Ecumenical Greeting Delivered by The Revd William R. Morrey, President of the Methodist Church Conference to the 13th ACC Meeting.
Mr President, I have looked forward to the opportunity to be able to address the Archbishop as Mr President, so it is one President to another, and members of the council. It does give me great pleasure to bring greetings to you on behalf of the Methodist Church in Britain and as far as anyone can speak for the Methodist Church world-wide communion on their behalf as well. I am not quite sure about the wisdom of asking a Methodist minister to bring brief greetings on the longest day and when you have set your clock such as to give us an extra hour. However, I am aware that Anglican ways and Methodist ways can be a little different and I shall probably always remember the rather novel way in which having been welcomed, 10 minutes later, I was asked to respectfully withdraw for a little while.
If you look at your agenda you will find that actually I have been asked to speak on a particular subject to you in bringing greetings. I have been asked to particularly share with you about the Methodist/Anglican Covenant which is the Covenant between the Methodist Church in Britain and the Church of England. The Covenant was signed two years ago and there is an interim report on the Covenant that comes to our Conference and to General Synod this year. Two years in church time is actually rather quick and I have been asked to share with you something of that experience.
As I travelled around England this year I have been aware that in many places there are times when Methodists and Anglicans are sitting down together to do their thinking about ministry and mission together. To do their planning and to look at their sharing of resource in a way which will work for the Kingdom and so there are many hopeful signs because of the Covenant we have signed together. In one sense the Covenant is a child of its time. It has been signed at a point in our histories where we are very conscious of living in post modern and as some would call it, post Christian Britain, and we have come together to commit ourselves to a journey. The impact of that coming together is noticeable in localities. What I thought I would do is to share with you something of the feel of the Covenant by sharing from the report that is coming to us, something of what it says about good covenanting, and I think you will hear in what I say resonances of some of the things we heard in the Presidential Address and that we have heard in some of the other contributions so far during the consultation. Thinking of covenanting we observe that vows are for living. Making a covenant is similar to taking religious vows but vows taken at a wedding or by a novice in a religious community mark the beginning of a journey of a life within a committed relationship. We are not called simply to implement an Anglican Methodist Covenant but to learn what it means to live it so we are discovering what it means to be in a special relationship together. Covenanting is both deeply rewarding and also costly. Covenant is about living in a way that involves a dynamic tension. A tension between being where we are and where we believe we should be, knowing what it is that we are trying to actually do embody whilst also being aware of our failures to express our unity together.
We note that we are in this for the long term. It isn't about a quick fix between two churches. The Welsh experience, to which Rowan alluded, where five churches have been in covenant for thirty years is that change is often slow but there is no going back on the commitment made in relationship together. So patience is essential and change is inevitable. We are learning, I think, to cherish appropriate diversity and to sense where the spirit is speaking to us through our difference. Without wanting to make one like the other but rather to recognise that the Spirit speaks in that very diversity. And then I read to you a little more fully this passage:
Our Covenant will be shaped by a purpose beyond itself. Only God can make a covenant with a known ultimate destinational purpose. Without a sense of purposefulness rooted in God's purpose of the unity of all creation in Christ our relationship will just drift. Inside some scripture may yet challenge our two churches to express more clearly how our Covenant commitment serves God's Kingdom purpose beyond ourselves. Clues may lie in the language of reconciliation of healing of self emptying and of hospitality. Because it will always point to a purpose beyond itself a mutual covenant commitment will be neither self righteous nor inward looking. If our purpose is too narrowly focused on ourselves and on the future of our two churches our journey will not lead to a deeper unity in Christ but only to a self conscious defensiveness, a fractiousness which will make us less serviceable within God's reconciling purposes in this land. Only by looking to God and beyond ourselves can we hope that our covenant commitment will bring about what God wants to achieve. So I offer to you that sense of journeying from the English context.
I am also aware that I stand as a Methodist and if the statisticians are correct then the Methodist world-wide is a little under 70 million and so for all of you there are likely to be Methodist congregations of various sizes in the countries from which you have come. I would hope that in each of those settings it was possible to look at the ways in which covenant or some other commitment to working together is possible. Methodist history is such that most of our autonomous churches came about because of missionary movements from Britain. Some subsequently came about because of missionary movements from America. We have a whole series of autonomous conferences. I wont bore you with trying to explain how they are in some way related together. What we do find is a very rich sense from our sharing together, when we come together to sense what God is saying to us from our different perspectives. It is our hope and our prayer as Methodists that you will find as you come together from the wide variety of contexts from which you come that you will also sense the way in which God's spirit is speaking to you about the richness of the diversity of God's love. Thank you for the opportunity to share some of that time with you. I am afraid I will have to leave you at the end of this day in order to go to a Methodist Conference that will be meeting in what is described as the English Riviera of Torquay. Thank you.