Thursday, April 28, 2016

A puzzling General Synod motion: is it a change of doctrine?

From the General Synod motions (here)

Motion # 21

Anglican-Methodist Interchangeability of Ordained Ministries

Mover: The Right Rev’d R Bay                    Seconder:

THAT this General Synod te Hīnota Whānui 2016:
(a)    formally affirms, accepts, and recognizes the validity of Methodist presidency and presbyteral ministries as effectively equivalent to Anglican episcopal and priestly ministries, such that interchange is possible without the requirement of re-ordination; and
(b)   in negotiation with the Methodist Church, and having attended to necessary enabling legislation, effects an act of reconciliation of episcopal ministries so enabling a full interchangeability of ordained ministries, in accord with the Irish Model, and
(c)    agrees that the reconciliation of episcopal ministry and the interchangeability of priestly ministry could take place in the first instance by a parallel or shared liturgical act (Act of Inauguration) wherein the Methodist Connexion and the General Synod assert and affirm the mutual recognition and acceptance of each other’s episcopal ministry; and similarly with respect to the mutuality of ordained priestly ministry.
(d)   Asks the Council for Ecumenism, in conjunction with the Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group, to attend to the preparation of the necessary legislation.

Notes (PLEASE ALSO REFER TO THE Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group report):

1.       Enabling Legislation
Appropriate legislative measures will need to be enacted in order to establish the interchange of ministries following which an act of reconciliation can occur. Such legislation would be brought to the 2018 General Synod te Hīnota Whānui. 
2.       Recognition and reconciliation of episcopal ministries
For Anglicans, the proposal means that we recognise, effect and affirm that, in the ordained presbyter in the Presidential team, there exists a valid episcopal ministry; an authentic episcopate, capable of interchange should that ever be desired.

3.       Establish the interchangeability of ordained (priestly/presbyteral) ministry.
Once enabling legislation is in place and the reconciliation of episcopal ministries attained, the interchange of priestly/presbyteral ministry may proceed.

4.       The Diaconate
This proposal applies only to the mutuality of episcopal ministry and the interchangeability of presbyteral and priestly ministries. There remain differences in respect to the structure and nature of the probationary period that occurs (usually) between completion of a ministry formation process and the priestly/presbyteral ordination.

There is further opportunity for our two churches to work together on a common understanding of the model and mission of the diaconate and so the future possibility of interchangeability.


The Protestant in me is keen to see this kind of mutual recognition of ministry, not least because of strong and long Anglican and Methodist relationships, including many years of shared training together at Meadowbank. In a varying "churchscape" in which we have co-operating ventures and in which it is sometimes useful if a Methodist presbyter could preside at an Anglican eucharist, some kind of "interchangeability" of presidential/presbyteral ministry is logical to the Protestant in me.

The Catholic in me (yeah, yeah, some think it is so microscopic it cannot be seen) says, "What!?" Where is the episcopal laying on of hands via an episcope who is an episcope in an order separate to priests/presbyters, not by interpretation of "the  ordained presbyter in the Presidential team" as being "episcopal"? 

The Ecumenicist in me asks, 
- What effect would this approach to interchangeability of ministry have on our relationships with Catholics and the Orthodox? 
- Why, being consistent, would we not also work on something similar with the Presbyterians, who consider their "presbytery" to have an episcopal role, including in ordination of a presbyter?

The Once Was A General Synod Member in me asks,
- Should not such a motion begin with the "Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group report" (found here) since this sets out the history building up to this motion and the arguments assumed into it?
- Why are the fuller and more helpful notes to the motion drafted in the report not the notes to the motion actually presented in the GS papers? (Those briefer notes offer technical terms and phrases which are either undefined or not clearly defined. The fuller notes in the report help us to see what changes the Methodists would also make in an "episcopal" direction.)

The Fundamental Provisionist in me asks, 
- Is this (however unintentionally) a change in our doctrine of ordination? 
- If it is, should this motion speaks as though it sets that change in place? 
- And, where this motion does speak in terms of future "enabling legislation", what kind of legislation should we have in order to change our doctrine of ordination? (Change of constitution? A formulary for recognising interchanged ministries? Let us not forget that the ordinals are part of our "Fundamental Provisions": ordination goes to the heart of who we are as Anglicans and what we believe.)

The Tui: Yeah, Right! guy in me desperately wants to ask 
- Whether we can equate our diaconate ("ordained a deacon") with the probationary period a prospective Methodist presbyter goes through following training and prior to ordination as a Methodist presbyter (no ordination as a probationer)? We can't even contemplate that can we? Deacons, we need your voice on this. The train is leaving the station!
- Also, once the enabling legislation is passed could we ordain a future Bishop of Somewhere who has been a Methodist presbyter (i.e. not previously ordained a deacon, and not previously ordained-by-a-bishop-in-the-order-of-bishops)? That would indeed be "per saltum" ordination, would it not?

Ecumenical relationships are vital, Jesus prayed that we may be one, this blog longs for Christian unity which goes beyond the "organic" or "spiritual" to real changes in our lack of inter-communion, recognition of ministries and so forth. 

Consequently I applaud the intention in this motion and acknowledge it comes from ecumenical work here in Aotearoa NZ which builds on associated work in other parts of the Anglican-Methodist world. I hope we can make progress through an amended motion which clarifies issues and responds to questions the motion-with-notes in its current form raises. 

I have no problem with the goal of "interchangeability" of ministries between Methodists and Anglicans providing we are clear about what we are interchanging and faithful to our own doctrine of ordination in respect of our understanding of "ordered" ministry. 

I think we should remember that, much as many of us long for closer relations with Rome, Constantinople and Utrecht (i.e. Old Catholics), we are closer to Methodist/Anglican mutual recognition of ministries than we are to Rome and Constantinople recognising our ministries ("null and void", lest we forget).

What do you think?

UPDATE: Bosco Peters, along with other GS matters, also tackles this motion here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Peter.

You and I have, independently, come to similar reflections about this.

My thoughts are found at General Synod 2016 & Liturgy.

You forget another scenario: if a past or present Methodist President of Conference is appointed to be, say, the next Bishop of Dunedin, would those s/he ordains be allowed to officiate as priests elsewhere in the Anglican Communion (other than in Ireland)?

My link in this comment also reflects on other decisions before GSTHW - I also include an alternative proposal for the topic du jour. I hope that the huge effort I put into this bears some fruit. As I also pray your efforts do.

With prayers for GSTHW


Peter Carrell said...

The correct link for the post Bosco refers to is (and is at the bottom of the post above)

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, may I point, here to one of the most important points Bosco is making about the problems with Motion 30:

"1) Currently, our church doctrine is clear: a marriage is holy without the blessing of an Anglican priest or bishop. It is a “rightly-ordered relationship” with or without the blessing of an Anglican priest or bishop. Christians, for example, married in a civil ceremony are, currently, a “rightly-ordered,” holy relationship."

Why, then, would the Church need to obfuscate further with the 'need' to 'bless' a heterosexual Civil Marriage for it to become kosher?
A marriage is a marriage is a marriage - whether churched or not.

This realisation would then set us all free to recognise that all we need to is nothing, for a marriage to be a rightly-ordered marriage.

Father Ron Smith said...

If this motion passes the General Synod hurdle; will it be regarded as a 'departure from Anglican Tradition' by, say, the militants of GAFCON; who have pronounced TEC's move on the ordination of 'Gay bishops' as the 'departure from Anglican Tradition' they cannot swallow?

In other words, would the 'fabric of the Anglican Communion' be torn - to the same extent as Gafcon and Acna declared as having been torn by TEC's provincial action on 'the' (other) 'issue' ? How important is this matter? More important than Same-Sex Blessing?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
All matters of order, sacrament, sacramental actions and sacramental-like actions are important. But some are treated as more important than others. One reason concerns salvation. I don't think anyone's salvation will be imperilled if the new vicar is a Methodist presbyter. So it might not rate as high as an Anglican Church choosing to bless what the Bible defines as sin (should that be contemplated).

Father Ron Smith said...

And this, Peter, is one good reason for questioning the conservatives' understanding of a biblical prohibition of a S/S relationships Blessing. Especially as a recent visiting Professor of Biblical Studies did not consider that such a process was either banned, or even heard of by the writers of the Scriptures. Obviouly, people at that meeting must have been out of the room or asleep when he offered this piece of hermneneutical wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, according to Anglicans Online, you are in full communion with Utrecht. Presumably you recognise their orders, so you are probably closer to them than to Methodists.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
You are right re Utrecht.
My question then would be whether our full communion with Utrecht would be affected by the change being proposed.

Father Ron Smith said...

I can't help comparing this move with that of Archbishop Michael Ramsay in the Church of England decades ago. Now Archbishop Michael was a very well respected Anglo-Catholic - the recipient of an espocopal ring from the hand of Poper Paul VI - so no-one calculated to 'seel-out' the catholicity of the Anglican Church. However, he was also a devoted ecmuenist, and not only in one direction either.

If we believe in Christ's call to unity, how far do we need to go in order to reconcile our identification with the Apostolic Ministry?

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, I don't know enough about the Anglican view of Methodists' claim to apostolic succession, but their claim looks reasonable to me. If Utrecht is not concerned about a papal bull on the nullity of Anglican orders, Utrecht can hardly worry about Methodist presbyters who (I think?) can trace their lineage back to a famous Anglican priest properly ordained in Utrecht's view. There seems to be first century precedent for priests ordaining priests. All out of my depth really, but Utrecht might see Methodists as a welcome alliance.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
I don't know enough about the Old Catholics to know what they would think about this proposal.

Jean said...

I say the work gone into making an agreement (in the report you cite Peter and via diaologue) between Methodists and Anglicans is extensive. The hisotrical roots especially - I mean the Methodists wanted to stay Anglican when they first formed as of Anglican movement they just got shuffled aside a bit by the powers that be, preaching in fields and all that nonsense. It would be hard to imagine current movements such as Soul Survivor being cut off for such reasons in the present day.

So why not? I see more to be gained than lost. It may there are details to sort out which would make both parties feel better such as if a Methodist Prebyter applied for a role in the Anglican church would they have the grace to allow an Anglican Bishop to lay hands on them in order for the Anglican's to feel more comfortable about the exchange. And there could be a similar ask in reverse situation? Surely not insurmountable problems which could be given a decent time to be ironed out.

As for equating being ordained Deacon with the ministry time served before being a Presbyter ... Just different strokes for different folks with the main emphasis being the time to serve, study and develop skills for ministry. While the position of Deacon is not to be undervalued, I had a friend from a uniting parish in the UK who had done one year bible study, one year on mission and when he was accepted for ordaination in the Anglican church in NZ he was made a Deacon without any extra requirements and went to St John's for a short while before being ordained Priest. So even 'our' church already in an informal kind of way recognises previous experience gained from roles in other forms of Christian ministry.

Living in hope,

P.S. And why not the Prebyterians? Well maybe we can work towards that next...

Peter Carrell said...

In some ways, Jean, this matter is a bit like blessing of same sex relationships, because both are about "squaring a circle."

In this case, how do we uphold our own discipline of orders of ministry with specific requirements re lay on of hands of a bishop (of three bishops to ordain a bishop) while also upholding our genuine openness ecumenically to interchangeability of ministries which are not so ordered but yet in character and in quality involve ministers of the same calibre and credibility as ours?

My own sense, right now, open to changing my mind, especially through next week's debates, is that an honest position would be to agree that under certain circumstances a bishop may licence a Methodist presbyter or a Presbyterian ordained minister to preside at Anglican eucharists (i.e. that could include taking charge of a parish). That would mean no pretence that Methodist or Presbyterian orders were precisely the same as ours (and would offer no pathway to ordination as bishop without first being ordained An Anglican deacon then Anglican priest) while recognising with respect and honour our valuation of their ministries as "similar" to ours.

Anonymous said...

Jean seems to be misreading the proposal. There have been different ways to unify ministries (see the different ways that the Church of North India and the Church of South India took). What Jean is proposing would be acceptable to churches with bishops but is precisely what is being proposed we don't do.

I cannot follow Nick's logic at all. The Vatican accepts the validity of The Union of Utrecht's orders [Incidentally, because of full communion since 1930, the Vatican's point in 1896 no longer applies]. His logic would mean that the Vatican would accept Methodist orders, or any orders where a presbyter ordains a presbyter. Episcopal churches (Rome, Orthodox, Old Catholics, Anglicans) simply do not work that way.

We are not discussing God's presence, efficacy, and fruitfulness in Methodist Churches, and through Methodist ordination. We are discussing whether, as I noted above, a past or present Methodist President of Conference be appointed to be, say, the next Bishop of Dunedin without Episcopal ordination. I suggest that persons ordained by such a Bishop of Dunedin, to keep with this example to help our theological thinking, may have difficulty having their orders recognised in other Anglican Churches, let alone in the Union of Utrecht.

Easter Season Blessings!

Anonymous said...

I think Rev Bosco Peters is wrong on two counts. First, Rome only recognises male Utrecht orders, secondly Rome is not in full communion with Old Catholics. There is a difference between valid and licit. Next, it does not follow that recognition of Utrecht's male orders by the Vatican leads the Vatican to recognise everyone whom Utrecht recognises. Anglicans are a clear case in point and that applies to John Wesley. I accept that Anglicans recognising Methodists does not mean Utrecht will. Who knows? Outside first millenium churches, apostolic succession has become fluid. As I said, not my area and I have nothing more to add.


Peter Carrell said...

For clarity, Bosco, is part of your argument re Utrecht/Anglican relationships that the main objection of the Roman Null and Void charge against Anglican orders no longer has weight?

That is, if Rome cares to revisit Null and Void it could write a new document along the lines "but now, in the light of full communion between Utrecht and the Anglican Communion, we can revise our understanding of Anglican orders today"?

Anonymous said...

Yes, for clarity,

Nick is correct, many Union of Utrecht member churches ordain women, and the Vatican does not recognise these women, and would not recognise male priests ordained (solely) by a woman bishop.

My point about full communion since 1930 between Anglicans and the Union of Utrecht is that whilst the 1896 Bull may have doubted whether episcopal apostolic succession had been successfully passed on within Anglicanism, following this pipeline theology of ordination, since 1930 the pipeline has been re-established through the widespread, regular participation of Union of Utrecht bishops in the episcopal ordination of Anglican bishops. Archbishop David Moxon would be a helpful source if that was sought to be explored further.

It is Nick who, on this thread, argues that presbyters are sufficient to continue the pipeline. If his theory is correct, then the 1896 Bull was patently incorrect even at the time. Personally, I see no reason to abandon the wisdom of the Lambeth Quadrilateral which values, in the restoration of Christian unity, the historic episcopate.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter and Bosco; unsurprisingly I believe in apostolic succession according to Rome. I do not argue that presbyters are adequate to pass on the apostolic succession. I made my comment in the context of a concern from Peter and my underlying curiosity with Utrecht. If they ordain women (fine with me but contrary to tradition) might their doctrine augment to include Methodists? There seems to be some evidence of presbyterian ordination historically. Anyway, this is a kite. I doubt there is much in it.


Jean said...

Hi All

I am trying to get my head around this all and admittedly I am not schooled in the way of education about any of it.

Episcopoi and Prebyter in the early church could be held by the same person right, Espiscopoi refers to a Prebyter who was a leader of elders even within the same congregation? So the essence of apostolic succession is the passing on of the gift of leadership from one leader to another through the laying on of hands. Now as far as we know biblically Paul himself before he was sent on his missionary activity with Barnabas received his authority by instruction given by the Holy Spirit to prophets and teachers as they were praying during the laying on of hands. He even mentions to Timothy for him to value the leaderhip gift given to him by the laying on of hands by other leaders and their prophecies, supposedly from the Holy Spirit, about him.

So to me this says there is a combination here of the involvement of the Holy Spirit and current church leaders in the passing on of the 'mantle' of leadership. This includes (of course) to Chloe a woman. But what puzzles me is Paul was obviously chosen by the Holy Spirit but the gift of leadership was imparted through local leaders right, Prebyters, not what if we were mapping retrospectively what we would call Bishops or other apostles, Eposcopoi?

Now when the titles of Presbyter and Episocpoi were split into seperate roles it is easy to see where arguments arise, especially when we (Anglicans) hold a little against the Methodist for perhaps the fact that maybe John Wesley might not, might being the operative word, entitled to pass on the gift of leadership given he was 'only' a Presbyter, but to the movement of Anglican's he led was he not their Episcopoi also? Given his ministry history it does seem his life witnessed to the presence of the Holy Spirit's endorsement. And the dispute equates also I guess with the Catholic's debating the validity of Anglican episcopal validity. So we enjoy invalidated each other!

In the interests of moving towards closer christian unity, I can go with respecting others interpretations (e.g. Methodist minister is recognised as valid but if they wish to practice in Anglican Church may they have the grace to have their hands laid on by a Bishop? Or Anglican Ministry recognised as valid by Catholic church but if wanting to practice in said church would need to be male and be prepared to abide by the teachings regarding the saints etc). Be all things to all people....

As you noted Bosco this is not what is being proposed but perhaps it should be, and maybe if an Anglican minister chooses to lead a Methodist church they would need to be able to accept their churches teaching of Presbyters with Episcopal oversight have authority to pass on leadership. Either that or when applying across denominations you go through a discernment process undertaken by leaders of the said denomination who then agree or not, to authenticise the persons ministry within their ministerial context by the laying on of hands by said leaders.

To me Peter the passing on of the gift of leadership is not as skint scripturally or traditionally of precendent or examples as the issue of same sex blessings.

Is God up there laughing at how we can make life so complicated?

Happy pondering,

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
The New Testament is clear that the church should be led, and it clearly exemplifies laying on of hands as sign of commissioning.
But, as you observe, the NT is ambiguous about the roles of presbyter and episkopos - they seem to overlap each other.
However they do seem to be distinct from diakonos!
Clarity about bishops being distinct from presbyters emerges around the end of the first century and "episcopal" churches claim to be in continuity with that tradition, which we could describe as the oldest tradition of clarity of orders.
Only since the Reformation have other traditions emerged, each reaching back into the ambiguity of the NT in order to claim a biblical mandate, and each being something of a reaction to where the episcopal church in the West had gotten to under poor oversight.
Long story short: it does not appear that God is too concerned about precisely how the church is led.
Our question, in our freedom to choose how the church is led (so as to be faithful to Christ), is what enables the church to be the church?
Many of us still answer, "via episcopal leadership".
There is always the question who governs the governors, and the Anglican answer is "episcopally led, synodically governed"!
The question being discussed here, and at GS, I suggest, pretty much in line with your thinking, could be put this way: how precious is our Anglican understanding of ordered ministry? (With "precious" having at least two meanings!)