Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

"Make Us One with Christ": Essay on the Anglican-Methodist Dialogue

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

"Make Us One with Christ": Essay on the Anglican-Methodist Dialogue

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 1988, Anglican bishops of the Lambeth Conference invited the World Methodist Council to join them in dialogue on common interests in theology, mission, ministry, and the sacraments. The Methodists accepted the Anglican invitation, and in 1996 their international dialogue produced the document, "Sharing in the Apostolic Communion." In its conclusion the document recognizes that "[b]oth Anglicans and Methodists belong to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ and participate in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God." (1) It concludes further that both churches preach the Word of God, administer the sacraments instituted by Christ, and share "the common confession and heritage of the apostolic faith."

In 1999, a group of Episcopalians and United Methodists began a prayerful dialogue in the United States with the goal of full communion between both churches. In 2006 the group published its report, Make Us One with Christ, in which it defined full communion as a "relationship between two distinct churches or communions in which each maintains its own autonomy, while recognizing the catholicity and apostolicity of the other and believing the other to hold the essentials of the Christian faith." (2) Full communion would entail unity in the eucharist and the ability of the ordained clergy to officiate in the sacraments of each other's polities, ecclesiologies, and shared ministries.

In Great Britain and Ireland, Anglicans and Methodists have also conducted a dialogue in pursuit of full communion. These discussions produced the Anglican-Methodist Covenant, which both churches signed on November 1, 2003. The Covenant states the shared theological affirmations, complete agreement on the apostolic faith, and the common understanding of the nature and mission of the church. The Covenant also affirms the common task "to work to overcome the remaining obstacles to the organic unity of our two churches on the way to the full visible unity of Christ's Church." (3)

In 2005, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church approved the Interim Eucharistic Sharing Covenant with the Episcopal Church, which ratified it in 2006. This resolution approves the "common, joint celebration of the Eucharist" and requires that an ordained United Methodist elder or bishop and an ordained Episcopal priest or bishop "stand together at the Lord's Table." (4) The communion elements include bread, wine, and grape juice, which should be consumed reverently. The respective liturgies would come from the Methodist Hymnal and Book of Worship for the Methodists and the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) for the Episcopalians.

On April 16, 2010, the Episcopal-United Methodist Dialogue Team adopted the document, A Theological Foundation for Full Communion between The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church. This document represents current ecumenical discussions and builds upon the team's 2006 study, Make Us One with Christ, as well as earlier Anglican-Methodist discussions. A Theological Foundation discusses the common roots and doctrinal affirmations of Anglicans and Methodists, analyzes issues of divergence, and points the way forward to full communion, a process that may take several years.

The aim of this essay is to examine one aspect of full communion, namely, unity in Holy Communion. This includes a discussion of historic common worship, the doctrine of justification, and the theology of Holy Communion. I limit my discussion to the theologies of Thomas Cranmer and John Wesley, who essentially established the respective Anglican and Methodist traditions. This essay reflects my personal situation as a retired United Methodist minister who worships in an Episcopal Church.

I. Common Worship

A Theological Foundation states that Anglicans and Methodists "share a common heritage in the broad tradition of English Christianity as well as the eighteenth century Church of England. …

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