Dialogue between Episcopalians and Methodists showing promise

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March 5, 2003

The second session of the official dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church met February 6-8 at St. Mary Seminary's Center for Continuing Education in Baltimore, Maryland. The dialogue was established by the 2000 General Convention in response to a 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution endorsing regional Anglican-Methodist dialogues.

At the Baltimore meeting, participants heard presentations on the understanding of authority in the Episcopal Church by the Rev. Ephraim Radner and the Rev. Betty Gamble from the United Methodist Church. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, associate deputy for the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, presented a paper on the ecclesiology of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and the Rev. Russell Richey, dean of Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, spoke about the development of Methodist ecclesiology.

'It's important to see this dialogue as a response to the Lambeth Quadrilateral, the 1998 Lambeth Conference and the actions of our General Convention,' said Bishop John Lipscomb of the Diocese of Southwest Florida, the Episcopal co-chair. He pointed out that 'the United Methodist Church represents one of the largest Protestant denominations with historic connections to the Church of England. Therefore it seems appropriate that we pursue dialogue within the family that stemmed from that tradition.'

Lipscomb also pointed to the dialogue between the Church of England and the British Methodists 'where the goal is full organic union. Here in this country we are seeking a relationship of full communion--and the Called to Common Mission agreement with the Lutherans provides us with a framework in which to work.' (See the web site at http://england.anglican.org/ccu/index.html).

A second major focus of the dialogue was an exploration of documents produced by the dialogue in the United Kingdom, as well as the report of the International Anglican-Methodist dialogue. The 1998 Lambeth Conference commended the report of the international dialogue, 'Sharing in the Apostolic Communion,' to member provinces for study. Participants looked at other previous agreements and convergences such as the Porvoo Common Statement between the Nordic Lutherans and the Anglican Churches of the UK and Ireland, and the landmark WCC document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry.

'After two sessions we are all feeling very positive about our conversations,' said Lipscomb. 'Of course we still have hard work to do, dealing with issues such as the historic episcopate, but we don't think those issues are insurmountable.'

The next meeting of the dialogue will in the summer of 2003. A planning committee consisting of the two co-chairs, Lipscomb and Methodist Bishop William Oden, along with staff from the ecumenical offices of the two churches, will meet in New York in March of 2003 to prepare a vision statement for the continuing dialogue.

In addition to Oden, the Methodist team included the Rev. Trey Hall of Illinois; the Rev. Lucia Guzman of Colorado; the Rev. Diedre Kriewald of Washington, DC; the Rev. Erica Jenkins of Louisiana, and the Rev. Bruce Robbins, who served as staff.

Episcopal team members in addition to Lipscomb included the Rev. David Bird of Washington; the Rev. Lois Boxill of Pennsylvania; the Rev. Theodora Brooks of New York; the Rev. Bruce Mullin of New York; Patricia Page of North Carolina; and the Rev. Ephraim Radner of Colorado.