EMAIL NEWS ALERTS
The Anglican-Methodist Proposals
Posted on the 2nd Jul 2019
In our own February 2018 statement, we noted questions about whether the proposals would lead to unity, and whether the office of ‘President-bishop’ (to be held for one year only) could be recognized as a ‘local adaption’ of the historic episcopate of the catholic Church. We are grateful to note some progress with regard to the question of unity, but our question as to whether what is proposed is in fact episcopacy remains.
Our third and greatest concern was about the proposal to set aside the requirement that those who minister as priests in the Church of England should have been episcopally ordained to the office of priest. In response to this concern, which was shared by others, the General Synod asked the Faith and Order Commission to ‘explore and elucidate further the relationship between episcopal ordination and eucharistic presidency’. That the Commission has not attempted to offer such an elucidation is a deep disappointment.
The requirement of episcopal ordination was fundamental to the 1662 settlement, which is in turn fundamental to Anglican identity. The Preface to the 1662 Ordinal makes clear that this requirement is a matter of doctrine. If this doctrine is set aside for a ‘temporary’ period that could last for sixty or seventy years, as is proposed, it will effectively have been abandoned. If a central tenet of Anglican doctrine can be abandoned in this way, what other tenets of Anglican doctrine might follow?
We recognize that the proposals are still developing, and the prospect of further work is held out. Such developing scenarios do not offer a sufficiently firm basis for the drafting of legislation. As the experience of the first Women Bishops Measure showed, if at the beginning of the legislative process on deeply divisive and controversial matters there is not an agreed outcome that enjoys a stable consensus of support, it is highly unlikely that the legislative process will deliver a solution. For the General Synod to vote for legislation to be drawn up, as the motion to be moved on Sunday proposes, would be premature and irresponsible.
Since 1662 the Church of England has always been careful to adopt a charitable and eirenic approach to other churches. She has been reluctant to unchurch them by condemning their orders, and has often affirmed the authenticity and fruitfulness of their ministries within their own context. At the same time, the Church of England has upheld the integrity of her own doctrine by admitting of no exception to the requirement of episcopal ordination for eucharistic presidency and priestly ministry. Proposals that sacrifice doctrinal integrity to ecumenical expediency are unlikely to prove wholesome, fruitful or – in the end – unifying.