Friday, May 23, 2014

I just covered an item about the fiasco that is ARCIC, the “Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission”, which is working hard to restore organic unity between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. It seems to me like it’s an exercise in futility; I challenge anyone to provide a working, agreed-upon definition of “The Anglican Church”, let alone a way to reconcile ordaining women with not ordaining women.

But, lest anyone accuse the Anglican Church of being overly “Romish” in its search for ecumenical unification, inter-communion, and the right to draft clergy from one another’s seminaries, the Anglican Church has “Plan “B” to fall back upon.

The “Methodist Church in Britain” has just posted this item:

“The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, have today issued a joint statement to their Churches.”


“The Most Rev’d Justin Welby, the Most Rev’d John Sentamu, the Rev’d Ruth Gee and Dr. Daleep Mukarji have issued the statement in response to a report that will be debated by the Methodist Conference and [Anglican] General Synod this year.”

I’m already waiting with bated breath to see the word “indaba” appear…………..

“The report, entitled The Challenge of the Covenant, recommends that both Churches take action to enhance unity between them, with the work being fully embedded in Church structures. The report also encourages the Church of England to address the question of interchangeability of ordained ministries between the two Churches, and the Methodist Church to consider the possibility of a form of episcopal ministry (such as a ‘president bishop’).”

Wow. That paragraph really packs a punch. “…. work being fully embedded in church structures?” What does that mean? I remember an episode of the “Superman” TV show where Superman finds he can walk through walls, but he’s concerned about being stuck there. Is that the “embedded in church structures” that they mean – using some kind of transporter beam to relocate clergy into the very stones of churches?
And, what’s this “president bishop”? Is that supposed to mean that Kate Schori, who is in the office of Presiding Bishop of TEC, suddenly takes over? Do church members get to vote for a “president bishop” like they vote for President of the United States? Is Parliament involved somewhere along the way – and if so, which house, Commons or Lords?

As to interchangeability of ministers, say WHAT? There is no Apostolic succession in the Methodist church; they have never claimed to have it, and the ordination and consecration rituals for Methodist ministers and bishops include no proviso for “backwards compatibility.” Add to that the minor item that the Methodist Church does not believe in “real presence” in the consecrated elements of Communion, and it gets really hard to see how a Methodist minister could stand in for an Anglican priest.

The full statement follows:

“As we look ahead to important debates in the Methodist Conference and the General Synod on the future direction of the Covenant between our two churches, we affirm our commitment to the Covenant and give thanks for the many ways the Covenant is beneficial to both our churches at all levels of church life and to our common work of service and witness. We welcome the final report of the Joint Implementation Commission (JIC) to the Methodist Conference and the General Synod entitled ‘The Challenge of the Covenant’. In preparation for the debates, we encourage prayerful study of this and of the Quinquennial Report published last September.
The Methodist Conference will consider the JIC report in early July, before the July sessions of the General Synod, at which the main business will be the final stage of the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure. The outcome of this vote in the General Synod is immensely important to Methodists as well as to Anglicans, and will have an impact on the future outworking of the Covenant.

Owing to the focus on and time needed for the women bishops legislation in July, the expectation is that the General Synod debate on the JIC Report will be in November. The debate and vote on the JIC Report in July at the Methodist Conference, the vote on women bishops in the General Synod and its debate on the JIC Report in November will all be important building blocks for the next stage of the Covenant journey.

We are grateful to the JIC for setting before our two churches a clear challenge. This is a moment for thankfulness as we reflect on the journey already travelled since the Covenant was signed more than ten years ago and for trust and boldness as we each consider, in our respective governing bodies, the challenge now set before us.”

I’m going to ignore most of the statement, which can best be dealt with in the manner of Scrooge speaking to Marley’s ghost:

“[The ghost said,] Why do you doubt your senses?”

“Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

Perhaps the most blatantly meaningless, vacuous and ridiculous part of the statement is:
“It is our shared conviction that the time has now come for our churches to take further, significant steps to achieve that level of reconciliation between us and partnership in the gospel that will enhance our mission together in local communities.”

“Shared conviction?” “Level of reconciliation?” “Enhance our mission together?” In the face of such fundamentally challenging and deeply meaningful phrases, surely we will all bow our heads – and try to refrain from having our lunch or dinner make an untimely reappearance.

Those who are in leadership positions in many churches have shown themselves to be masters of comedy, with routines that would put anyone from George Burns to Jerry Seinfeld to shame. But when it comes to the one and only “Bozo”, I’d have to say that the various branches of the Anglican Communion own the copyright.

Bill (not IB)

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