The decision by Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool to withdraw his invitation to the Methodist church to conduct an ordination service at the Metropolitan Cathedral does not surprise us. Indeed it would have been better if he had not agreed in the first place. The change of plan at such short notice is not only inconvenient to the Methodists but it gives undue prominence to a matter which need never have arisen.
We have great admiration for the Methodists. The emphasis they have put on evangelisation, the importance they have placed on personal witness and their remarkable work during the Industrial Revolution and beyond have brought many millions to Christ across the world. We have much to learn from them. Nevertheless, we have to accept there are serious doctrinal differences between us, and here these are particularly relevant because they concern the nature of the Eucharist and thus the essential character of the priest or minister.
This newspaper has a long history of supporting the ecumenical movement. We were greatly encouraged by the attitudes of Vatican II towards other religions, and we have been saddened when, for one reason or another, progress has been checked. It has never been more important for Christians to give a joint witness in our secular society. Having said that, we must proceed down the ecumenical path with due regard to the truth, awkward though that may sometimes be. Nothing is well served by papering over the cracks through a misplaced expression of charity. Of course Archbishop Kelly would agree with us and we are glad to see that he now realises that his well-meant invitation was, in the circumstances, a step too far. We must hope that other and more appropriate forms of cooperation between the Methodists and Catholics of Liverpool will prosper.