Sydney Smith, canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, did not like Methodists. A few months before he died in 1845 he said: “I feel so weak both in body and mind that I verily believe, if the knife were put into my hand, I should not have strength or energy enough to slide it into a Dissenter.” Precisely 100 years later, I was present when another Church of England clergyman (the only chaplain in the area) refused Communion to two young RAF men on active service in North Africa—because both were “Dissenters.” The Church of England still discourages its members from taking Communion in a Methodist chapel, allows Methodists to communicate in parish churches only in exceptional circumstances, and insists on reordaining Methodist ministers who enter its ranks.
All that will be changed and a 224-year-old division healed if the two churches implement the proposals made in a report published jointly by the Church Information Office and the Epworth Press (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, News, March 15). Acceptance of the proposals in principle will commit both churches ultimately to full organic union. Until 1965 the question stands open: “if any man can shew just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.” The four distinguished Methodists who entered the minority report have already spoken, pointed up the tensions, and supplied a basis for discussion. I mention only three of the points they have raised.
1. Scripture and Tradition. It is ecumenically fashionable at present to talk about a revival of biblical theology in the church of Rome, and about an increasing realization by Protestants that the Bible can be understood only in ...1
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