Report of the Covenant Council received by Synod
The report of the Covenant Council was presented at General Synod in Belfast this afternoon (Wednesday May 4). Proposing the report, Dean Nigel Dunne explained that the council was concerned with four key areas of work currently.
He said that the working out of the realities of the interchangeability of ministry, so carefully framed over a long period of time and enacted in 2014, had brought to the fore some issues around the need for clear understandings of Ministry and Episcope within each of our denominations. Questions around awareness of personal episcope in the office of former, current and future Methodist Presidents and the interchangeability of Church of Ireland priests and Methodist presbyters at local level, beyond those who wish to take up parishes or circuits have arisen.
Recent changes in charities regulation in both jurisdictions meant there was a need for an urgent review of the regulations regarding Local Covenant Partnerships, he stated with questions on how both denominations could be recognised as trustees or a single governing body for charities registration.
A day long meeting is planned to deal with these issues, the Dean stated. He added that the council would continue to seek ways to raise awareness of the Covenant and raise awareness of the relationship both churches share. The fourth area of work currently under way is the exploration of the rites of ordination, Eucharist, marriage and confirmation in both polities.
Seconding the report, Archdeacon Barry Forde pointed out that the Church of Ireland and Methodist Church in Ireland had worked together in the chaplaincy of Queens University Belfast. He had been included in the Methodist Conference and other events and said it had been a humbling experience which was a visible outworking of the unity to which the Covenant aspires.
Speaking to the report, Ms Hazel Loney Lay Leader of the Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland, brought greetings of the Methodist Church to Synod. She commended the relationship brought about through the Covenant.
Methodist President, the Revd Dr Sahr Yambasu, thanked members of Synod for their invitation and all who had worked so hard in bringing both churches together. He said that the relationship was part of the need to fulfil Christ’s need for the Church – ‘that we may be one that the world may know’. “Ecumenism is not about us it is about Christ and the call of Christ, his love and saving mission for the world and his glory,” he added. He acknowledged that the relationship had a long way to go but they had come a long way. He encouraged more congregations to consider the possibility of joint worship.
The Revd William Stacey (Meath and Kildare) commended the report but highlighted an aspect of relationships on the ground. He said he was disappointed that there was no interchangeability between a local preacher and a diocesan reader. He hoped it would make progress.
Ken Gibson (Hon Sec) recalled representing the Church of Ireland at the Methodist Conference last year and was impressed and encouraged by it. It emphasised the benefit of the relationship, he said. He thanked the Covenant Council for what they had done but encouraged them ”to get on with it and do the rest of it”.
Dean Dunne said that the interchangeability between local preachers and diocesan readers are at an advanced stage. He said that the Covenant had never been rushed and that it was important to take time to get it right.
The following were elected as Church of Ireland representatives on the Covenant Council for the coming year: The Rt Rev Michael Burrows, Bishop of Tuam, Limerick, and Killaloe (Co–Chair); Ms Elva Byrne; Very Rev Nigel Dunne; Rev Canon Dr Maurice Elliott; Ven Barry Forde; and Rev Claire Kakuru.