COI Gazette – 17th January 2014

Anglican Communion voices are positive over Church of Ireland-Methodist plan

Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan of the Anglican Communion Office

Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan of the
Anglican Communion Office

Advanced plans for the interchangeability of ministry between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland are being well received in Anglican circles beyond Ireland, the Gazette has learned.

The plans, set out in Motion 20 at the Church of Ireland’s 2013 General Synod, which was duly passed, envisage the involvement of at least two “bishops of the Church” in “Installations and Consecrations” of Methodist Presidents, and allow for a period of “anomaly”.

According to Motion 20, any presbyter of the Methodist Church, in full Connexion with the Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland, would be equivalent to those ordained priest within the Church “solely for the purposes of being considered for or appointed to any role which necessitates being in priest’s orders within the Church”.





By established custom, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated between 18th and 25th January in the northern hemisphere (and at Pentecost in the southern hemisphere).

While already in most places there are good contacts between the different denominations, the Week of Prayer is an opportunity to focus more particularly on an issue that still underlies the life of the Churches – separate denominational identities and structures and the extent to which they militate against the unity of the one Church of God.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is organised jointly by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Ecumenical partners in a particular region are asked to prepare a basic text on a biblical theme and then an international group with WCC-sponsored and Roman Catholic participants edits this text and ensures its overall suitability.

The 2014 Week of Prayer was initially prepared in Canada and the introduction to the resources publication notes how Canadians live in a country marked by diversity in language, culture and even climate, as well as embodying diversity in the expressions of the Christian faith. Thus, those who did the preliminary work in Canada point out: “Living with this diversity, but being faithful to Christ’s desire for the unity of his disciples, has led us to a reflection on Paul’s provocative question in I Corinthians: Has Christ been Divided?”.

It has often been indicated by ecumenists that unity is both Christ’s gift and his will for the Church. Of course, Christ cannot be divided, but the Church can fail to manifest the essential unity that Christ brings to the fellowship of all believers. Unity is what we are and also what we pray for; it is the essential nature of the Church, but that nature is not clear for all the world to see.

The Canadian Churches have thus stressed a question which brings us to reflect on the deep mystery of the Church. In advancing the visible unity of the Church, denominations at times have to take real leaps of faith. The current Church of Ireland/ Methodist plan for the interchangeability of ministry represents such a move, and it is reassuring that support for it has been forthcoming both at Anglican Communion level and in the Church of England (report, page 1).

In parishes across Ireland, the special Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be observed. It is a time for real reflection on the Church’s nature as the Body of Christ but also a golden opportunity to deepen the various links between the different traditions, the friendships and the fellowship that is, in itself, a vital encouragement in the life of Christian discipleship all the year round.

Any President or former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, in full Connexion with the Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland, would be regarded as being equivalent to those ordained bishop within the Church “solely for the purposes of being considered for election and translation into a vacant see within the Church, or any other role which necessitates being in priest’s orders within the Church”.

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