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Church of England backs motion to unite with Methodist Church

(Wikimedia Commons/Kai Hendry)The Canterbury Cathedral is featured here in this image.

The Church of England's governing body has backed a motion that aims to take a step towards unity with the Methodist Church since the split in the late 18th century.

On Friday, members of the Church's General Synod had welcomed a joint report which details how clergy from each church could be eligible to serve in the other.

A number of concerns were raised on the floor of the Synod during the debate on the report, but it received overwhelming support, with more than a two-thirds majority in each of the Houses, Bishops, Clergy and Laity voting in favor of it.

The report, which was co-written by the two churches' faith and order bodies, also highlights how the Methodist Church could come to have bishops in the historic episcopate, according to Premier.

However, it acknowledges that there is more work to do to clarify a number of areas, including how the proposals would be implemented.

One of the concerns about the motion was the consecration of Methodist presidents, who only serve a year in office, as bishops. Some have pointed out that if presidents are consecrated, they will only be considered bishops for their year in office.

The Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu noted that more work is needed to determine how the role of bishop will be interpreted in the Methodist Church, once the year's presidency is over.

During the debate, many speakers pointed out instances when Anglicans and Methodists already work closely together, such as in Cumbria, where the diocese of Carlisle was in close communion with the local Methodist circuit.

Others have expressed fears that the proposal would undermine traditional Anglican teaching on how priests were ordained.

The Methodist Conference has indicated its willingness to receive the episcopate as long as partner churches acknowledge that the Methodist Church "has been and is part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church," according to Ruth Gee, former president of the Methodist conference.

After the debate, Rev. Gareth J. Powell, Secretary of the Methodist Conference, expressed gratitude to the Church of England for the "the progress we are making together on the path towards reconciliation and the ordering of our existing ministries in a way that reflects the needs and wishes of both Churches."

"As we move forward, we will continue to discern the will of God and deepen our understanding of each other through ongoing dialogue," he continued.

The Methodist Church has stated that it is unlikely that the proposals would be considered for discussion at the Methodist Conference before 2019.

The General Synod had expressed its "confident hope" that any outstanding issues between the two denominations are resolved "quickly and satisfactorily."

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