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Make Relationship Between Church of Ireland and Methodists Part of DNA – Covenant Council Report

The Covenant Council has called on General Synod to make the relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church “part of your DNA at every level in church life”.

Presenting the Covenant Council report in the Millennium Forum, Derry/Londonderry today, Canon Dr Peter Thompson said that the work between the two churches in Ireland had become a template for discussions across the globe and had laid firm foundations on which others were building.

He said that the Covenant Council continued to build on the work advising on practical and theological issues to enable the churches to grow closer together in mission and witness.

However, Canon Thompson said he proposed the report today with a sense of deep disappointment and some frustration.

“We often fail to grasp the opportunities of closer engagement with our Methodist brothers and sisters. For many decades there have been outstanding examples of sharing, long predating the covenant agreement, and these continue to grow and flourish, and we thank God for them,” he said.

“As a Synod we have adopted proposal after proposal and report after report, but we have not, as a church, allowed the covenant to become part of our DNA. We do not instinctively look to the Methodists as our closest ecumenical partners, nor do we afford them the status of a church with whom we are in full communion. It is not that we intentionally exclude them, but more than we seem to overlook the importance of our formal agreements,” he continued.

He concluded: “As a Council we exist to facilitate and resource the Covenant relationship, to advise and monitor, but also to encourage. So let us encourage you to make this relationship part of your DNA at every level in church life. Let us not simply adopt another report and nod in dull assent to another handful of proposals, but let us take to heart the call of Jesus that we all may be one, and make our intentionality towards the Covenant a step on that journey”.

Seconding the report Dean Nigel Dunne said that the council still had work to do on bedding in our understanding of the agreements reached. He added that they were looking forward to welcoming the Methodist Conference to Cork in June.

Speaking to the report, Archbishop Michael Jackson (Dublin) spoke of the recent death of the Revd Dr John Stevens and said it was a great sadness. He paid tribute to his willingness to engage with everyone and his consistent engagement with the work of the Covenant Council. He added that he was someone of tremendous capacity.

A motion on the membership of the Covenant Council was passed with those elected as follows:  The Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, Bishop of Connor (Co–Chair), Ms Elva Byrne, Very Rev Nigel Dunne, Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, Rev Barry Forde, Rev Dr Peter Thompson.

Synod also passed a motion continue to encourage congregations to celebrate the Covenant relationship with neighbouring Methodist congregations on or around John Wesley Day, May 24, each year.