Friday, May 19, 2017

What's the Scenario, Crusty? Breaking down United Methodist Proposal

One of the things you might not know about Crusty is that he is old school, and thinks hip hop peaked around 1982-1994, or before the West Coast sound took over -- and though Crusty has no desire to revive that beef, he is thoroughly with the East Side (miss you, Biggie).  Crusty can opine on Me Phi Me, Public Enemy (Crusty saw PE live, only time he's been frisked; he once got to meet KRS-One), Melle Mel, Doug E. Fresh,
Here we go yo.
Boogie Down Productions, and so on.  In fact, one of Crusty's proudest moments was when he and two friends were thrown out of a bar in New York City in the early 1990s.  As we were removed against our will and escorted out a side door, while we offered an alternative narrative to the bouncer of the events which precipitated our removal, someone on the sidewalk pointed at us and said, "Hey, are those guys 3rd Bass?" So when getting ready to break down the United Methodist Church-Episcopal Church full communion proposal, COD kicked it hard, and started off the only way possible:  "Scenario", by Tribe Called Quest.

So what's the scenario? 

A.  Excursions:  a little background and two preliminary comments.

The United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church have formally released a proposal for full communion called "A Gift to the World: Co-Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness; The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church – A Proposal for Full Communion."  The document is now being circulated for comment, discussion, and feedback.  Links to materials may be found here.

A tentative timeline would have a possible, potential vote for full communion at the 2020 United Methodist General Conference (roughly = General Convention), and the 2021 General Convention of The Episcopal Church.   Crusty strongly urges everyone to read this document, "A Theological Foundation for Full Communion," which summarizes the first round of the dialogue, and represents
Don't you know things go in cycles?
10 years' worth of discussion, dialogue, and theological heavy lifting.  The full communion proposal should be seen as the direct outgrowth and successor to "A Theological Foundation," just like Bobby Brown was ampin' like Michael, and hip hop reminded my Pops of bebop.  Other materials, including collected works of the dialogue since 2002, may be found here.

1)  In interests of full disclosure, Crusty is not a neutral party.   I have served on the bilateral dialogue since 2002,  alongside nearly 30 different people on both sides over the years, including four different co-chairs and five different United Methodist ecumenical staff persons.  I am the only person left from that initial group meeting in July of 2002 still serving.  I am the co-lead drafter of the full communion proposal, and εγω ειμι a primary drafter and editor of "A Theological Foundation for Full Communion" which provides the background and rationale for the proposal.

To put it in perspective: when I started on this dialogue, my father was alive.  He's been dead for 9 years.  When I started on this dialogue, my son had not been born.  He's now in sixth grade.  When I started on this dialogue, Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator. Crusty has put 15 years of his life into this dialogue.  I have done so because I feel it is perhaps the most important thing the Episcopal Church can consider at this time in our collective life together.  Do not read this blog expecting a CNN-like equivalency.  Crusty feels it is imperative that The Episcopal Church consider this proposal and approve it. 

2)  However, COD doesn't hold it against anyone who disagrees.  Everyone is perfectly welcome to come to their own mind and decision about this proposal.  Part of the problem in the church is that we seem to be unable to disagree, with many seeing anything less than acceptance and endorsement of their opinion by others as somehow a negation of them.  This is not always the case; there are places where people of sincerity and good will can come to different conclusions.

Crusty has never expected anything to pass with 100% vote in General Convention and be universally adored.  All that Crusty asks is you read the materials and make your decision after thoroughly engaging the process.  Offhand comments that don't even engage the material run the risk of being reflections of ignorance, prejudice, projection, and uninformed blather.  By all means, hate this proposal.  But read the materials -- hey, it may help you hate it more efficiently and convincingly.

 B.  Don't Believe the Hype: what the document actually proposes.

1)  The document proposes a relationship of "full communion."  This relationship is defined in the proposal, and is like unto the understanding of "full communion" from Called to Common Mission, approved by General Convention in 2000.  The definition is in the proposal, and is worth quoting in full:
Full communion is understood as a relationship between two distinct ecclesiastical bodies in which each maintains its own autonomy while recognizing the catholicity and apostolicity of the other, and believing the other to hold the essentials of the Christian faith. In such a relationship, communicant members of each would be able freely to communicate at the altar of the other, and ordained ministers may officiate sacramentally in either church. Specifically, this includes transferability of members, mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministries, mutual enrichment by one another’s traditions of hymnody and patterns of liturgy, freedom to participate in each other’s ordinations and installations of clergy, including bishops, and structures for consultation to express, strengthen, and enable our common life, witness, and service, to the glory of God and the salvation of the world.

Let me explain.  No: Let me sum up.

Full communion is:

  Not merger

  Has interchangeability of ordained ministers

  Churches remain distinct

  Commitment to common witness, mission, worship, and service

  Members may freely receive the Eucharist in one another’s communions

  Pledge to mutually enriched by one another’s traditions

To those who may object, "I don't want to be a Methodist!":  Just step off, I'm doing the hump.  You
People say Yo Crusty, you're really funny looking.
don't have to be a Methodist.  Nobody is asking you to be a Methodist, just like nobody asked or forced you be a Lutheran.  You can be convinced in your own rightness and completeness in a church that is just as flawed and imperfect in its own way as every other expression of Christianity and not be challenged.  You're not being asked to do anything, and you don't have to do anything.  But this will allow for those who do wish to engage in mutual ministry and mission to do so in a fuller way.

Full Communion is, in a sense, an eschatological vision, an already-but-not-yet hope that is at the heart of what it means to live as a Christian.  We pledge to enter this relationship, acknowledging it is not merger, but hoping that as we work together in common mission and ministry, we will grow into new ways of relating to one another.

Crusty realizes that "full communion" is a term used primarily in ecumenical documents, and is reflected in the Constitution and Canons in Title I, Canon 20 (which Crusty was the primary drafter of, he would like to add).  Crusty would prefer that a definition of full communion also appear in the canons, it seems odd to state which churches we are in full communion with but not explain what that relationship is.  

2)  What about apostolic succession?

i)  Well, what about it?

Apostolic succession is not defined in any doctrinal or governance documents of the Episcopal Church.  It is not mentioned in the Book of Common Prayer. The Prayer Book speaks of "bishops duly qualified to confer holy orders." It is mentioned once in the Constitution and Canons, Title I, Canon 17, Section 1 (d):  "Any baptized person who received the laying on of hands at Confirmation (by any Bishop in apostolic succession) and is received into the Episcopal Church by a Bishop of this Church is to be considered, for the purpose of this and all other Canons, as both baptized and confirmed."  No where in the Constitution and Canons is not defined as to what "apostolic succession" means, so this reference is virtually useless.

It is not mentioned in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which specifically uses the term "historic episcopate, locally adapted."  Since 1886, the Quadrilateral has been the basis on which Anglicans enter into dialogue with other churches.  As modified by the Lambeth Conference of 1888, the Quadrilateral states that the following points are to be the basis of discussions with other churches:
(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as "containing all things necessary to salvation," and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
(b) The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
(c) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself--Baptism and the Supper of the Lord--ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
(d) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.
The Episcopal Church has never insisted or made apostolic succession a ground or basis of any ecumenical dialogue or partnership.  It's hard to demand from another church as a basis for a relationship what is mentioned only once and never defined in our governing documents.

ii)  The Constitution and Canons and the Quadrilateral speak of "historic episcopate" and "historic succession."  While apostolic succession is not part of discussions with ecumenical partners as a basis of shared ministries, the historic episcopate most certainly is and has been addressed in full communion proposals with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church, the Mar Thoma Church, and The United Methodist Church.

The document proposes sharing in the historic episcopate by having three bishops already in the historic succession be present and lay on hands at all future consecrations of bishops in The United Methodist Church.  This would be done by mandating at least one Episcopal bishop, one Moravian bishop (Moravian bishops share in the historic succession as part of the full communion proposal approved by General Convention in 2009 and in the reconciliation of episcopal ministries service in 2011), and one ELCA bishop (all current ELCA
There's three of us in historic succession but we're not the Beatles!
bishops have been installed according to Called to Common Mission with three bishops in historic succession participating and laying on of hands). There would be a gradual incorporation of all United Methodist bishops in sharing the historic succession.  This is the same process laid out in Called to Common Mission, which passed overwhelmingly in the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, and has been followed by the ELCA.

The proposal has sharing in the historic episcopate, since that is part of our canons and part of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.  It does not have sharing in apostolic succession because we may as well share in rainbow unicorns as share in apostolic succession since neither really exist.

iii)  But, but, what about apostolic succession?

Crusty hates to break it to you, sunshine, but apostolic succession is an historical canard, and not sustainable theologically or historically. To whit:

--It simply cannot be proven.

Crusty finds it astounding the same Episcopalians who would dismiss as uncultured rubes people who believe in six days of creation nonetheless have embraced a notion of an unbroken succession of laying on of hands back to Jesus without a shred of evidence.  In fact, the earliest evidence we have does speak of a succession but does not stress any kind of episcopal succession.  Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, who died in 202, knew Polycarp, who knew John the Apostle, who knew Jesus.  But Irenaeus as a bishop and a first-person eyewitness who knew someone who knew the Apostle John does not say, "I had hands laid on me by Polycarp, who had hands laid on him by John, who had hands laid on him by Jesus."  No:  he says I was taught by Polycarp, who was taught by John, who knew the Lord.  Our earliest evidence places no emphasis on a tactile laying on of hands, but instead actually presents a very different understanding of succession, that of teaching the apostolic faith.  While there is no evidence, none, absolutely zero, of a succession of ordinations back to Jesus, we do have very early, first-hand evidence of a different kind of succession in passing on the apostolic faith.

Apostolic succession as a succession of ordinations is not even held by a growing number of mainstream Roman Catholic and Orthodox historians and theologians; a magisterial refutation of the concept may be found in Jesuit historian Francis Sullivan's "From Apostles to Bishops."  It's simply an unproveable fable, a folktale spread through the church to make ourselves feel that we are somehow magical and special.  Before the Oxford Movement, the term was next to non-existent in Anglican sources.  In fact, one of the things that horrified many Anglicans about the Oxford Movement was not just knee-jerk anti-Catholicism, but the fact that the Movement seemed to say that those who were not in apostolic succession were not real churches.

The only apostolic succession from Jesus that counts is being baptized into Christ, and proclaiming the faith of Christ crucified.  

--Apostolic succession is sexist.

It has, and continues to be, deployed to marginalize women. Since Jesus only ordained men, so say the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, only men may be ordained.  Some Anglicans have explained away this as somehow not really apostolic succession while clinging to a differing historical fabulism and saying that our interpretation is the actual apostolic succession, not the understanding that the majority of churches that talk about apostolic succession mean by the term.

--Apostolic succession is racist. 

Are those African American Episcopalians in Southern dioceses at fault for not being in apostolic succession, when, after the Civil War, when they wished to remain in the Episcopal Church, and asked for clergy to be ordained for their congregations, and, when refused by the Episcopal Church, joined the Reformed Episcopal Church?

Are those African Americans who were rejected from white seminaries and told to go to their segregated African American seminaries, only permitted to serve in African American congregations, and not given voice or vote in their majority white denominations, and who left for black Methodist churches to be now be considered lacking in apostolic succession from the churches that marginalized them?

While thankful for the witness of Absalom Jones, George Freeman Bragg, Alexander Crummell, and many others who remained within the Episcopal Church, there's the hard reality that many African Americans left for other denominations because of the racism of the predominantly white Methodist and Episcopal churches.  Prior the the Civil War, nearly 40% of the communicants of the diocese of South Carolina were enslaved Africans.  That number collapsed in the decades that followed, in part because of the refusal of whites to ordain leaders for African American congregations.

Are we really going to hold it against African Americans that they left predominantly white churches where they were excluded and marginalized to join other churches where they were not?

Crusty had to cringe once when an Episcopal priest said to an African American Methodist bishop, who had been a stalwart in the civil rights movement, been attacked at Selma, faithfully served as a bishop and pastor for over forty years: "You must be excited about this proposal so we can normalize your irregular orders."  The presumption, arrogance, racism, condescension, and historical myopia needed to produce such a statement demonstrate the corrosive aspect of holding to apostolic succession as defining element in what makes a church a church.

--Apostolic succession reflects the racial, class, and gender divisions of the church.  To much of American Christianity, we look like a small, historically privileged, overwhelmingly white church saying we have something which makes us real and valid and others do not.  If there's one thing Crusty learned from anti-racism training, it is the significance of intent vs. perception.  While we may not intend for apostolic succession to be racist, sexist, and classist, in many ways the perception and reality from others is that it is.

--Apostolic succession properly means a succession in the apostolic faith:  to preach and teach what the apostles preached and taught.  The landmark ecumenical document  of the World Council of Churches "Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry" was endorsed by over 300 churches, including The Episcopal Church (A061, 1985 General Convention).  It states that

"The primary manifestation of apostolic succession is to be found in the apostolic tradition of the Church as a whole."

BEM also acknowledges that there is a succession of bishops from the early church in some churches, and that this succession is a "sign, but not a guarantee" of a succession in the apostolic faith.  Just having bishops doesn't guarantee one's fidelity to the apostolic faith.  Not having bishops does not mean one does not hold to the apostolic faith.  As one Orthodox theologian once told me, "All the best heretics were ordained in historic succession, so on its own it's not worth much unless hand-in-hand with the apostolic faith."

Apostolic succession is a fairy tale.  But Crusty's not anti-bishop.  Crusty is firmly in favor of the historic succession in episcopal office and a threefold ministry: the threefold ministry and a succession of bishops is part of the ancient tradition of the church and followed by the majority of the world's Christians and will be a part of any realignment global Christianity.

So: either make a clearly defined understanding of apostolic succession a requirement for our ecumenical dialogues, or else acknowledge this is just an interpretation that has never been required as part of any ecumenical conversations, and let's talk about sharing in the historic episcopate, which this document does. 

3)  How does the document address issues of LGBTQ persons?  How can we be in full communion with a church that has a prohibition against openly gay persons serving as clergy?

This is a very, very important question.  COD would like to point people to the relevant sections of "A Theological Foundation for Full Communion" which address this question.  Here's another link to it.  Seriously.  Download and read it, then get back to me.  We have had LGBTQ persons serve on this dialogue over the years and have honestly and openly raised these questions around differences in human sexuality as part of the dialogue.  The dialogue is suggesting the following path forward:

--Differences in understanding human sexuality are not church dividing.  We in The Episcopal Church have dioceses which permit openly LGBTQ persons to serve, and some that do not, and have remained in communion with one another.  The majority of the Anglican world does not permit the service of openly gay persons as clergy, and we consider ourselves to be in communion with them,
Jesus said something about this...
even though we do not have full interchangeability of ministry.  We must be as attentive to struggling for full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in our own denomination and not presume that this struggle is over.  If we do not see these differences as church dividing internally, how can they be inherently church dividing with another church?

--We were in full communion with the ELCA from 2001-2009 when they did not permit the service of openly gay LGBTQ persons and had a constitutional prohibition on blessing of same sex unions. Our precedent with the ELCA is that we do not consider differences in this area to be an impediment to full communion. 

Also, the ELCA showed patience with the Episcopal Church.  In 2009, the ELCA voted to permit blessing of same sex unions.  The Episcopal Church did not do so on the same scale as the ELCA until 2015.  The ELCA, graciously, did not insist on marriage equality as part of our full communion relationship from 2009-2015, but allowed us to work through our internal processes to come to a common consensus.

--Since we do not demand unanimity internally within our own church on this matter, we do not feel we can demand it from another church as part of a prerequisite for full communion.  

--We continue to witness to our continued need for full inclusion in our church, and stand in solidarity with the significant minority within The UMC which is seeking a broader commitment to full inclusion. 

4)  What about the Eucharist?  

i)  We will have to use grape juice?  Will United Methodists have to use wine?

 The Quadrilateral states that we must have consensus on "The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself--Baptism and the Supper of the Lord--ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him."

While thankful, apparently, that William Reed Huntington was present at the Last Supper and knew what elements were ordained BY HIM, we should first acknowledge a little humility here: it ain't no joke, let's back up off it and set that chalice down:  Jesus didn't use tawny port and wafers, so we don't use the
Port and wafers are better than tanqueray and chronic.
exact elements ordained by Him.  Yes, we use bread and wine -- but even we treat this as anamnesis, and not mimesis.

OK, so back to wine and grape juice.

Both churches have in their disciplines clear identifications of the elements which must be used in Holy Communion.

For Episcopalians:  the Quadrilateral has been endorsed by General Convention.  We must have bread and wine in a celebration of Holy Communion.

For United Methodists:  the Book of Discipline states that unfermented grape juice must be used.

The dialogue has chosen to interpret these as limited to what they actually, literally say:  they only say what must be used.  The Quadrilateral states that wine must be used.  It does not forbid grape juice be part of the celebration of Holy Communion.  The Book of Discipline states that grape juice must be used.  It does not forbid wine.  We have chosen an expansive, permissive interpretation of these matters of discipline.  At a joint celebration by both churches, wine and grape juice must be used.  At a service in one church or the other, local practice is to be followed, and both wine and grape juice may be used.  In a number of Episcopal Churches, as a concession to persons in recovery or for other reasons, grape juice and de-alcoholized wine are already part of the celebration.

In 2006, the General Convention approved a relationship of Interim Eucharistic Sharing.  Under certain guidelines, there may be joint celebrations of Holy Communion, with ordained clergy of both traditions standing together at the table.  Our churches have issued guidelines for such celebrations, which also address the issues of Eucharistic elements.  These guidelines may be found here.

ii)  What about real presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

The United Methodist Church has an official statement on the Holy Eucharist, "This Holy Mystery," adopted by their General Conference. It states:

"Jesus Christ, who 'is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being' (Hebrews 1:3), is truly present in Holy Communion. Through Jesus Christ and in the power of the
Let's talk about real presence, let's talk about Jesus and me.
Holy Spirit, God meets us at the Table. God, who has given the sacraments to the church, acts in and through Holy Communion. Christ is present through the community gathered in Jesus’ name (Matthew 18:20), through the Word proclaimed and enacted, and through the elements of bread and wine shared (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The divine presence is a living reality and can be experienced by participants; it is not a remembrance of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion only."

It is not a remembrance; Christ is present through the elements of bread and wine.

We should note here The Episcopal Church has no corresponding statement defining how we understand the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  Crusty could take an afternoon, cherry pick phrases from the Book of Common Prayer and combine them with liturgical atrocities he has seen in churches, and make the argument, "Why should anyone be in communion with Episcopalians, who are memorialists, since their Prayer Book says that we should 'feed on him in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving'?  Plus I went to an Episcopal Church once where they fed the left over elements to ducks in the park afterwards, which shows they don't believe it's the body of Christ."

To be sure, there is a variety of practice within The United Methodist Church.  But we have to take them by their official statements.  After all, The Episcopal Church has varieties of practice but we ask that our Book of Common Prayer and Constitution and Canons be the basis of an understanding our theology and practice.  One thing COD has little patience with in ecumenical conversations is one church presenting an idealized portrait of itself to be contrasted with an amalgam of anecdotal representation of another church.   

5)  What about elders and priests?

The proposal notes convergence in our understanding of the office of minister of word and sacrament.  We have persons called to preside at the sacraments, preach the word, and participate in the councils of the church with bishops. Episcopalians call this office presbyter or priest; United Methodists call this office elder, though other members of the World Methodist Conference do use the term presbyter.

On the basis of

--A common understanding of an office of minister of word and sacrament, ordained by a bishop; and
--Sufficient agreement (not unanimity) in the first three parts of the Quadrilateral, and
--So that we can live into full communion,

Both churches agree that we will allow for interchangeability of elders and presbyters.  We are, in effect, grandparenting in all elders and presbyters/priests.

What!  How could we do that?

--Other Anglican churches have done so.  The Church of South India, a member of the Anglican Communion, is a merger of several Protestant and Anglican churches.  When the church was formed, all ordained ministers of word and sacrament were grandparented in, with the proviso that all future ordinations would be by bishops in historic succession.

--The Church of Ireland grandparented in ministers of word in sacrament in their agreement with the Methodist Church.

--We did so with the ELCA in 2001.

OK, well how, exactly, does it happen?

The proposal suggests a suspension of the provision in the Preface to the Ordinal that only those persons ordained by bishops duly qualified to confer Holy Orders, so that it does not "count" with
COD sometimes your ordinal suspensions hypnotize me.
regard to UMC elders as of a suggested effective date of full communion.  The argument goes that it is the church that added this restriction, so the church can alter it.  This provision was not in the Prayer Book until 1662, for instance.  

Since this counts as changing the Prayer Book, a suspension of the preface requires readings and approvals at two consecutive General Conventions.  Since it is considered changing the Prayer Book, it also requires a vote by orders in the House of Deputies.  It's possible we could have a first reading, debate, and vote in 2018 on ONLY the suspension of the preface, with a second reading and vote in 2021, along with the proposal itself.  To read how it sounded in 2000, click here.

However:  Crusty isn't married to this.  He's only married to CODW (Crusty Old Dean's Wife).  Crusty suggested it because there is precedent: we did this with the ELCA.  Crusty suggested this because we need to find a way to allow for service of over 40,000 UMC elders.  COD would be  open to, say, a constitutional amendment to permit grandparenting of clergy rather than suspension of the preface.

6)  What about John Wesley's ordinations?

As an emergency measure, since the bishop of London would not ordain any Methodist lay preachers in the colonies as deacons or priests, John Wesley ordained two "superintendents" for the Methodist societies in the USA. It's important to note the indeterminate, emergency situation here: both what would become the Episcopal Church and what would become the Methodist Episcopal Church were adrift in 1784-1785, trying to secure a succession in ministry in the new reality of the American context, with people wondering if it was even possible to consider oneself Methodist or somehow connected to the Church of England and not be a member of the established church.  Wesley saw this as an emergency measure, and was operating from an understanding of the early church where the office of presbyter and bishop was not clearly defined.  Seabury approached the non-juring bishops in Scotland as an emergency backup plan, since he had been refused consecration by Church of England bishops.

John's brother Charles, incidentally, was adamantly opposed to this, and penned the following verse to lambast his brother:

So easily are Bishops made
By man's or woman's whim?
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him?

"A Theological Foundation for Full Communion" reframes the issue in its proper historical context.  Both what would become the Methodist Episcopal Church and what would become the Protestant Episcopal Church adapted the traditions of episcopacy they received from their Anglican heritage to a new, and different, missional context.  True, what Wesley did was unusual and scandalous.  But what the Episcopal Church did was unusual and scandalous.  There is more convergence than divergence between Samuel Seabury and John Wesley. Many doubted the validity of Seabury's non-Juror consecration, so much so that one of the acts of the 1789 General Convention was to affirm its authenticity.  Things that we take for granted, and have been adopted by other provinces of the communion, like bishops being elected, and exercising oversight with lay persons and clergy, were radical innovations for their time by the Protestant Episcopal Church.  Indeed, the Church of England only officially recognized that Episcopal Church clergy could serve in the Church of England in 1874, with the Colonial Clergy Act.  Both churches had to make hard choices that they thought were best for their contexts. 

The proposal does not need to address the question of Wesley's ordinations because the document offers a way for United Methodists and Episcopalians to share in the historic episcopate, as outlined elsewhere in this blog post.

7)  What about the historically African American Episcopal churches?  Why aren't they a part of this?

The proposal addresses the question directly, COD urges you to read those sections.  The dialogue consulted extensively with the historically African American Methodist Episcopal churches.  They declined to join this dialogue in its first round, instead choosing a pan-Methodist focus which resulted in a declaration of common full communion between historically African American Methodist traditions and The United Methodist Church in 2012.  It is our fervent hope that approval of this proposal will result in formal engagement by the historically African American Methodist Churches.

Crusty wants to caution against seeking to extend this dialogue without further conversation and consultation.  In 2006, when the General Convention was debating Interim Eucharistic Sharing with The United Methodist Church, a deputy rose to amend the resolution to include historically African American Methodist churches.  While fervently hoping for this, we must keep in mind it is not within our purview to unilaterally extend this proposal -- to do so could exacerbate notions of power and privilege between historically caucasian and historically African American churches.  While we will continue to work to extend and expand this dialogue, who are we tell historically African American Methodist Churches they are in full communion with us?  It must be something we come to together, as we engage in mission, ministry, and dialogue.

C.   So why should we do this?

Glad you asked!

1)  Because disunity is a sin against the body of Christ.  Crusty knows it's not popular to say this, but our disunity is a sin against the Gospel and hinders our mission in the world.  In practical terms, our divisions are costly and inefficient.  To the world, our divisions inhibits our witness.

2)  Denominationalism, as we know it, is over.  And thanks be to God.  Our denominations are haphazard reflections of race, class, gender, and geography, and are shaped by colonialism.  The Church of England, and the expansion of Anglicanism, are accidents of history.  We are seeing new configurations and realignments of global Christianity in the 21st century.  

We need not fear this new reality, but rather help shape it. There are ways to preserve those aspects which are special to Anglicanism and are in continuity the church catholic -- a succession in historic episcopate, the threefold ministry, the liturgy of the Western church -- and offer these in service to new ways of being Christian in the 21st century.

3)  This is an opportunity to make real, tangible strides towards racial reconciliation.  Absalom Jones and Richard Allen were both members of St. George's Methodist Church, and both walked out when African Americans were pulled off their knees at the altar rail and told to go sit in the gallery.  They made different decisions:  Jones formed a community in the Episcopal Church which treated him as a second-class priest and his parish a second-class parish, neither with voice or vote.  Allen formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Methodist and Anglican legacies are reflected in the sin of race and racism.  The United Methodist Church has singificant Asian/Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino, and African American constituencies.  This is an opportunity to make efforts to overcome how race has been, and continues to be, the real church-dividing issue in American Christianity.

4)  This is an opportunity to heal a schism that never should have happened.  With a little patience, and grace, and charity, the Anglican-Methodist division might not have happened.  Every major ecumenical dialogue between Anglicans and Methodists has concluded there are no major church dividing doctrinal issues.  

This is an opportunity to heal a historic divide within the Anglican family. To address race and class as church-dividing issues.  To reshape a portion of North American Christianity.  We should not underestimate that this relationship will be unlike any ecumenical partnership the Episcopal Church has engaged; most people simply do not encounter Moravians or Mar Thoma churches on a regular basis, to name some of our other other full communion relationships.  

This is also different from the ELCA partnership, for several reasons.

--We had a different kind of history with the ELCA prior to Called to Common Mission.  We came from different parts of Europe, were different ethnic groups, clustered in different parts of the country, had some interactions on the local level, but no real sustained dialogue until the one that ended up producing full communion.  Some of the predecessor bodies of the ELCA were not episcopally ordered, let alone in historic succession.

--The ELCA full communion proposal has had significant impact in certain areas, and not as much in others, given the way our churches are clustered in different regions.  

On the other hand,

--Episcopalians and Methodists are birthed from a common Anglican tradition.  We have had numerous bouts of dialogue, in the USA, in Britain, and globally.

--The United Methodist Church has been episcopally ordered since its inception, and we do not need to convince them to adopt bishops.

--There are United Methodists everywhere.  There will be no town where there is an Episcopal Church that this proposal will not have an impact.

Like Crusty said at the outset, by all means feel free to disagree.  But do so by engaging the materials
No..sleep..till full communion!
the dialogue has produced.  Simply saying "I don't like it" or "I don't want to be a Methodist" are cop outs, born of our own fears, anxieties, projections, or hangups. 

We need to know that if we enter into this partnership, this is not something to be begrudgingly tolerated.  We need to be willing to let ourselves be changed.  God is calling us to consider something transformative, a once in a generation opportunity. 

In the word of Charles Wesley, may Anglicans and Methodists sing together:

Come, Almighty, to deliver, let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never, nevermore thy temples leave.

Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee:


  1. Crusty, thanks for this very thorough discussion of the proposal and its implications. I'm in!

  2. Dear Crusty,

    Great piece. And thank you for all of your years of work on the proposal.

    However, as a Pennsylvanian and a historian, I must object to the idea that we had no history with the ELCA prior to CCM.

    1. For instance, one of our most renowned ecumenists was directly descended from the founders of the Pennsylvania and New York Ministeria. The first Lutheran ordinations in America took place at a church that is now part of TEC. And Charles Porterfield Krauth was Vice Provost at the University of Pennsylvania for many years and it is said read the BCP services to the undergraduates in Chapel for many years.

    2. Absolutely right, Caelius. There's also the Swedish Lutheran churches that became part of what is now the diocese of Delaware. I was trying to say he have a different kind of history with Methodists, and didn't say it clearly enough. Will amend accordingly.

  3. Thank you for this post!

    I just have one question, what is historic succession? It was not very clear for me.

    1. "Historic succession" refers to a tradition which goes back to the ancient church, in which bishops already
      in the succession install newly elected bishops with prayer and the laying-on-of-hands.

    2. I was taught this as apostolic succession. Are they the same thing?

    3. Alexandra two key differences are 1) historic succession acknowledges we cannot conclusive prove this succession goes all the way back to the apostles, and that the episcopal office itself has undergone change and development; and 2) churches which do not have an historic succession are not devoid of God's grace; we recognize the baptisms of such churches and acknowledge that God's grace works in them.

  4. COD,

    Do you have a sense from your Methodist colleagues about the prospects of the proposal being adopted on their end? Along those lines, is there concern that this will get lost in the sexuality discussions that appear to be on tap for 2020?

  5. I have read A Gift to the World as well as Called to Common Mission and they read very differently. The latter document makes clear that historic succession is a key piece of the quadrilateral's "historic episcopate" and that the Lutherans are receiving that historic succession from The Episcopal Church as a gift: the completion of their (previously) deficient episcopate. Both churches had to make compromises in order to receive unity. The ELCA had to change their installation practices. The Episcopal Church had to suspend its rubric about proper ordination. The recent document asserts that the UMC already has the historic episcopate and there is no discussion of them receiving the historic succession. There are the procedures of having Episcopal and Lutheran bishops at Methodist episcopal consecrations, but it isn't framed in service to the UMC's receiving of the historic succession. Did they not want the gift of historic succession? Were we ashamed to offer it? What has changed since we entered into full communion with the ELCA in 1999?

    1. The proposal does not say that United Methodists have the historic episcopate. It recognizes the ministry of their bishops as valid as authentic, but that alone cannot allow for full communion. It introduces a requirement that all future UMC bishops be consecrated with participation of 3 bishops in historic succession in order to fulfill the requirements of the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral.

    2. I made a longer comment about this earlier today. Fr. Tom, if that comment is stuck in moderation instead of disappearing into the ether, feel free to delete this one.
      Essentially, "A Gift to the World" says that Methodists adapted the historic episcopate to their missional circumstances, just as +Seabury, +White, and +Provost did. It does not acknowledge that while Protestant Episcopal Church heavily modified the doctrine of the episcopate which she inherited from the Church of England, the tactile historic succession of bishops remained intact. In the Methodist Episcopal Church the historic succession of bishops ordained by other bishops was broken by John Wesley's ordination of Coke and Asbury although he was only in priestly orders himself. The document does not acknowledge this. While the document may not say that Methodist bishops are part of the historic succession, saying that Methodists "adapted the historic episcopte" without mentioning the break in tactile succession does seem to imply that they are part of the historic succession already. I don't object to receiving united Methodist bishops as bishops, not priests fulfilling an episcopal office. But we need more clarity about what the UMC has now, and what they are getting when we start participating in their consecrations.

    3. Whit, not sure what happened with your previous comment. These comments are not moderated.

      I urge you to read the document "A Theological Foundation," which lays out most of the theological heavy lifting; we didn't want a 40-page full communion proposal. It mentions the break. It contains background and affirmation of a compatible understanding of the episcopal office. United Methodist bishops function like bishops as the church has understood them. They ordain; they meet collegially as a body; they are consecrated by other bishops; they have geographic areas of oversight; they have roles as missionaries and teachers of the faith; and so on. The document asks that UMC bishops received the sign of the historic episcopate moving forward, like we did with the ELCA.

    4. I think my privacy software was blocking cookies from blogger, and that caused blogger to eat my previous post. I take your point about the theological foundations document, but I still think there should be a mention of the break inserted into the full communion document itself. Not doing so invites an attempt to amend the proposal on the floor of General Convention in order to add some language about the break (language that might prove unacceptable to the UMC).

  6. Oh man! I was praying for mention of Erasmus of Arcadia!

  7. I wonder if the Yale Converts of 1722 bear some responsibility for the understanding of "apostolic succession" held by some Episcopalians. Samuel Johnson of Stratford and Kings College New York (later Columbia University) trained a number of the mid-18th century clergy in Connecticut, New England, and New York. A study of the influence of the Yale Converts might make a good dissertation topic; so far as I know no such study has been done.

    I commend COD for a lucid and cogent exposition of the proposal.

    If I remember correctly the historical evidence for the consecration of bishops by other bishops does not exist prior to the early 15th century. We have tables of successions as bishops in dioceses, but I don't know of any records that Bishop X was consecrated at a given place on a given date and that Bishops Y, Z, and A laid their hands on him. The Church of England records of the consecrations of the bishops in the time of Henry VIII, Edward, and Elizabeth are well known, and the Episcopal Church Annual had a list of the American succession. (It may still; I haven't bought one recently.) The Moravians have a similar succession list, and I suspect the Roman Catholic Church has a similar list, but I think their list does not go back before the early 1400's.
    I think a succession from 1784 indicates a sufficient desire for historic connection to the rest of the universal church, but I also think the Episcopal - UMC proposal is a good one, and I will encourage the clergy and lay deputies from WNC to support it.

    1. Tom, you're one of the few people who would consider this 6,000 word blog post with about 20 references to 1990s rap music lucid and cogent. And yes, I think the Yale converts and SPG missionaries are crucial in shaping an understanding of succession. And also, the only solid historical records we have go back only until the 15th century for any episcopal succession.

  8. Thank you for this Crusty. In a quick read, I concur with most of the assertions and discussions. My one serious concern, and this does not actually argue against any of your proposals, is that some (esp. ecclesiastical types) may see it as a solution to things that it is not--i.e. a way to prop up failing institutions by institutionally bringing them together, or to resolve principled differences by splitting the difference. Taking you at your word, and I really do, we are still challenged with the need to give up our fears and appreciate our own responsibility to succeed in following Christ. (Same goes for the Methodist side, btw) I was on the faculty of a Methodist seminary and I love Methodists, but I want to ride out the truth we know in the Episcopal Church, until it is all wrung out--the catholic faith that is in concord with the church from all times and all places. As you say, nobody is asking us to be Methodists, and I concur strongly--we are also not asking the Methodists to become Episcopalians. That's particularly important as they face some real crises in the United Methodist Church. Jesus has invited us all on the way of the cross, not the way of nice. /s/ Grumpy

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Andrew. I, too, have no desire to prop up failing institutions, and hope that our churches can engage this proposal in order to bring that catholic faith to a world sorely in need of it.

    2. And by the way, I'm totally with you about the AME issue. It is really important to HEAR from THEM what would make a vital and meaningful practice of shared communion. It is less than meaningful to include them in a process worked out between largely white mainline denominations. The AME's discussion with us would be a blessing--but it needs to be a real and substantive discussion--there is, perhaps, more blessing in the conversation than in the agreement.

  9. An interesting read but false and misleading on a variety of fronts. The principle error is claiming that apostolic succession is a myth, a fable. SO many of the early Church Fathers and Doctors specifically refer to it. It was the main vehicle to legitimize orthodox teaching from heretical ( tho not exclusively as some heretics were properly ordained through it) Yet it is understandable why Crusty would delegitimize a long standing Christian practice when his own church lost its apostolic succession when it broke away from Anglicanism. Now that Methodism has lost a treasured symbol of authenticity, the best thing to do is say it was never relevant to begin with. How disingenuous !
    St. Augustine of Hippo wrote:

    "[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house" (Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 4:5 [A.D. 397]).

    Consider words of Ireneaus in 189 AD:


    "It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about" (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

    There quite literally are many written accounts of the apostolic succession that the orthodox ( Roman, Orthodox & Anglican) churches treasure. While I respect the course that Methodism took, there is no point on accepting any clergy for consecration outside of apostolic succession....period. The idea of full or even limited communion between Methodism and the Episcopal Church is ill conceived and should be rejected.

    1. Thanks Jay -- I'm familiar with all of these quotations, and more, and frankly still remain unconvinced. The office of episcopate was in a fluid process of formation in the apostolic period, as was anything remotely like a formal consecration to the office as currently understood. Far from being disingenuous, this proposal lays great emphasis on the historic succession and asks that United Methodists commit to sharing in this historic succession of bishops. In addition I am not clear what you mean by "breaking away from Anglicanism," since the Episcopal Church remains in Communion with the see of Canterbury. Like issues of scriptural interpretation, people can look at this evidence and come to different conclusions.

    2. Tom- Unless I miss your context, by breaking away from Anglicanism, I was referring to Methodism's break from Anglicanism. I have been under the assumption that you are a Methodist. btw, the account of attending an Episcopal Eucharist service where the elements were fed to the ducks I found beyond scandalous. My own vantage point for many decades has been in Anglicanism being in communion with Roman Catholicism. This hope becomes more distant with every passing year. Women clergy, same sex marriage, limited communion with Lutherans and now efforts to partner up with Methodists, among other issues, all add to the complications for communion with Rome, the object of my desire. Rome hasn't ever had a pontiff so flexible as Francis I when it comes to making compromises for unity. He's close to overcoming the Great Schism and is predisposed to taking dialogue with Anglicanism further. I'd hate to see the fuller partnership with Methodism complicate these goals.

    3. Hi Jay: an Epicopal priest, former academic dean and professor of church history at an Episcopal seminary, and ecumenical officer under two Presiding Bishops.

      I was appalled when I heard the duck story, too. Never went back to that church.

    4. The trouble with all this, Fr. Ferguson, appears, if I may be so bold, in that you consider, or you seem to consider, apostolic succession, an inert, neutral, value-free artifact, that stands to be judged by the scientific eye. Were you to truly think that, I fear you'd prove too much. If you too that line serious, neither would there be a doctrine of the Trinity, nor would there be a doctrine of the two natures, nor much else.

      But what's more, and more disingenuous to my mind, is your plea for unity. The two largest Christian religious bodies in the world (Catholic & Orthodox) hold that apostolic succession is a matter of faith, not a speculative opinion. Thus, you can reunite two small religious groups only to the extent that you then put even further distance between the larger ones. See the CCC 77-79 for the Catholic take on that. As it stands, the only possible point of reunion, then, would be for Catholics to stop being Catholics -- that is believing apostolic succession is part of the revelation of faith. Or that American Episco-dists, change their mind on apostolic succession. Neither of these seems likely.

      And so because neither of them seems likely, it seems your desire for Christian unity must be severely qualified.

    5. I simply do not see apostolic succession on the same level as the doctrine of the Trinity, or the Chalcedonian decision, or the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, all of which I have been asked to take by faith and do take by faith. Never do I recall as an Anglican being asked to take apostolic succession as a matter of faith on the level of any of the core doctrines of what it means to be a Christian. It is something on which Anglicans have always had a diversity of opinion.

      I do not see the contradiction that you lay out here in a desire for unity. I think unity with Catholics and the Orthodox would have to have some common ground on apostolic succession as understood in those churches, otherwise the conversation would mean Episcopalians would have to stop being Episcopalians. After all, as it stands, all Anglican orders are null and void by papal encyclical. So we'd have to find some kind of common ground, just like we are trying to do so with the United Methodists and share in the historic succession of bishops.

    6. I doubt that you've been asked explicitly to take much of anything on faith. When you were ordained a priest, you assented to "the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church has it has been received." Naturally enough, this has been forthrightly impugned for women and gays, but nevermind that.

      Surely you admit that in the Ordinal's formulation, it demands assent to a whole host of things implicitly. There isn't time to go through them all one by one.

      That, then, raises another question. Because Anglicans have never formally defined apostolic succession, does that mean there is no doctrine of it? If it were a mere administrative office (per Methodism) why would the '79 ordinal say to bishops, and bishops only: Your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyr,"? Surely, it's not because of administrative tasks? Apostolic succession has Scriptural roots, and it is an obvious organic principle of the Incarnation to the extent that it requires the bodily laying on of hands, and the radical acceptance of contingency. And, as others in these comments, which I commend you for being willing to answer, have pointed out, ancient venerable saints have insisted on it.

      You clearly view apostolic succession as a matter of private judgment. And if you're serious about that, then everything and anything can be sent down the pipe to private judgment. The divinity of the Holy Spirit? Nowhere explicitly stated in Scripture, decided by a counsel. Perhaps they assessed the data wrong.

      You don't rate apostolic succession as highly as the two-natures. What if you've misunderstood the data? We know that both Ephesus and Chalcedon where convoked under most precarious circumstances. It would be more consistent, in the name of unity, to relegate it all to private judgment, because who (the BEM?) is the legitimate authority of "core doctrine,"?

      I don't mean to be so pointed, Father, but I do think you're not taking your conclusions as seriously as you should. The critical method always cuts both ways, and easily becomes elitist as those with advanced degrees remind us of their advanced degrees and expertise.

  10. Both churches have effectively had a position of open communion for decades. Nothing new there.

    I would argue that This Holy Mystery notwithstanding, 99% of lay Methodists hold to the remembrance understanding of the Eucharist, not the Real Presence understanding. We can wink at this reality by quoting This Holy Mystery, but let's not kid ourselves. As to what percentage of Methodist elders hold to the remembrance understanding, it's hard to say but I suspect it's at least half.

    I'm more interested in the practical effects of full communion. Methodists basically allow the local pastor to use whatever liturgy he or she wants. Most recently founded "Anglican" congregations in the U.S. (as opposed to separatists clinging to the 1928 BCP) are doing that too. This is divergent from practice not only in TEC but also ELCA. I wonder where this trend will lead TEC, particularly when Methodist elders begin leading TEC congregations. Yes, TEC bishops will have authority to hold the line (liturgically speaking), but I wonder how many of them actually will.

    Another practical point: many Methodist congregations in the countryside are led by licensed lay ministers. The full-communion document speaks to elders, but the last time I looked, far more Methodist congregations (numerically speaking) were led by lay ministers than elders. Again, this fact won't have any immediate impact on TEC but there have been arguments for years within Methodism about celebration of Communion by lay ministers. Heads up, it's coming. Maybe not this decade or the next decade, but eventually.

    1. I was unfamiliar with the wording of the Methodist's This Holy Mystery. It's quite important. If, as you say, 99% of lay Methodists do not hold to the doctrine of the real presence, but instead, view the eucharist as a symbolic memorial of His passion, then that is an indictment of the obligations of the Methodist Prebyters to teach the faith of our fathers. But even if we all accepted the notion of Christ's real presence in the sacrament, were I, a layman not ordained within apostolic succession, to celebrate mass, it would still not create a sacrament which was the "true flesh indeed" or "true blood indeed" of Our Lord. It takes a priest ordained by a bishop who was himself ordained by a bishop back to apostolic days. John Wesley, devout as he may have been, was not a bishop.

    2. Frankly, I'd think it'd be difficult to find 99% of the church to agree on anything. Licensed lay pastors are not eligible for service in this proposal; only elders in full connection.

      As for persons not ordained in historic succession -- the proposals asks United Methodists to accept this sign going forward. We are grandparenting in current pastors, as the Church of South India did, as the Church of Ireland did, and as we did with the ELCA. It is the Anglicanism which added the prohibition in the Preface of the Ordinal in 1662 (prior to that we know of non-episcopally ordained clergy who did serve), so the argument is that we also have the authority to suspend it.

  11. Thank you, COD, for a complete review of the issues. This has been most helpful. What's your sense of this passing our House of Bishops? Seem like that House has taken a bit of a more conservative tilt since the passage of CCM; rightly in many ways, but I wonder about this issue.

  12. it was my understanding that the Bishops of the ELCA had to be brought into historic episcopate as one of the requirements. I do not know where you information came from concerning apostolic succession but all the old Churches beleive in it. As mentioned about almost all the early church Fathers acknowledge it. Lists going 150,s can be found about certian Diocese's. What was in flux was role of the Priest. As the Diocese became bigger and the Bishop could not minister to all it was appointed presbyters or Priests to act in the name of the Bishop. Training probably was at the foot of the bishop in question. Of Course of Bishops met via ecumenical Councils to decide theology and discipline of the early Church. It is interesting that many of the early heresies began by disputing the bishop in question which led in many cases to the weakening of the argument for apostolic succession. Anglicanism went through a bloody period. The puritans did not want anything that strengthened the Bishop. The attacked the idea of succession and strove burn art etc.. The First in any revolution is to deny succession.
    Historic Epicopate is a nice of saying we believe in apostolic succession. When you come from we dont believe in succession but say you have to be part of the historic Episcopate. Basically you have reduced succession to mere symbolism with no meaning.If I were them I would be asking why do I to accept your meaningless succession when you do not believe it yourself. You can play with words but in the end all that you have done is emptied the meaning of the phrase Historic Episcopate and destroyed 2400 of history which by the way can be easily found. We have the documents of the Church fathers and early Christians going to the apostles this must really embarrass you being a liberal. You keep mentioning modern liberal theologians but there has been much scholarship done on the early Church by conservatives and secularists who do not have a stake in the argument. I am all for united Methodists coming into full communion by bringing thier Bishops into apostolic Succession but not now because the liberal establishment in Episcopal Church has lost its doctrinal center and in the name inclusivism and victim hunting its faith. We need a jesus movement to discover our theology or we will become what ever church we play with. We are sadly going to continue to hemmorrage not because full communion is not a good thing but because many in leadership have thier faith or ashamed of it. this has to stop faith is not just politics or passion faith has to be built on reality otherwise it will eventually die. The healthy Episcopal Churches that I have attended conservative liberal broad have understood this all of them have chosen Anglican spirituality over trendy Episcopalianism they know what they believe and live it and everything else flows from that.

    1. Hi Jaan: I am not denying the historic succession; it's something that I am thankful for, and something this proposal asks the United Methodists to accept going forward like we did the the ELCA.

      As to where I got this, some of it was from getting a PhD in Early Church History and writing a dissertation, which can be found at

      I stand by the distinction between apostolic succession and historic episcopate, one which is also reflected in numerous Episcopal Church, Church of England, and other ecumenical and theological documents. Prior to the mid-200s, we simply have no reliable historical evidence of anything like the installation by bishops of others into that office. The understanding of what an episkopos was is very fluid in the subapostolic period and none of the lists going back to the 150s are contemporaenously extant or reliable.

      While I do not think there is evidence for a succession in the episcopal office going back to the apostles which is the marker of whether a church is valid or not, there is ample and abundant evidence of the church choosing to order itself through an episcopal succession. This is what I think is a tremendous treasure that Anglicanism has to offer, and this proposal offers to the United Methodists.

      I am not ashamed of the faith I have received; we come to different conclusions from an examination of historical evidence.

    2. Tom --on the point you make of the unreliability of evidence for succession in the early years of the Faith, I submit a bit more. Clement I in 80 AD said,

      "Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and
      afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry" (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).
      The words of Cyprian of Carthage, 253 AD

      Cyprian of Carthage

      "[T]he Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with [the heretic] Novatian, she was not with [Pope] Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop [of Rome], Fabian, by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way" (Letters 69[75]:3 [A.D. 253]).
      St. Jerome, who wrote the Latin Vulgate said in 396 AD

      "Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these clergy who, in succession from the apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians" (Letters 14:8 [A.D. 396]).
      You have made it clear that you are difficult to convince on this issue. It takes an open mind to assess the evidence and also an open heart. Imagine an early church overwhelmed as it was with countless forms of interpretations of what this new religion stands for and what it shall teach. Common association of common viewpoints is mankind's typical response to rally around a common cause. We see this in the establishment of political parties. To fend off the countless theological adversaries, it is natural that men would appoint their successor who share the legitimate views they hold sacred. It is therefore supported by reason.

  13. You're article responds to those who object to this because they think it goes too far but what about those who don't think it goes far enough? Surely no serious person believes there's it's qualitatively better or worse in the eyes of God to be an episcopalian or a methodist - or a Lutheran. Furthermore, lets face it, if you were to take the names of the denominations off the marketing materials I'd wager a bet that even a theologically educated person wouldn't be able to pick which denomination it came from.

    The vast majority of people in the world think our divisions are ludicrous and hypocritical. We are bleeding money and wasting people supporting tiny congregations less than a mile away from similar sized methodist and lutheran counterparts. Why not merge and do it in a way that respects the distinct theological differences as wonderful traditions, the messages of which we should all be committed to keeping alive?

  14. So, for the record: On my first grade report card, my teacher actually wrote: "Plays well with others." Although some would argue to the contrary, I believe my years of activism in the church and the world stand as evidence that I really do want us all just to get along, play fair, share and share alike, and work for unity. So, I would like us all - Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant - and all the various manifestations of each of those major branches of Christianity - to "be one". It's not an unworthy aspiration.

    That said, I have these things to say about this blog post and the document. I'll try to be brief but I think this blog post is longer than the original document.

    1. The historic/apostolic episcopate is no more a myth than the virgin birth, resurrection, or ascension. Indeed, I think there's more evidence for the former than any of the later.

    2. There is not one UMC any more than there is one TEC. We both have official "stuff on paper" but the way we practice it differs as widely as Rite I, Eucharistic Prayer A to Rite II Eucharistic Prayer C (I know several Anglo-Catholic churches that bar Prayer C from use). Dan Stevick, my Liturgics Prof and member of the SCLM which brought us the 1979 BCP, liked to say that Prayer A was a nod to the 1928 folks, Prayer B was a nod to the "catholic" folks, Prayer C was designed to appeal to the Evangelical folks and Prayer D had its roots in those who profess a more "orthodox" faith. Something in there for everyone. The point being that all of those vastly different perspectives are also in TEC. The UMC also has its varieties which is why they call themselves the "United" Methodist Church. They've only been so since the late '60 when the issue was racism. Their unity is threatened again - this time around issues of human sexuality, homosexuality and reproductive choice and justice.

    3. Perhaps not 99% but certainly a large majority of Methodist regard what we call Eucharist as "The Lord's Supper": It's a memorial meal/remembrance more than it is the "Real Presence" - no matter what they say "on paper". We may not have an "official statement" but, well (and I hate to be pedantic here), you really don't have to put in writing what's obvious and commonly known (To wit: The UMC may have a "statement" but if you asked a random person in a UMC pew, I would be willing to wager my grandmother's favorite bet of "a cup of coffee at the Five and Dime" that you would NOT get one word that was reflective of their "official statement".)

    4. TEC may have the '79 BCP and '80 Hymnal and various approved Supplemental Texts and not a few approved, primarily ethnocentric hymnals - not to mention a variety of non-approved (except by the diocesan) liturgies (Creation, Liberation, Inclusive/Expansive Language, Womanist/Feminist,etc - but we do, at least, follow "The Shape of the Liturgy". That cannot be said about the UMC. Most UMC churches I know (My experience is admittedly limited to the East and West Coast) have a different liturgy almost every week - the only thing that really stays the same is that there is an opening and an ending but literally everything else is up for grabs.

    More to come.

    1. The UMC in the South is careful to follow the shape of the liturgy. In those same regions things like "Enriching our Worship" are not generally authorized in TEC, and, except at "praise services" mainline protestant worship is in general more formal than it is in most of the rest of the country. This is in order to deliberately contrast with evangelical protestant worship.

    2. By "authorize" I meant by General Convention. Bishops, as liturgical officers of their dioceses, can decline to authorize for use in their dioceses.

    3. Whit, I am not sure where you get your information, but EOW is used in "the South" at least in parishes in the Diocese of Atlanta. And they are in fact "authorized" by TEC. Some bishops may not allow their use....which I find questionable but then some bishops engage in many practices I find questionable. Maybe I did not understand what you meant, just responding to what you posted. In my parish we have generally used Prayer B during Advent and Christmas. We switch to A for the ordinary time after Epiphany and through Lent. Easter Day we use D and this Easter season we have used C. Of course 8am always uses Rite I! Like most of the richness of our liturgy, congregations learn about what they offer if the rector is willing to teach.

  15. Here's the last of it - promise:

    5. Your whole LGBTQ clerical thing simply takes my breath away. Seriously? A few queer people have been involved in the process over the years and they don't have any problem moving this project forward and that makes it okay? Seriously? That's your methodology to insure justice? Yes, we have our own problems in various dioceses but does that really wash away the homophobia of the official position in the UMC which permits them to remove orders of ordained people - even those who are heterosexual but officiate at the marriage of people of the same sex? Seriously? Tell that to a UMC pastor who has had his/her orders removed because of their sexual orientation and then sees an Episcopal LGBTQ clergy officiating at the church they loved and served. I understand your long-term commitment to this project and your passion for it - and, I applaud it, actually - but, well, I'm trying not to clutch my pearls, avoid a dramatic, loud gasp and not mutter something acidic and unkind under my breath. That might bring about a charge of stereotypical homosexual behavior and I would undoubtedly be found guilty by a jury of my peers so I'm just going to leave it all right there. Except this to all you've said about this point: No. Just, no.

    6. My final critique - and the most serious: This post, like the document, is filled with Anglican fudge. You could get a cavity from all the fudge in here. It is not at all clear. To wit: It took this Very Lengthy blog post to 'splain it all in language that was more understandable to more people outside of the "ecumenical bubble".

    Maybe y'all understood that, after almost a decade of work and high committee turnover, your document was bound to be seriously flawed in its ability to speak clearly and plainly so that the folks in the pew would understand. And, it is. As written, this document has no hope of passing General Convention or Conference. It's going to have to work a whole lot harder on clarity. It's a good start toward a project that, as I stated at the beginning, is a worthy pursuit. It needs work. A lot more work. Clean up the main text. Say what you need to say as if you were talking to folks in the pew. Provide footnotes. Lots and lots of footnotes. Keep the document clean, clear and to the point.

    I leave you with this question: If you have to work this hard to explain it, might there be other work that needs to be done?

    God's peace!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Elizabeth, I welcome and am always thankful for your thoughtful and direct feedback.

      At this stage I'd say couple of things...

      1) I disagree with #1, and say that there is more solid evidence, beginning in the mid-200s, of a process of people already in the episcopal office presiding over installations/ordinations of persons into that office. Where I think there is less evidence in any notion in the 50-150 period that there is a consistent understanding of a installation/ordination of persons into the office of episkopos. Evidence is much more scanty and the office of episkopos is in process of development.

      3) I find it hard for 99% of the church to agree on anything.

    2. 5) It is not "my" LGTBQ thing it is the work of the persons on the dialogue, UMC and Episcopal, and I'm sorry you feel the need to dismiss the work and witness of the LGBTQ members of the team.

      6) As I said several times in the post, this proposal should be read in conjunction with "A Theological Foundation for Full Communion." We could've drafted a 40-page full communion proposal; the sense was a two-step process with a longer theological document. I think the document is actually and this post is quite clear in what it says, so I don't know what you mean by fudge. But I do get that a lot of background material is not present in the proposal, because it is in a different document.

      Thanks, Elizabeth, this is very much the dialogue team beginning a process of conversation and discussion. It is a draft proposal, after all, and drafts are designed for input and feedback.

    3. It seems like the entire Theological Foundations document needs to be appended to the full communion proposal, or worked into the proposal. It will make the whole thing much longer, but it's clear that lots of people are reading and reacting to the legal document without bothering to refer to the theological one.

    4. Just so we're clear: I am not dismissing the work of Queer people on the committee. I feel this document dismisses Queer people who are TEC or UMC members who seek justice and full access to all the sacraments and sacramental rites. "Full speed ahead on full communion, damn the Queers" seems to be the unspoken motto. Expect strong push-back from this community on both sides of the denominational divide.

      Thanks for your response to my concerns. I am grateful for the dialogue. I would hate for this movement to go forward without it. It would not do justice to the importance of the work.

    5. I always appreciate reasoned, thoughtful, engaged conversation. Since there is no vote planned until 2021, we have four years for discussion and feedback, as well as monitoring how events develop after the 2019 United Methodist Special General Conference.

  16. If I read the document correctly the common ministry or "interchangable" UMC and TEC clergy will depend on the approval of the respective bishops in each case. UMC conferences with gay UMC clergy will accept gay TEC clergy, and if not not. The case referred to in Ms. Keaton's response is not likely to happen. The document says there are no church dividing issues between the two churches. I agree, but when I last talked with some UMC clergy about the dialogue some of them raised TEC use of fermented grape juice as an important issue for them. Some TEC bishops permit the use of unfermented grape juice in prisons and in other situations where wine is not acceptable. Maybe we can agree that all may, some should, none must on this and other issues.

    1. Hi, Tom May! Your understanding of the document vis a vis Queer clergy: "If I read the document correctly the common ministry or "interchangable" UMC and TEC clergy will depend on the approval of the respective bishops in each case. UMC conferences with gay UMC clergy will accept gay TEC clergy, and if not not."

      My question: How is that justice? Why would TEC subject our clergy to that kind of prejudice? A heterosexual might find employment but his homosexual or trans sister or brother would not? What if that excluded you? Or someone you love? What if the issue were gender? What if you, as a man wanted employment but the bishop would only approve women? Substitute race or physical ability and I hope you will begin to understand my point.

      I'm glad we have at least 4 more years of conversation about this. Clearly, we have a long, long way to go. And, the United Methodists may not be so united after 2019. Solid money (from Methodists on both side of the issues of human sexuality, homosexuality and reproductive choice and justice) is that they, even if we are, they won't be ready by 2011. Let's take advantage of the time we have to work out these critically important issues with intelligence, compassion and a commitment to justice.

    2. To COD, Elizabeth gave no indication of dismissing anyone in her comments. She noted something that reeks of comments I used to hear when white folks talked about racism related issues: We had Black folks on the committee/commission/study group, etc. Having a minority voice on any group does not guarantee that their voice was heard or listened to in the same way as a majority voice.

      I have spent the last 40 or so years of my life working for the full inclusion of all in the life of TEC. Yes, my "specialty" has been directed toward LGBTQ+ inclusion. I am not interested in rehashing all of what I have heard a thousand times before, including the refrain "We haven't studied it enough. We haven't done our theological homework." There are other versions, but you get the point. SOME people may not have studied the topic enough. SOME people may have not done their theological homework. Ostensibly, that was because they did not want to do that homework. They were quite content with having LGBTQ+ folks as second class members of the church. So let's not even go down that road. I lay most of our ongoing differences at the feet of bishops and priests who did not truly teach about the issues. They stood around wringing their hands and whining....but that's another discussion for a different day.

      Now as to the UMC folks, I really do not know how much they have studied, done theological homework or what. All I do know is that when I see their TV commercials proclaiming "Open hearts, open minds, open doors" or similar, I recognize the hypocrisy in that advertisement. I know all too well how "open" they are....except to those whose sexual orientation and/or gender expression/identity is different from the majority.

      I am all for the reunification of the broken Body of Christ as much as we can achieve it. But I am not interested in re-uniting with one of the fractured portions that will not honor the light of Christ within me as a full fledged, unconditional member of the church, even though I am an old gray haired gay man. That is not up for discussion. That's the same way I feel about any part of the Body of Christ that will not afford women, people of color or anyone who isn't straight and white a full place at the table. There is nothing negotiable about the unconditional love of Jesus Christ and how it manifests itself in all of God's children despite our own prejudices and problems with that.

      To echo some of what was said, how would an LGBTQ+ UMC minister feel if an LGBTQ+ Episcopal priest was to be allowed to lead a congregation? Even those in the closet still would have an issue with that.

      The fact that there have been LGBTQ+ members of commissions and committees and that they may have agreed with a particular recommendation is not indicative of support. To be blunt, some of my LGBTQ+ clergy friends may claim to be being their authentic selves, but they are still in the closet...and may not even know it. Anyone in a minority position must be comfortable with who she/he/they are in order to be an honest and accurate resource for such committees and commissions. Closets are not healthy nor do they produce healthy results.

      I realize that much of what I have posted is likely to be dismissed because I don't have "The Reverend" in front of my name. Let me just point out that there is nothing an ordained person can and does learn that a lay person cannot read, mark, learn and inwardly digest equally well. Just wanted to make sure our clericalism doesn't pop its head up in this.

      I do support these various efforts at whatever level of full communion or term we might use to describe them. I do not and will not support any of them if LGBTQ+ folks are not fully included. I'm neither going to sit in the back of the bus nor be thrown under it.

      Bruce Garner

    3. Thanks for your support of the efforts towards full communion, Bruce. As I mentioned in my comments to Elizabeth, this is a four year process of conversation and feedback, and I am thankful for all of the healthy discussion in these comments.

  17. By the way, the fact that some of our bishops ignore the several equal access canons doesn't justify the rest of us allowing or doing so. No one HAS to ordain or marry anyone and never has had to do so. But the canons give clear direction to those whose consciences will not allow them to do certain things in insuring that the ordination process will be open, and marriage will be provided. It's obviously more complicated than that but you get the picture. Personal prejudices and biases should not impede the work of the Gospel or the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

  18. The Church of England just released a report recommending some steps similar to those in our proposal. But I can only imagine the Anglo-Catholic reaction to allowing Methodist presbyters to preside at the Eucharist in an Anglican church. As I understand it, the civil government may need to pass some legislation to allow the process to move forward. What does Crusty think of the chances of the CofE actually recognizing Methodist presbyters as celebrants at the Eucharist.?

  19. Get’m Crusty! Love you, brother :)


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