Well the headline got your attention didn’t it? I’m afraid by ‘Meths’ I’m referring to Methodists, not a street drug. According to this report in The Daily Telegraph the Methodist Church in England is planning to join up with the Church of England. The Wesleys (who founded the Methodist Church) were Anglicans, and it was only after their death that the Methodist Church split away from the Church of England.
I think this is a pretty good idea. We’re in a time when a re-alignment is taking place in Christianity. As the Catholic element either leaves the Church of England or becomes increasingly confined to a ghetto within the CofE, the Liberal Protestant identity of the mainstream Church of England will come more into focus. The interesting effect of this is that while it will seem like the Methodists are being absorbed by the much larger Church of England, in fact what we are seeing is the triumpth of the Methodists.
The reason the Methodist/Anglican re-union scheme failed in the 1970s was that the Church of England was still too ‘Catholic’. The Anglo Catholics didn’t like women ministers (which the Methodist Church already had) nor did it like the fact that Methodist ministers did not have valid orders, nor did the Anglo Catholics like that the Methodists did not have bishops. Now the Church of England has women ministers, will soon have women bishops and no one in the Liberal Anglican mainstream cares about such arcane matters as ‘validity of orders’. The Methodists won’t mind having bishops–especially if some of their leaders get to be one.
As the Catholic element pulls out or is marginalized, the Church of England will only have two strong elements–the Liberal Protestants and the Evangelicals. Both of these groups are quite amenable to Methodism. Liberal Protestant Anglicans and Liberal Protestant Methodists are pretty much birds of a feather already. They share the same predictable ‘progressive’ agenda. No problem there. The more conservative Evangelicals in the Church of England are also indistinguishable from Methodists already. They’re very low church, follow a ‘get saved’ Evangelical theology and have a warm, people-centered style.
The only real thing that separates Liberal Protestant Anglicans, Evangelical Anglicans and their Methodist counterparts is class. The Church of England tends to be more middle-upper class. The Methodists have more often been working class. But I’m sure that won’t be too much of a problem. The Methodists will take very easily to the odd glass of sherry and church fetes on the vicarage lawn with cucumber sandwiches, and present day Anglicans are quite good at affecting working class behaviors to appear more ‘ordinary’.
So my own humble opinion is “Go for it!” I just wonder what this new ecclesial beast will be called. Maybe they’ll scrap all the traditional and dull formulations like ‘The United Methodist Anglican Church’ and call it something exciting and relevant like, “Fresh Expressions.”