Last january four dozen suffragan and assistant bishops wrote to the London Times warmly commending the current Anglican-Methodist unity scheme. Possibly the reason why it took so many of them to do it was that, like the old lady whom the Boy Scouts helped across the street, the Church of England doesn’t want to go (see “Being Ambiguous on Purpose,” Current Religious Thought, July 19, 1968).
At least a substantial part doesn’t. A vote taken this year in rural deaneries of the influential London diocese has shown that 53 per cent voted against the proposed Service of Reconciliation, and 51.6 per cent against the scheme as a whole. In many other dioceses there is a majority in favor, but overall the result has fallen short of the 75 per cent majority their church has fixed as a prerequisite of the scheme’s implementation. Both churches will take the vital vote on July 8.
Let no one imagine, however, that the establishment has admitted to backing the wrong horse. Too many episcopal shirts have been put on it. As well as the lesser luminaries mentioned above, all but one or two of the forty-three diocesan bishops favor the scheme. The loftiest Methodist brass concurs; like Winston Churchill on an occasion almost as momentous, they are not interested in defeat or retreat. As usual, my friend Dr. Jim Packer of Oxford, following Bernard Manning, has le mot juste, warning against an unthoughtful ecumenical rush. He tells of the Way-side Pulpit outside a church that displayed the stirring words: “Anywhere, provided it be forward—David Livingstone.” Underneath someone had added: “And so say all of us—The Gadarene Swine.”
Most of the objections to the present scheme are centered around the Service of Reconciliation, particularly the vexed ...1
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