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Resources explore United Methodist-Episcopal ties

By Linda Bloom*
May 17, 2007 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

United Methodists and Episcopalians have a new way to get to know each other.

Building upon the interim agreement of shared eucharist approved by the United Methodist Council of Bishops in 2005 and the Episcopal General Convention in 2006, the two denominations have released resources to promote study of the agreement at all levels.

"Make Us One With Christ" is a report based on the sessions between the Episcopal and United Methodist dialogue teams from 2002-2006. A second resource is a study guide version of the report that includes discussion points, questions for reflection and worship tips.

United Methodist Bishop William Oden, who was co-chairperson of the dialogue with Episcopal Bishop Frank Brookhart, said the interim sharing agreement is "at the point of asking the churches to be partners in this dialogue."

From local congregations to annual conferences and dioceses, all levels of the two bodies are encouraged to use the resources as they interact together.

The Council of Bishops is leading the process of dialogue for The United Methodist Church in coordination with the denomination's Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.

“Each church retains its own identity and its own polity but … sees each other as full members of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church.”–Bishop William Oden

Oden said the process between United Methodists and Episcopalians "is open-ended" but that both denominations hope the final result will be a formal relationship in full communion - a sharing of faith, sacraments, ministry and mission.

In such a relationship, "each church retains its own identity and its own polity but … sees each other as full members of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church," he said.

The report of the dialogue covers points of shared theology, information about the shared heritage of the two churches, explanations of the character and ethos of each body and a discussion of what it means to be in full communion.

"Our drawing closer together in full communion will allow for a more faithful witness as we engage more fully and effectively in God's mission to the world," says the introduction to the report's section on full communion.

In some regions, interactions between United Methodists and Episcopalians already are occurring, Oden reported. For example, Seattle area United Methodists, led by Bishop Edward Paup, are conducting special services with the Episcopal Church. In Des Moines, Iowa, Bishop Gregory Palmer and the Episcopal diocese "are in joint conversations at every level."

Ongoing conversations

Dialogue between the two denominations began after the 1948 Methodist General Conference and the Episcopal General Convention voted to form joint commissions on union. Those talks were set aside in the mid-1960s when the Consultation on Church Union was formed. "The nine denominations of COCU agreed they would not enter bi-lateral conversations as long as COCU was in process," Oden said.


Bishop William Oden 

In the 1980s, "when it became evident that COCU would not go forward, bilateral dialogues began to resume," he said. The most recent round of dialogues began in 2002.

A resolution to ratify the action of the Council of Bishops approving the interim agreement will be presented next spring to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference.

The report and study guide for "Make Us One With Christ" are available for $2.95 each. For ordering information, contact the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns via e-mail at questions@gccuic-umc.org or by telephone at (212) 749-3553.
Both the report and the dialogue sessions were funded through The United Methodist Church's Interdenominational Cooperation Fund and The General Convention of the Episcopal Church as part of the Office of the Presiding Bishop. More information about the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund can be found at www.umcgiving.org.

*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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Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns

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