The end of Methodism?

by Richard on February 13, 2010

The President of Conference’s address to the Church of England Synod has been widely reported in the media and around the blogosphere. Here, for example is Dave Warnock :: Methodism = Mission first!

Mission is why we are here, it is who we are. What a wonderful way to restate that we are a movement and we are determined to move for Christ, for his Kingdom, for his mission!

Pete Philips has some good commentary spread over several posts, and Dave Faulkner has had his say too.

I admit to having mixed feelings about the President’s statement. On the one hand, I’m certain he’s right. We are, or should be, prepared to “die” for the sake of the kingdom. But.

But I strongly doubt that Methodism’s merger with the Anglican church, should it ever happen, would do anything to advance the cause of mission. The simple truth is that the enthusiasm for merger of some of our ‘great and good’ is not shared by the rank and file in our congregations. After all, if they wanted to be Anglicans, they could be!

One perspective that’s been missing from this conversation so far is the recognition that British Methodism is a connexion that covers England, Scotland and Wales. It’s all very well to talk of merger with the Church of England, but where would that leave Methodists in Scotland and Wales? The Church in Wales and the Episcopal Church of Scotland are separate bodies from the Church of England, and we can’t assume that decisions made in London would be good for Cardiff and Edinburgh.

In short, though I applaud the sentiment of our President’s address to the Synod, I’m not convinced that it really meant anything in practical terms.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Tony Buglass 02.13.10 at 11:28 pm

Quite apart the non-English parts of the Church, it’s almost impossible to relate to the whole Church of England. There are 39 different dioceses, and they all behave differently. With some, ecumenism is easy. With some, it is impossible.

What the President said works, if the Anglicans hear it properly: we may be prepared to give ourselves up for the cause of mission - will they? I doubt it very much. But then, I doubt many Methodists would, either. It’s the age-old problem - some folk go to church, and some folk have vision. And that is true across the ecumenical spectrum.

2

Joel 02.14.10 at 3:07 am

Richard, I don’t belong to your denomination (though we are siblings), but I think neither group would gain by a merger.

In United Methodism, at the local level individual United Methodist Churches merge sometimes merge. But I remember that in seminary, the late and great theological and evangelical professor Richard C. Logan told his classes that mergers usually ended up without a net gain in members because the merger resulted in as many people leaving from each church as the number staying. Further, hard feelings often linger. In the merger of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren, the word “united” was not to be an adjective to Methodist but to stand on its own history and roots. Although it would have been a longer name, and maybe kind of awkward to say, it might have been better to name the new body “The United and Methodist Church.” Delegates voted on it, but particularly in the early years members of the new body wanted a pastor appointed from their pre-merger church.

3

Bob Gilston 02.14.10 at 3:17 pm

In a village I once lived in, the Primitive Methodists were to join with the Wesleyans at the time of the formation of The Methodist Church in 1932 (admittedly before my time). One building was to close and both congregations would join in the other building. Come the day, none of the congregation from the closing church building came over. It was literally a few hundred yards acroos the common. What chance an Anglican/Methodist merger?

4

Richard 02.14.10 at 5:08 pm

You remind me of someone I know who I’ve heard more than once saying “The trouble is, the Wesleyans won.”

5

Methodist Preacher 02.14.10 at 9:52 pm

I go into some detail about the legal practicalities of implementing a merger:

http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2010/02/methodist-future.html

6

Pam 02.14.10 at 11:55 pm

I fully realise I am the least qualified person to comment on this weighty issue! However, reminds me of a scene from BBC series “Yes Minister” when Sir Humphrey, powerful bureaucrat, was “advising” the Minister on the benefits of supporting a particular piece of legislation.
Minister: But won’t it be terribly unpopular?
Sir Humphrey: Only with the general public.

7

Tim Chesterton 02.15.10 at 12:56 am

I don’t see how a merger with the C of E would help you guys to do mission better.

I think it would be more important for both denominations to recognise their need to reconsider traditions which may be hindering mission. But that’s an entirely different matter.

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