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Are Britain's Methodists planning a return to the Church of England after more than two centuries of division? That's what their president, Rev. David Gamble, suggested to the Church of England General Synod in London today. The two churches entered a covenant in 2003 that committed them to deepening unity and cooperation. His presence at the synod, and plans by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to attend the Methodists' conference in June, were visible signs of this link, he said.
But the results leave something to be desired, Gamble acknowledged: "It has to be said that around the country the situation is patchy. In some places there are very close working relationships and exciting new initiatives. In others you could spend quite a long time trying to find any sign of the covenant in practice."
After reviewing the two churches' cooperation in various fields, he ended his speech by saying: "We are prepared to go out of existence not because we are declining or failing in mission, but for the sake of mission. In other words we are prepared to be changed and even to cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom."
The Methodist Church of Great Britain split off from the Church of England in 1795. It proposed unity with the Church of England in the 1960s but a Church of England General Synod in 1972 voted against it. As Gamble said in his address, "when I entered theological college, at Wesley House in Cambridge, in 1971, I really expected to spend my ministry as minister in a united, Anglican/Methodist Church. I still remember our great disappointment in 1972."
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Matthew Weiner is Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York. Rev. Bud Heckman is Director for External Relations at Religions for Peace and editor of InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook (SkyLight, 2008).
By Matthew Weiner and Rev. Bud Heckman
Mary Rosenblatt grew up Jewish, she married a Catholic and her children are "exposed to both faiths." In her adult life, she has become particularly drawn to meditation as practiced by a local Buddhist circle. If she participated in a survey about religious identity, how might she be portrayed? And what about her kids?
The financial crisis so dominates the news these days that reports on a meeting of the Christian and Muslim religious leaders and scholars pictured here zero in first on what they said about the economy. These men and women of faith would readily admit they look like anything but a group of portfolio managers, but comments on the crisis now get top billing no matter where they come from. We grabbed the crisis angle too, breaking out the economic statement from the final communique yesterday as our first item on this meeting. With that done, let me go back to look at the rest of the news from the latest Common Word dialogue meeting in Cambridge and London on October 12-15.
Probably the most interesting aspect of this meeting was how both sides -- 17 Muslims and 19 Christians -- worked to understand the other's faith and find ways to spread that understanding within their communities. For example, in his opening address, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams tackled the problem of how to deal with the the two faiths speak differently about God. "While what we say about God is markedly different, irreducibly different in many respects," he said, "we recognize in each other's language and practice a similarity in the way we understand the impact of God on human lives, and thus a certain similarity in what we take for granted about the nature or character of God."
They actually have a shared faith: The United Methodist Church.
This may surprise many people, given the fact that their politics are polar opposites. The anti-abortion rights Bush strikes many as a Southern Baptist in everything but name; the pro-choice Clinton is seldom associated with religion though she has been actively courting the faith vote as of late.