United Methodists put pact with Episcopalians into practice
Sept. 27, 2006
The Rev. Larry Pickens
By Linda Bloom
COLUMBUS, Ohio (UMNS) — Members of the United
Methodist Church's ecumenical commission put a new agreement with the
Episcopal Church into practice by participating in a communion service led
by a bishop from each denomination.
The service opened the Sept. 21-23 annual meeting of the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.
United Methodist Bishop Bruce Ough, based in the Columbus area, and the
Right Rev. Phillip Duncan II, Episcopal bishop of the Central Gulf Coast in
Pensacola, Fla., served as the co-celebrants. Ough is a former member of the
commission and Duncan is a current member, representing Churches Uniting in
In May 2005, the United Methodist Council of Bishops approved separate
interim agreements for sharing the Eucharist with the Episcopal Church and
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
United Methodist Bishop William Oden, ecumenical officer for the Council of
Bishops, and the Rev. Larry Pickens, the commission's chief executive, both
spoke at the 2006 Episcopal General Convention in June, where delegates
overwhelmingly passed the agreement.
"We're now at the point of moving into a time of working with the bishops of
both communions on the guidelines of this sharing," Oden told commission
The Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns will provide
guidance and resources on carrying out the new agreement. "We would like to
see groups of United Methodists and Episcopalians studying together and
learning about each other's history and polity," Pickens said.
He hopes the agreement will encourage a joint commitment to mission and
ministry as well as the sharing of communion.
For the agreement to be significant, Pickens added, "it has to really impact
us on the local level."
On an international level, dialogue between the Anglican and Methodist
denominations began in 1990, culminating in a document on sharing the
Eucharist. British Methodists then began a dialogue with the Church of
England and "are fast moving toward a covenant," according to Oden.
Bishop William B. Oden
In 2000, the Episcopal General Convention asked the United Methodist Church
to enter into dialogue, said the bishop, who has been involved in both the
international and U.S. dialogues.
A summary of the six years of conversation is being edited into a booklet
entitled "Make Us One." A draft of the booklet was presented this year to
the General Convention.
"As we move from interim sharing to full communion, of course, the (United
Methodist) General Conference has to give its approval," Oden noted.
Struggles on the way to full communion range from the use of grape juice
versus wine as an element of communion to the concept of the "historic
The Episcopal Church uses apostolic succession, or the consecration of
bishops by bishops, while Methodists trace their ordination to John Wesley,
an Anglican priest.
"To me, the historic episcopate speaks to the way in which we order the life
of the church and how we understand the role of bishops," Pickens told
United Methodist News Service.
In other business, the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious
- Decided to ask the Commission on General
Conference to include "a confession of white privilege and a commitment
to work toward dismantling it" as part of the ecumenical service at the
2008 General Conference. A DVD would be developed as a resource tool and
sent to each annual conference.
- Approved an overall 4 percent increase
in the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund, which includes funding for
both ecumenical and Methodist-related organizations and projects, for
2008-2012. The recommendation goes to the General Council on Finance and
- Acknowledged the resignation of Don
Hayashi, staff executive, effective Oct. 15, and thanked him for his
service to the commission.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service
news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or