Anglicans and Methodists: 10 years of journeying together

It is 10 years this November since the Methodist Church and the Church of England signed a historic covenant formally committing them to exploring greater unity.

To mark the anniversary, two reports will be released in the autumn outlining the progress that has been made on the Anglican-Methodist Covenant in the last decade.

The Joint Implementation Commission (JIC) for the Anglican Methodist Covenant will publish its report with the working title 'The Challenge of the Covenant' electronically in September for anyone to read and respond.

A draft of a shorter report will consider the next steps for the two Churches in moving closer together in unity and mission. This report will also be released in September but with a more limited circulation.

Responses will be made to the reports by the Church of England House of Bishops, the Methodist Council and other bodies within the two Churches.

The Church bodies have until January 2014 to make their submissions after which a revised report will be brought to the Methodist Conference and the Church of England General Synod for consideration later in the year.

Professor Peter Howdle, Co-Chair of the JIC, said: "Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, my Anglican Co- Chair, and I are very pleased to offer the two reports which will be published this autumn.

"They are the result of a lot of reflection and discussion by the members of the JIC and provide much thoughtful material for our two churches, and our ecumenical partners, as we seek to discern the way towards the greater unity of our churches.

"The reports will ask some challenging questions of our churches about how they need to change and adapt for the unity and mission of the Church. I look forward to the feedback and debates next year in the Conference and the General Synod as our two churches respond and explore the next steps in our pilgrimage together."

Leaders of both Churches have expressed their support for continuing the journey, with the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams speaking of his desire to see the Anglican and Methodist communities grow much closer together, and the former President of the Methodist Conference, the Reverend David Gamble, suggesting in 2010 that the two Churches explore how they can respond jointly to the challenges of the 21st century.

In an address to the Church of England's General Synod in February 2010, Gamble went as far as to say Methodists were "prepared to be changed and even to cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom".

A Pastoral Letter to Methodists the month before his address stated: "We have voted consistently over the years for unity schemes that are designed to increase the whole Church's effectiveness in mission.

"This is not a death wish, but a desire to be obedient and a willingness to be transformed. We can countenance ceasing to exist as a separate Church because we know that we will still be the Methodist people within a wider Church.

"(This) will require not just us but other churches to be prepared to move forward together and to leave some things behind in the process for the sake of the Kingdom.

"So it is not a question of Methodists being submerged or absorbed in the Church of England or any of our other partners. It is not a matter of Methodists returning to the Anglican fold, but of seeing whether together we are prepared to become a 'new fold'."