Monday, February 12, 2018

Anglo-Methodism meet Anglo-Catholicism: will they or won't they marry?

The C of E General Synod in recent days has debated and welcomed a report on greater cooperation and communion between English Anglicans and Methodists. Welcoming reports is a synodical thing. Nothing actually changes. But, potentially, a welcomed report could lead to change and thus the welcome step could be part of a historical journey. Or the end of the matter.

Here in ACANZP a few years back we announced to a great flourish of trumpets that we had a new covenant with NZ Methodists. Of course, in terms of actual change, such as the Holy Grail of Mutual Recognition of Orders, there was and still is, precisely, none.

Ian Paul has a couple of insightful posts about the possibility of Methodist orders of ministry being recognised by Anglicans, here and here. Reports on the GS debate on the report are here and here. A guest post on Cranmer is here. Quite a lot of discussion has been generated and quite a few theological issues are involved.

Here I do not have time to delve into these matters save for the few remarks I now make; but your comments would be welcomed.

(1) Anglicans generally seem keen on greater communion with other churches.

(2) Great energy has been expended on the possibility of greater communion with the Roman Catholic church. There is a natural fit in that direction because both churches are committed to the historic episcopate and thus both churches have similar commitments to (putting it bluntly) bishops' hands being laid on heads to make deacons and priests; and to bishops and priests presiding over the eucharist. There is the little (but so far "yuge") matter of whether we accept each other's historic episcopate and accept each other's eucharistic prayers. Despite the immense energy and time put into Anglican-Roman Catholic relationships not one bit of actual change re orders and communion has changed. Nevertheless there has been significant change in the past 50 years or so in respect of general relationships between the churches, and this week, in many parts of Aotearoa New Zealand there will be joint (non-eucharistic) services for the Imposition of Ashes.

(3) Considerable energy has been expended on the possibility of greater communion with the Methodist church, driven, it seems, by a kind of guilt that (putting it bluntly) the Church of England in the late 18th century failed its own members who left to form the Methodist church. Rehearsing the story of the beginnings of Methodism we ask whether it was necessary for Methodism to begin separated from the mother Anglican church and thus it is inherently plausible that we could be reunited as one family of English Protestants. But this Anglo-Methodist longing for re-communion in the 20th and 21st centuries meets the Anglo-Catholic part of the Anglican church (in England, and here) and that has not been a happy meeting. Anglo-Catholic resistance to a marriage with Methodism is twofold (as I understand it).

First, Anglo-Catholicism emphasises and explains episcopal ministry in such a manner that the Methodist account of its own episcopal ministry falls short of being a proper episcopal ministry. Secondly, Anglo-Catholicism is very interested in communion with Rome and thus is very hesitant about varying Anglican understanding of orders of ministry (e.g. if we were to accept Methodist presbyters as full presbyters of our church without their being ordained (again) by an Anglican bishop). Such a variation would be an impediment to union with Rome.

(4) I do not want to pit relationships with Rome versus relationships with Methodism - I am keen on communion with both. But I ask why, if I were to go to a Methodist church and share in their communion as a genuine communion with Christ within the body of Christ I would then devalue the orderliness of the Methodist church, an orderliness due to their understanding of episcopal and presbyteral ministry, by refusing to receive Methodist presbyters into this church as full presbyters in the church of God?

[A few caveats:
A. I am aware that not all Methodist communion services would be experienced by me as "genuine communion with Christ" communion services because there is freedom for Methodist presbyters (at least in NZ) to write their own communion services and the content of the eucharistic prayer of such a service might or might not be agreeable to me. I once had experience of such a prayer which completely omitted any aspect of remembering our Lord's death ...
B. In the last paragraph I deliberately omitted admittance of "Methodist bishops" (again, at least here in NZ, there are variations re episcopacy across world Methodism) because, as I understand things, Methodist episcopacy is expressed through a person holding non-permanent office, i.e. the office of Methodist President.]


Father Ron Smith said...

Thinking Anglo-Catholic v. Methodist?

May I remind you, Peter (and your readers) that the most fervent supporter of Anglican/Methodist Union was Archbishop Michael Ramsey - perhaps the most revered 'catholic' Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. I'm pretty sure he would have done better with the current controversy in the C. of E. about the acceptance of ALL people into the Church of England - regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Pope Francis reminds me of his eirenic statesmanship - from a 'Catholic' (universal) viewpoint. For both prelates: Love, not Law!

Father Ron Smith said...

I well remember, Peter - at St.John's College, Auckland in the late 1970s, a group of us Anglo-Catholic students inviting Dr.JJ Lewis (Methodist co-Principal if he would be prepared to preside at our Maundy Thursday Mass at the College. He not only agreed to do this but also assumed the priestly garments then traditional a SJC. We all loved JJ!

I slso remember my thesis - on the place of Mary in God's plan for Redemption through Jesus - being commended by DrJohn Sullivan, also a Methodist tutor at SJC at that time. We A.C.s at SJC were thrilled at the koinonia existing between ourselves and the Methodist Staff and students. So what's new? We shared not just the Volley-ball courts and 'Useful Industry, but also our worship schedule at specified services.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
That is all well and good as far as it goes but Ramsay did not get anything substantive across the line (which begs the question whether he would do better on any issue today) and despite the (well known) closeness of Anglicans and Methodists at SJC, nothing has changed about our understanding of Methodist orders: they remain deficient in the sense that we re-ordain Methodist presbyters when they seek to become Anglican presbyters/priests.

Glen Young said...

Ah! So now there's parallels between joining the Methodists and SSM/SSB. Peter, does this issue have to permeate EVERY discussion that takes place on your site.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Glen and Ron

Glen: I noticed that too.

Ron: don't do that again - I won't publish a comment which segues from the topic at hand to That Topic ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Point well made - thank you.
Please keep commenting.

Peter Carrell said...

A comment from Cameron:

Well. Here we go. Long time reader first time To those who will correct me, thank you.

I recently read Ralph Waller's very accessible book on Wesley (J). It seems to read as if the early Methodism was a movement of renewal within the CofE by Wesley(s) and others. At one point Wesley enlisted a Greek Orthodox Bishop to Ordain some of his preachers. (At least some apostolic succession there) but it was in his setting apart/appointing/ordaining of three men for ministry in Nth America where he ran afoul of the CofE. Though he argued the Primitive Church did not differentiate between the order of bishops and presbyters, I feel even today in Aotearoa this would be contentious? Can't say I have ever asked a bishop what they thought but 'most' priests I know seem to respond "Yes Bishop" when given instructions from the same.

The three set apart for ministry in Nth America weren't there long before they started referring to themselves as Bishops, and setting apart/ordaining others. And so Methodism continued.

So. I hear where you where you are coming from with your 'CofE guilt' remark. No doubt a refocussing of the 16th century CofE was needed. And thankfully to some degree, if we think CMS etc, was accomplished. In Missiology Wesley et al were almost certainly spirit lead. And as you lnow Peter, I really like that fourth leg on the stool.

However. If you are going to wear the team colours you really ought to play for the team. Or swap teams - at least on issues as substantive as recieved ecclesiology on who gets to hand out/on the tickets to ride.

And perhaps it is not so substantive. But then it is this very issue which would prevent Peter, Ron, etc from con-celebrating the eucharist with our Roman Brothers. Though I guess if there was a 'real priest' next to you it really wouldn't matter. Though as the saying goes 'neither use nor ornament'.

So as we pour energy and prayer into the hope of something like a reunion, and a church undivided. Is it wise to align ourselves with Methodism? And if you think it is then why not the AoG or local Baptist's or whomever?

If our test of union will rest on proclaiming Christ as Lord and Saviour, why not Glorivale?

I think the reordaining of Methodists is a relatively small concession to seek of those who would join...perhaps this is all our catholic brothers would ask of us?

Though in my opinion there is a stronger case for apostolic succession in the case of the Anglican Communion than John Wesley in a lounge in Bristol.

Anonymous said...

Peter, the obvious solution is a Wesleyan Ordinariate to welcome home those Methodist and even post-Methodist clergy who wish to ford the Thames. The Romans will understand.


Anonymous said...

Along the same line of thought, the practical steps required for reconciliation of past schism may not be the ones required for progress toward future Christian unity. The debate about the Methodists seems to be unnecessarily playing two worthwhile objectives off against each other.

Bilateral agreements that close wounds (Lutheran-Reformed, Anglican-Methodist) are a good thing whether they perfect agreement and unity or not. The CoE does everyone a favour by recognising the history for what it was. Methodists do the same when they recognise the legitimate breadth of the Anglican patrimony.

But such agreements are a different kind of thing from recognition of the rough shape that an ecumenical Church must take in the future (Lambeth Quadrilateral, WCC F&O's BEM from Lima, L-A-RC dialogue in North America, Porvoo Communion in Europe, Utrecht and friends, etc). In particular, practices that are not ecumenically adequate do not become so simply because somebody feels guilty about the past.

TEC has had little trouble in its analogous ecumenical relations with the Lutherans and the Moravians. This is because these quite different churches look, not backward to past schisms (among these, there never were any) or to present understandings of episcopacy (they all have bishops), but forward to the ecumenical order toward which they are all truly committed to work.

The last example illustrates something contrary to what many intuit: much ecumenical progress seems to be made with somewhat unlike dialogue partners, rather then rival siblings. Anglicans, for example, had warm ties to Constantinople long before they had them with Rome. I sometimes wonder whether the CoE will ultimately be more comfortable in the Porvoo Communion or the Anglican one.

And anyway, from the Nicene canons and the Apostolic Constitution on, all order is local. In large American cities, the Church is just as divided by nine Orthodox bishops who are hypothetically more or less in communion than by the several denominations that have split from Rome, the CoE/TEC, and the Methodists. Denominations can help unity along up to a point, but then they become the chief obstacle to one church led by one bishop in every place.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear All
Thanks for comments.
Nothing is easy here; everything is to be gained if we look forwards more than backwards; yes, a city can be divided by its multifarious Orthodox as by classic/historic denominations (as, indeed, many towns and villages in England were divided by Methodists, Primitive Methodists and (I think it was) Holiness Methodists!

A slightly pertinent question re what all this might mean, at least in an NZ situation, is this:
- if a Methodist presbyter in an Anglican-Methodist co-operating parish can use a NZPB eucharist service and its parishioners perceive they have experienced a proper communion service, why can the local Anglican bishop not appoint the same presbyter (without further ordination) to the neighbouring parish as its Anglican vicar?

Jean said...

I am afraid I am too much of a renegade to have any issues with Methodists being included in shared mutuality of ministry between the two denominations. Of course aside from the fact that the Wesley brothers never actually left the Anglican Church in the first place, and if one want to nit pick one must also be prepared if going by the classification of being an Anglican one must also be prepared to distance oneself from the positive Methodist off-shoots such as Wilberforce Even perhaps the Movarian connection of which 24/7 prayer within the CofE in some respects has re-claimed again... The aside being I would accept communion from any ‘saint’ whose faith was genuine and whose teaching was true to scripture as a fallible human’s can be. Albeit I believe in the laying on of hands and the impartation of leadership a.k.a. Paul with Timothy my personal interpretation of this - dare I admit it - is probably closer to the Methodist and Presbyterian understanding than the Anglican one.

And of course when John Wesley controversy ordained three men so those in the America’s who were without anyone who could serve communion, could have Priests who provided such. My gosh I would have been excommunicated had I been residing at that time with my views. I ascertain that Jesus after saying, ‘do this to remember me’, would rather His community of people continued this practice without a leader than abstain from it for lack of one.

Jeopardising relationships with the Catholic Church? Well if one has two brothers would one forsake reconciliation with one merely to escape the disapproval of the other?

Jean said...

Oh and one slightly contextually funny fact, John Wesley was the first cleric to coin the phrase, “agree to disagree” in regard more ‘minor theological’ differences.

David Wilson said...

Themost interesting tid-bit which has emerged in this is not directly connected to Anglican-Methodist relations. It is in the article by Diamaid MacCulloch, the church historian, which Ian Paul linked. It is in relation to the 'apostolic succession'. He writes:

"First, 'the historic episcopate' throughout the Christian world is a pragmatic, gradual creation of the second century CE, which links with the first apostles, but does not do so exclusively. There was no single bishop of Rome, for instance, until the 2nd century, and earlier lines of single succession there are benevolent fictions."

The general point agrees with the reading I have done on the development of ministry in the first few centuries. But the point about the bishop of Rome is a pretty big cat to set among the more catholic pigeons!

Andrei said...

Hi David;

You get a sense of the author's world view by his use of CE rather than AD

But in anycase Rome in the early centuries of Christianity was at the periphery of the Christian World, not its hub.

If you doubt this consider that the Nicene Creed was composed in Greek not Latin, the definitive version is Greek not Latin.

Other Churches have different lines of Apostolic succession, descending through different Apostles so even if the Author is correct in his assertions on the Papacy it doesn't follow for "'the historic episcopate' throughout the Christian world" at all.

Because the Churches under consideration in this post are all descended from the Roman Church, I suppose it takes a central place in your conception of the Church.

However if the Methodists do not have Bishops the question of why the ordinations of Methodist ministers might not be considered valid is answered, if you hold with the Nicene Creed that is