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Anglican-Methodist Scheme

22nd May, 1972


Dear Parishioners,
For good or ill, the General Synod did not achieve the required majority of 66 2/3 % in each of its houses, nor an overall majority of 75% to go ahead with the scheme for the Unification of the Anglican and Methodist churches in England. This failure hardly came as a surprise, though what was a little unexpected was that the lowest vote in favour came not from the House of Clergy, but from the Laiety.
Since May 3rd when the vote was taken, the question has been asked 'Where do we go from here?' One thing does seem certain, that is that the scheme as it stands will not be put forward again, and it may be many years before a centrally planned move will be made. Has it all been a waste of time?
Its worth asserting that if the movement towards the unity of the Church is springing from the Holy Spirit, then no vote of any Synod will hold it back. Also the contrary, if we strive towards unification solely because it seems to be good economics, then it will fail however many votes are given in favour.
What we do need to be clear about is that the only thing that has been turned down is this particular scheme. We still have every opportunity to press ahead with every form of co-operation both locally and nationally. The question is whether we are going to show the will to use the opportunities that there are open to us now. Shall we, for example, take any steps to bring into use the new Canon B15a which permits communicants members of other churches to be welcomed at the altars of Church of England churches? We may deeply regret that the unity scheme has been rejected, but are we going to even start to operate the scores of opportunities we have to work together, not only with the Methodists but with all the denominations in Barton.
At the second of the recent joint services held at Saint Mary's it was suggested that there was a valuable starting place to real co-operation among the children of Barton. It is hoped that we shall be able to find ways of pooling our resources in Sunday School work.



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Personally, I think that it is rather defeatist to say that unity is not for this generation, but only for the children. How can we impose on our children what we are not prepared to go ahead with ourselves. Isn't this really saying that all our differences are really no more than habit and prejudice. It may be a tempting thing to assume, but it would be disasterous to ignore the real differences between the churches. We have to work through these thoroughly if we are to make real and lasting progress.
In the whole quest for unity nothing will be gained unless two things are kept in mind throughout. Firstly, we shall achieve nothing by lip-service. It will mean a real willingness to change and grow into new ways. We are not expected to enjoy this prospect necessarily, but to see that it is essential and to act upon it even though it may hurt. We cannot expect other churches to accept unity on our terms only. Secondly, we have to be aware of the other side of the coin as well. There is nothing to be gained by rushing towards the unity of the churches if this is only achieved at the expense of abandoning what we conscientiously see as the truth. Expedience is no substitute for the truth - indeed nothing is. It may be on this that the Methodist-Anglican scheme failed to receive the necessary support, in that many members of the Church of England, and Methodists for that matter, saw in the scheme far too many examples of double-talk, using phrases which were only mutually acceptable if everybody was allowed to interpret them as they thought fit.
To go forward from here we must have a zeal for the truth and a willingness to sacrifice. With these we can press forward. Without them we are wasting our time.
Darrel Speedy

 

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