Catholic Archbishop withdraws invitation for Methodist ordinations

by Richard on May 29, 2011

In the ordinary way I’d have blogged this last week when I first heard about it, but I haven’t exactly been on top form recently…

Ordination services in British Methodism are held annually at venues in the vicinity of the Conference. They are often held in non-Methodist Churches because we don’t have enough buildings around that are large enough. This year the Conference is meeting in Southport and one of the Ordination services was to have taken place at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool. Sadly, almost at the last moment, the invitation for the service to be held there has been withdrawn “on the advice of the Vatican”. It seems that some Catholics were upset at the use of their building by our lot. (On the positive side, the service has been moved to Chester Cathedral. But I digress)

My experience for a long time has been that the Methodist and Catholic communities get along very well togethr ‘on the ground’. We’ve come a long way from the “catholics are the anti-Christ” attitude that was very present during my upbringing. As a student at Sussex, I remember very close co-operation between the Catholic and Methodist groups, though this greatly displeased the hierarchy in the catholic diocese. During my time as a chaplain at Swansea I often attended the student mass and was sometimes asked to preach by the priest, often at the very last moment. I can think of many local situations where the relationship between Catholics and Methodists are cordial and fruitful.

Sadly, the powers that be in the Catholic Church just don’t seem to get it. They seem content to turn a blind eye to local co-operation as long as no one makes too much fuss about it, but they remain committed to a worldview which sees their church as the repository of truth with the rest of us being second class Christians at best. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the Spirit blesses this local co-operation: the doctrinal purity of the church comes first. (I have to stress that in my experience it is the hierarchy that clings to and promotes this kind of thinking. “Ordinary” church members and local clergy are very often inclined more hospitably)

The cancellation of this year’s ordination service, while inconvenient, is just a symptom of a more general block to ecumenical progress. I wish I could say I thought change is in the offing, but as far as I can tell this is just another sign that the ecumenical movement is well and truly stuck.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Were blogs responsible for the Vatican stopping a Methodist ordination in Liverpool Cathedral | eChurch Blog
05.29.11 at 8:42 am
Methodist-Catholic Relations « Big Circumstance
05.29.11 at 10:02 am
Methodist Ordination in Liverpool Cathedral and the Anglican relationship to both the Roman Catholic and Methodist denominations. « Transformational thoughts….
06.16.11 at 7:55 pm

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


PamBG 05.29.11 at 12:58 pm

My experience was also that the Methodist Church and the Catholic Church in Britain got along very well on the ground.

I understand, from a Catholic theological perspective, why our ordinations are problematic for them. Just as I regret and disagree with the underlying theology that unity in Christ’s church can only come under the banner of Rome. The current Pope, in my opinion, is dedicated to a close reading of canon law and Catholic tradition and this action is hardly surprising.

Cudos to the Archbishop of Liverpool for giving his permission and giving it a try.


fat prophet 05.29.11 at 1:10 pm

A good post Richard.
I think the current Pope has set the Catholic church back many years and undone much of the good work that John Paul 2nd did. Let’s hope the next pope will be less medieval.


Ben Trovato 05.30.11 at 5:25 pm

For a different (trad Catholic) perspective on all this, feel free to drop by my blog…

I think the current Pope is taking us forward not backwards, and that ecumenical dialogue will benefit from his honesty, intellect and clarity.


Tony Buglass 05.30.11 at 9:41 pm

Sorry, Ben, but it doesn’t feel like that from this side of the conversation. We know the Pope has impressive intellectual credentials (although his latest book on the historical figure of Jesus wasn’t reviewed especially well by academics specialising in the field, as I recall), and I wouldn’t doubt his integrity for a moment. Nevertheless, for those of us who have good relationships with Catholics, and who have seen a great deal of progress since Vatican 2, this feels like a slap in the face. It is a retrograde step. This week, in one of my churches, we will be juggling with space to fit in a meeting because the local RC’s use that building for a mid-week mass. It’s been going on for years, and we’re very happy to enable their worship in a town where they have no building. Their understanding of what happens in the mass is not the same as ours, but that need be no obstacle to Christian fellowship and ecumenical hospitality. The relationship is a blessing to both of us.

Unfortunately, if the reports are true, Rome thinks otherwise. Shame.


Helen 03.15.12 at 1:29 pm

I imagine it were simpler to move the venue than deal with the nudges.

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