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Anglican-Methodist Covenant faces challenges

The seaside resort town of Blackpool was the host site for the 2007 British Methodist Annual Conference. During the July 7-12 assembly, church leaders expressed concern about the lack of progress in implementing the 2003 Anglican Methodist Covenant.
A UMNS photo by Kathleen LaCamera.

By Kathleen LaCamera*
July 16, 2007 | BLACKPOOL, England (UMNS)

British Methodists say the Anglican-Methodist Covenant is facing challenges that some here might call a "bumpy patch."

Bishop William Oden

Signed in 2003, the covenant agreement sets out plans for greater cooperation between the two traditions. Commenting on a report about its implementation during the 2007 annual conference, British Methodist officials say the process has yielded "some encouragements and some disappointments."

The role of women in church leadership and the role of bishops themselves are among issues that still have no formal agreement between Anglicans and Methodists. The British Methodist Church has no bishops.

United Methodist Bishop William Oden, ecumenical officer for the denomination's Council of Bishops and a representative to the British Methodist Conference, expressed concern about the covenant's progress.

"It seems (the covenant) is stalled at the moment when U.S. United Methodist and Episcopal relations are going forward," Oden told United Methodist News Service, referring to progress in dialogue between those denominations. "The Church of England is busy with other issues, and British Methodists seem to have backed off."

Heated controversy over homosexuality and church leadership already threaten to divide the worldwide Anglican communion.

“It seems (the covenant) is stalled at the moment …. The Church of England is busy with other issues, and British Methodists seem to have backed off.”–United Methodist Bishop William Oden

Oden said a delegation involved with the United Methodist/Episopal dialogue in the United States will meet in October in Britain with their British Methodist/Anglican counterparts. The United Methodist and Episcopal churches have an interim agreement on sharing the Eucharist.

While the covenant report points to challenges in implementing the agreement, the Rev. Peter Sulston, the British church's coordinating secretary for unity in mission, said it also contains promising news of cooperation already under way. Feedback from local churches is that the covenant is being "lived out at a grassroots level," he added.

"There is clearly a lot of good work going on, with Anglicans and Methodists sharing in worship and mission, caring for each other and serving their communities," he said. "But there is still more to be done. The passion for mission and evangelism expressed by both churches is a powerful driver for covenant living." 

*LaCamera is a UMNS correspondent based in England.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org .

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