15 February 2010

Back to the fold

The Methodist Church in England appears poised to rejoin the Church of England. Church unions of any sort are pretty rare, but even more remarkably, they are not talking about a merger; they're talking about being absorbed into the Church. As the Reverend David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference, said, "We are prepared to be changed and even to cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom." Or, as the Telegraph describes the situation: "The head of the non-conformist denomination said it was ready to come back to the national church after 200 years apart, if it would help spread the word of God."

I think it's a remarkable gesture. Given the origins of the Methodist Church, seeing them folded back into Anglicanism makes a lot of sense. I hope that in the process of moving towards organic union, there will be some acknowledgment of the value of Wesley's movement to the Church of England. My cynical fear, however, is that what began as a renewal movement within the Church eventually became as stodgy as the Church itself, and so they figured they might as well rejoin. If the Methodist Church ends in England, you've got to reckon with its legacy; it's hard to know how to write this story.

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