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United Methodists put pact with Episcopalians into practice

Sept. 27, 2006

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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 Christ.

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 members.

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."

Long-running dialogues

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Bishop William B. Oden
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.

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 episcopate."

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.

Other action

In other business, the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns:

  • 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 Administration.
  • 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 newsdesk@umcom.org.

 
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Bishop Wm. Oden: "We received overwhelming affirmation."
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