsoring body.  The sponsoring body is usually the same as the Intermediate or County body.  Why does it give approval?  Because the agreement to form a LEP, whilst it is between the partners, is made in the presence of the other traditions in the area.  It is not a private but a public arrangement that involves all the member churches of the sponsoring body.

LEPs are reviewed every 7 years (more or less) and that review is carried out by the sponsoring body and will involve people from traditions other than those who are participating.  This allows for a degree of accountability but perhaps it is better thought of as additional support.
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Thursday, 7 April 2011

Amending LEP Constitutions

Aha!!Image by farleyj via Flickr
Over the last couple of days, I have considered the technicalities of ecumenism in Britain.  Yesterday, I wrote about the various documents that contribute to a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP).  Hopefully, I showed how, with these documents, there is speed in obtaining approval combined with local flexibility.

When I started working with LEPs in 2003, every LEP was able to write its own constitution.  Some basic model constitutions were coming in about that time but their use was optional.  This meant every LEP had to be approved by the participating churches as well as the local sponsoring body.  This could take a very long time, particularly where the local churches decided to write a new constitution from scratch.

With the new Charities legislation, the approval of the Charity Commission was added to all the other approvals and it soon became apparent the old system was no longer tenable.  Indeed, most complaints were about the length of time it was taking to obtain approval.

Consequently, the churches agreed to manage the new model constitutions in a different manner.  All new single congregation LEPs must use the model and make only those amendments authorised by the churches.  This has considerably simplified and accelerated approvals and most people seem to be happy with the new system.

The Methodist Church for example is now able to approve constitutions at District level, rather than District and Connexion, so long as the new model is followed.  Indeed, the Connexion no longer has the capacity to approve minor changes to the model constitution.

Churches Together in England's Group for Local Unity (GLU) at its last meeting, identified three types of amendment and hopes to encourage churches to work with them to everyone's benefit.
  1. The advice from the churches is the current model is good enough.  No doubt it could be improved but it covers everything LEPs could conceivably need over their lifespan and does so legally.  As I explained yesterday, local effort needs to focus on the Ecumenical Vision Statement and local guidelines.  To expend a lot of energy making amendments to the constitution and schedule is a waste of time.  Most of the efforts that have crossed my desk have been unnecessary and not well drafted.
  2. Sometimes, a substantial change has been suggested and GLU is prepared to consider these.  Hopefully these will be increasingly rare, unless there are changes in legislation.  Where this happens, the amendments will be made to the model constitution, not to individual local constitutions.  A few such changes are in the pipeline and once they have been made there will be some guidelines for those LEPs wishing to upgrade.
  3. Occasionally, the standard single congregation partnership model does not apply.  If no special bank accounts are involved, the old model constitutions might be used.  Sometimes, however, bank accounts are involved and it will be necessary to re-draft the existing model.  Sometimes this will be a one-off but the hope is that once it has been drafted, we can add a generic version to the website.  I don't expect there will be very many of these but it is possible in a few years time there will be 3 or 4 models covering every possible type of LEP.  However, those who are really keen to write constitutions, should not go straight ahead and start writing a new model.  If you think you have one of the rare types that have a bank account, no joint congregation and a radical idea, speak to the National Officers before you do anything.  The fact that you have spent many hours drafting a dream constitution will cut no ice with the National Officers if the existing model already meets your needs!
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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Documenting Local Ecumenical Partnerships

Model of the USS Constitution, c. 1910 - Old S...Image via Wikipedia
Yesterday, I wrote about technical ecumenism and this morning I will illustrate what I mean by looking at constitutions for Single Congregation Local Ecumenical Partnerships (SCLEPs). 

There are a number of types of LEP and the single congregation type is the most common.  It is where 2 or more congregations from different traditions worship together.  There are two reasons why these need regulation.  First, it is in styles of worship in particular where the traditions vary.  Different practices mean issues such as the authority of ordained ministry come into play and often there are legal constraints of various types.  Second, the intention has never been that LEPs should become new denominations; they are supposed to be of all the participating traditions.  Consequently, their governing documents need to be approved by all the participating traditions.

In recent years, the churches have simplified approval of constitutions.  The opportunity arose when new legislation required churches with a turnover in excess of £100 000 to register as charities.  Churches Together in England pulled together a model constitution.  As this is now standard for all churches, it means the approval of constitutions is much easier than it was a few years ago.

Some would argue the simplified approval process has been done at the expense of flexibility.  I don't believe this is true.  Churches have a lot of freedom under the new arrangements.  The difference is they are now encouraged to focus on what is distinctive, working within a simple standard framework.

So, let me illustrate this by listing the documents that go into a LEP constitution, their scope and degrees of flexibility.
  1. Foundational to any LEP, is the governing documents of the parent churches.  The LEP is not meant to supersede these and so they always underlie the other four documents.  Examples would be Methodist Standing Orders or the Church of England Canons.
  2. Every LEP needs an Ecumenical Vision Statement.  This used to be known as the Declaration of Intent and it is an opportunity for the participating local churches to tell the world why they intend to work together in a LEP.
  3. The Constitution is one of the main governing documents.  This is something new and is required by the Charity Commission. It governs the charity itself.  So, this document defines the Trustees and their responsibilities.
  4. The second main governing document is the Schedule.  This is also new and it governs the LEP.  So this section defines the participating churches and how they will collaborate over matters such as worship and ministry.
  5. Finally, any LEP is free to agree local guidelines.  So long as these do not contradict the constitution or schedule, and are approved by the Trustees, they can help the LEP determine how it manages its affairs from day to day.
Together these documents help us agree how we work together.

Information about how the Methodist Church approves LEP constitutions.
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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Technical Ecumenism

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Every so often I hear people say ecumenism is too technical.  What we need, they say, is 'light touch ecumenism'.  When we're involved in some challenging mission, the last thing we need is complicated constitutions, let alone the rules and regulations attendant upon everything the churches do (or so it seems).

The problem is churches need to collaborate for mission but with sometimes hundreds of years of separate development, their organisational structures are incompatible.

How do we deploy paid ministers to work together or on behalf of more than one tradition?
How can we use premises with a variety of legal restrictions on use for mission?
How can we be sure volunteers or churches don't become liable for financial commitments made on their behalf?

Technicalities come from a variety of places.  So. for example, there is:
  • the law of the land, eg charity legislation, health and safety, safeguarding
  • laws enforced by the state on behalf of the churches, eg Methodist model trusts or Church of England Canon Law
  • Legislation enacted by the churches through their councils, eg Methodist Standing Orders
  • Local standing orders, custom and practices, etc
All this exists before churches try to work together.  The aim of technical ecumenical is to simplify these regulations so that churches can work together safely and legally. 

Often problems arise because legislation is misinterpreted in various ways, eg
  • people take on more power than they in fact have
  • or they assume legislation is restrictive when it is in fact permissive
This last is very common.  Believe it or not, most church legislation is permissive, it allows things to be done.  Often ecumenical legislation is even more permissive.  Very little is prevented by legislation but we do need to know how to enable things to happen.  There is a network of ecumenical officers who specialise in helping local projects find their way through the legislation, use them!
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Monday, 4 April 2011

Ageing is Sageing

Elders from TurkeyImage via Wikipedia
Way back in October 2010, I posted details of a conference, Celebrating Later Life: Older People Spirituality and Faith.  It was held in Leeds by Churches Together in England and West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council.  I found this account of the conference in Unity Post:

‘We have forgotten the fruit an older tree can bear’- thus we were invited to break the stereotype of ‘old and dependent’ that allows the ageism to persist. We were reminded that dependency is a feature on average only for the last two years of life and that the vast majority of people over 80 do not require residential care and do not develop dementia. Keith Albans, Group Director (Chaplaincy and Spirituality) of the Methodist Homes for the Aged (MHA) Care Group, told us that celebrating longer life gave us the challenge of revisiting our ways of thinking, whether theological or economic, in the context of these great changes in the age structure of the population which have developed so rapidly in the last 100 years.

This meeting was held in Interfaith week, and Albert Jewell, who has made a study of the spirituality of the main religions as they relate to later life, made clear that all faith traditions have respect for the wisdom of age, in fact ‘ageing is sageing’. But there are differences in how the older person is expected to deal with their spiritual life. In Islam, there is no concept of ‘retirement’ – one is to remain engaged with the community; in Hinduism, one should ‘go to the forest’ – away from family in order to come closer to God; in Buddhism one renounces material things to gain simplicity which aids attaining Nirvana. We were reminded that Abraham set off at the age of 75, leaving all behind, to lead his people to a new life.

Rosemarie Harris of Leeds Jewish Housing Association reminded us of the importance of family, and eating together. Satwant Kaur Rait spoke of the Sikh emphasis on equality, and on spiritual growth in old age. There were good local stories. Sister Agatha Leach, CJ, was involved in the origins of a MHA Multi-faith care facility in South Leeds which will offer care sensitive to the spiritual needs of faith communities. Linda White of St Peter’s Bradford amazed us with her account of a small inner city Bradford Anglican church in a largely Muslim area with a number of isolated elderly Christians. With a mission ‘to be a blessing in our community’, they run an ‘Anchor Project – beyond the Lunch Club’.  This aims to be a ‘safe space for all’ and provides a chance for the older people to socialise with each other but also to get to know their Muslim neighbours through a variety of events and activities.

What about later life when frailty, particularly mental, supervenes? Perseverance and resilience were often mentioned as virtues. I had read that Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan (the first major figure to make public that he had Alzheimer’s) had said, ‘Beneath the surface of the disease is a soul that can’t have Alzheimer’s, a soul that still wants to be heard’.

We heard of a ‘Friendship Club’, where people with dementia and their carers can come and be valued, supported and entertained. CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network), of the Catholic Church, has a specific project on Spirituality and Dementia.  Discussion groups were urged to take ageing more seriously, in ourselves and in our faith groups.
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Friday, 1 April 2011

Exclusive: Methodist Ordinariate

St Paul's Anglican ChurchImage by Heath O'Fee via Flickr
I 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.
Avril Flew continued, 'This is a significant development that will transform the ecumenical scene.  The next step is to find someone willing to tell the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Where is everybody?'
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