|Pan-Methodist commission urges 'full communion'|
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Nov. 27, 2007
Members of the Commission on Pan-Methodist Cooperation and Union want to affirm their Wesleyan heritage and mutual covenant as churches in full communion with one another.
Bishop Nathaniel Jarrett
The commission adopted a resolution to that effect during its Nov. 15-17 meeting in Chicago. The body includes representatives of The United Methodist Church and three historic African-American Methodist churches — the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion and Christian Methodist Episcopal.
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Bishop Nathaniel Jarrett, who chairs the commission, said the resolution reflects uncertainty about whether commission members are in full communion with one another.
Full communion, Jarrett explained, means that each of the Methodist bodies recognize and accept their common connection with Wesleyan tradition, recognize and honor various orders of ministry, agree on the basic tenets and doctrines, and acknowledge that there are ministries "we are fully called to and obligated to share in."
"We are one people, yet diverse, yet one," he said.
In the resolution, the commission:
- Understands its churches have a doctrinal compatibility with Scripture as the foundation for all its beliefs, the historic creeds of the church, and the Wesleyan standards including the Articles of Religion, the Standard Sermons of John Wesley, his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, and affirms the General Rules of Methodism;
- Affirms that each pan-Methodist church is in full Eucharistic fellowship with the others;
- Affirms that, by disciplinary action, its church ordinations are accepted as valid and in historic connection to John Wesley. Thus, ordained ministers are interchangeable upon approval by the bishops of the clergy involved and in compliance with denominational educational standards; and
- Affirms that its churches are partners in mission and will work together at all levels and through cooperation and collaboration to share a common witness to Jesus Christ and the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world.
"This resolution would remove all doubts," Jarrett said, adding that the commission is both enthused about and committed to the statements. "All the implications are things that we already subscribe to, celebrate and are involved in. The resolution codified what we have already been doing in so many instances."
A framework of understanding
According to the Rev. Larry Pickens, top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, the resolution is a framework of understanding among the churches.
The Rev. Larry Pickens
"Being in full communion gives a visible sign to our unity in the Pan-Methodist Commission," he said. "As we further clarify our ongoing relationship and the ways we can cooperate together, full communion is an indication that we are committed to unity as we state and demonstrate our mutual respect for each other."
To take effect, the resolution must be affirmed by the 2008 general conferences of The United Methodist Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the 2010 meeting of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
Two other churches, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church and the Union American Methodist Episcopal, were earlier approved as new members of the Commission on Pan-Methodist Cooperation and Union. The 2008 and 2010 general conferences are expected to approve the full membership of these two churches into the commission.
The general conferences also will vote on a proposal to change the name of the commission to the Pan-Methodist Commission. The proposal stems from conversation among Methodist bishops last March about the lack of clarity about the word "union."
"We could never arrive at a clear definition, and the Methodist bishops felt that we should call selves the Pan-Methodist Commission and continue doing what we do and remain committed to the areas we are engaged in," Jarrett said.
The commission, he said, "need no longer wrestle with what union means but remain united in our work. We do not know what union will look like, but we will know it when we are there."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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