Sunday, August 3, 2014

World Methodist Council Celebrates Church of England's Decision

By now it is old news, I realize.  But, back on July 14 the General Synod of the Church of England (John Wesley's church) voted to approve allowing women to serve as bishops.  This was an historic move overturning centuries of Anglican tradition in the Church of England.  (Though some other jurisdiction within the Anglican Communion already have women serving as bishops, the Church of England, itself, restricted the episcopal office to men, only.)

This news was met by mixed reactions.  Even within the Anglican world, itself, there were various responses.  While I have Anglican friends who rejoice over this decision, I also have a number of Reformed Episcopal, Anglo-Catholic, and other traditional Anglican friends who are not happy at all.  The latter are likely ready to give up on Canterbury!

Outside of Anglicanism, the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches look on this with less than favorable eyes.  Undoubtedly, this move by the "Mother Church" of Anglicanism will further strain relationships with Rome and those connected with Constantinople.  -  This is significant because Anglicanism has understood itself as a "third branch" of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, along side of Rome & Orthodoxy.  With these historic churches of the West and the East condemning the idea of women in holy orders at all, and certainly condemning the idea of women as bishops, this move only separates Canterbury even further.  - Of course, it must be said that, even though Canterbury sees itself as this "third branch," Rome and Constantinople have always been less then convinced.  As it stands, neither Rome nor Orthodoxy accept Anglican orders as valid.  But, if they were ever to change their minds, this recent move by the General Synod surely closes that door.
On the other hand (and though this is old news, as well, I just became aware of it!), the response from Methodism has been quite favorable.  -  Upon hearing the news from England, World Methodist General Secretary, Bishop Ivan Abrahams issued a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.  In the letter Bishop Abrahams said, "The news that the Church of England has voted in favor of allowing women to become bishops is welcomed with open arms by the World Methodist Council.  Our global body has long welcomed, appreciated and been strengthened by our sisters in our faith tradition, and we know that this news will be seen as another common belief that affirms not only the bond between the Church of England and its members, but also within the World Methodist Council's ongoing  ecumenical dialogue with the church."

In reality, the first women to be ordained in modern times (i.e., we see women ordained as deacons in Scripture, itself) were ordained by those in the Methodist tradition.  More specifically, such ordinations took place in the Wesleyan-Holiness wing of Methodism.  In fact, the Church of the Nazarene (for example) was ordaining women as elders a quarter of a century before the United Methodist Church made that move.  However, United Methodism has been much quicker and more consistent in seeing women serve in the episcopal role than either the Church of the Nazarene or The Wesleyan Church.  But, neither of those denominations ever barred women from the office of general superintendency.  The only relevant restriction for serving in the superintendency for Nazarenes was being ordained an elder, and, as I said, elders orders were always open to women. 

Bishop Abrahams went on to say, “As the Church of England acts upon this landmark decision, know that by doing so they are doing it with the blessings and prayers of the Methodists throughout the world who are part of the World Methodist Council."

The full article from the World Methodist Council can be read, here.

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