Church of England and Methodist Church moving closer to unity

The Church of England and Methodist Church have committed to finding further ways of collaborating 10 years after the Anglican Methodist Covenant came into being.

The Joint Implementation Commission (JIC) of the Church of England and Methodist Church in Britain has published a major report into the impact of the covenant in which it calls for Church leaders and decision-making bodies to make the covenant a "priority in order to bring our Churches closer together in mission and holiness".

The report - "The Challenge of the Covenant: Uniting in Mission and Holiness" - celebrates successful collaboration on issues like education, ethical investment, mission, theological education, safeguarding and Fresh expressions.

It also identifies remaining challenges, such as the need for further collaboration, consultation and decision making at both national and local levels.

The JIC report encourages local Anglicans and Methodists to worship and work together more closely in order to make the Covenant "real".

"We are called to holiness and to be sent on mission in the world. Our unity is an essential part of that. When we are not one ..... our faith and mission are seriously compromised," the report states.

However the JIC also expresses the hope that visible unity in mission and holiness will not involve one Church being absorbed by the other.

"We have common roots and shared history," said the JIC. "Yet we are very different culturally and structurally. We do not match each other in the ways we are organised. These difficulties are sometimes the source of misunderstanding and frustration, but they can also be the source of much enrichment and rejoicing."

Professor Peter Howdle, the Methodist Co-Chair of the JIC, said: "The JIC sees many signs that the Covenant between our two Churches has strengthened during this period. However, there is still a long way to go before our two churches are acting, and are seen as acting, together in visible unity for the mission of the church.

"I believe both churches will need to act ever more graciously towards each other as they seek to overcome the obstacles which prevent a deepening of our Covenant relationship. Our Report challenges our churches to greater efforts in their search for this visible unity."

The two Churches will spend the next few months receiving feedback on the report and reflecting on how to move the next phase of the Covenant journey forward.

The JIC will bring proposals for the next phase of implementation of the Covenant to the General Synod and the Methodist Conference in July 2014.

The Church of England Co-Chair, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Reverend Christopher Cocksworth said: "John Wesley's passion and project to 'reform the nation...and to spread scriptural holiness over the land' is in urgent need of renewal. This important report challenges the Church of England and the Methodist Church to work wherever possible in common purpose and to take definite steps towards a common life in Christ, and in his ministry and mission."