The Office of Ecumenical Relations announced April 1 the release of a study guide to bring together United Methodist and Episcopal congregations.
"Make Us One with Christ: A Study Guide" will be "immensely helpful in the process of United Methodist and Episcopal congregations getting to know each other and their heritages," said Bishop Frank Brookhart of Montana, co-chair of the dialogue.
The two churches have been in dialogue since the 1960s in the context of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU). Methodists and Anglicans engaged in an important international dialogue from 1992-1996, and the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church have been in a one-on-one dialogue since 2002.
In 2006, the General Convention voted to enter into a relationship of Interim Eucharistic Sharing with the United Methodist Church, similar to that with the Lutheran Churches from 1982-2001. Interim Eucharistic Sharing is a step on the way to full communion, where the two communions intentionally gather to share in the Eucharist while growing into relationship and continuing to study important issues which need to be resolved before full communion can be reached.
The Study Guide was drafted by the dialogue team in consultation with scholars and leaders in both traditions. It is designed for congregational use and consists of seven sessions which introduce members to one another's history and traditions. The Study Guide process also includes practical brainstorming sessions to identify common mission projects and concludes with a joint celebration of the Eucharist by the participating congregations.
"This study guide signals a breakthrough in Episcopal/United Methodist relations," said Bishop Bill Oden, ecumenical officer for the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church and co-chair of the dialogue. "Both communions have an opportunity to draw closer together around a common table and joint fellowship and mission through sharing in this study."
The Episcopal Church's Office of Ecumenical Relations is working with local United Methodist and Episcopal bishops to plan regional join celebrations of the Eucharist and to encourage congregations to pair up.
"This extremely useable study guide for local congregations and other communities will help people in the pews understand how much our two churches have in common and prepare the way for the eventual restoration of full communion among us," said Bishop Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop's Deputy for Ecumenical Relations.