By John M. Todd Ia remarkable document A published this week, leading representatives of the Anglican and Me thodist Churches have recommended the "coming together" of the churches in two stages. Their recommendation is the result of a long series of discussions, including sixteen official meetings since July 1956.
Their conclusions are presented in a report entitled Conversations between the Church of England and the Methodist Church (Church Information Office and the Epworth Press, 3s. 6d.).
The first stage in the union of the two Churches includes intercommunion but this to be embarked in only if both sides commit themselves firmly to the final move towards complete unity.
This final stage would leave Methodists with at least the same freedom as already exists within the Anglican Church for evangelical parties.
The Report suggests that the two Churches should he ready to accept or reject the proposals by 1965. The Report is a thoroughly practical affair, and even contains an outline 'Service of Reconciliation'. Both parties are to 'receive' the other party.
The reception of the Methodist Ministers includes a prayer with a form of ordination included in it: ". . . endue each according to his need with grace for the office of priest . . . offer unto Thee spiritual gifts and sacrifices, and administer sacraments . . ." Some Methodists will find this very difficult (though not so difficult if they read the works of John Wesley with sufficient care). There is in this Report a printed 'Dissentient View', written by four out of the fifteen Methodists who took part in the talks.
Early in the book we come to shades of the Second Vatican Council in its consideration of the Sources of Revelation. Many of the Bishops at the Council were not very happy about the idea of accepting two almost independent 'sources of revelation', Scripture and Tradition.
The authors of this Report expound sonic thoroughly Catholic theology which echoes Father C'ongar's criticisms of the Vatican Schema. They say of Scripture and Tradition: "Both are gifts and instruments of the Holy Spirit within the Church. Behind both is the Living Word of God. the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. 'the Word who speaks now through the whole life of the Church, its thought and worship. its life and behaviour, the whole manifold and varied existence of the one Holy Catholic Church".