Episcopalians and United Methodists met in Chicago, Illinois for the fourth session of their Dialogue on Full Communion (26-28 October 2016). Committee members and staff from each church shared in conversation, meals, and prayer.
In personal updates and sharing, committee members spoke of the deep polarization in our nation and of the poisonous political rhetoric in this election season. These divisions are not new and our churches are not exempt. We acknowledge that United Methodists and Episcopalians also participate in the divisiveness raging in our society.
Our current passion to draw closer together reflects our need for repentance in perpetuating such division and our commitment to live into the unity for which Christ prayed.
Work at the meeting included completion of an informational document (FAQs). The dialogue committee brought a statement for full communion called “A Gift to the World: Co Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness,” nearer to completion. We noted numerous examples places where United Methodists and Episcopalians are already working in mission together, most recently in our ecumenical solidarity at the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.
Our efforts of working toward full communion have progressed over many years. We are convinced the time is now to move forward toward legislation and church wide engagement. “Why Now?” is the final question of our informational document. We quote it here as a mandate for our future work and our commitment to engage the wider church:
To a world torn by division, mistrust and fear, our witness of Full Communion is a beautiful sign of life and hope. After all, Jesus prayed for his disciples to be one as he and the Father are one, so that the world may know (John 17); Paul also reminds us that we are one Body (1 Corinthians 12).
We are richly blessed by a sharing of resources, as we join forces in crucial mission endeavors and tackle ministry challenges together. We have been in conversations about communion for fifty years. The examples of shared ministry and Christian friendship over many more years are innumerable. In many places, interchangeability and flexibility in ministry are essential. There is in our culture an increasing cynicism about divisions among churches, and a lack of passion for and identity with denominational entities. When we labor for unity, our own identities are clarified and redeemed.
Naming our oneness in Christ will be the fulcrum that will energize new and creative ministries in our communities, and joint activism for the dawning of God’s justice in the world. In passionate outreach to the world, “two are better than one,” for they lift each other up—and with Christ at the heart of this communion we will discover “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12).
Bishop Frank Brookhart (Episcopal Co-chair)
Bishop Gregory Palmer (United Methodist Co-chair)
The Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey (United Methodist)
The Rev. Jordan Haynie Ware (Episcopal)
Dr. Deirdre Good (Episcopal)
The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Williams (United Methodist)
The Rev. Patricia Farris (United Methodist)
The Rev. Dr. Tom Ferguson (Episcopal)
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson (United Methodist)
The Rev. Dr. James Howell (United Methodist)
Bishop David Rice (Episcopal)
Staff: Dr. Glen Alton Messer (United Methodist), Ms. Jeanette Nunez (United Methodist), the Rev. Margaret Rose (Episcopal)