10 May 2014

‘What we are doing here
is an ecumenical spring’

A standing ovation for the President of the Methodist Church, the Revd Dr Heather Morris, at the General Synod of the Church of Ireland this morning

Patrick Comerford

As one of the hosts for ecumenical guests at this year’s Church of Ireland General Synod, I was sitting in the front row this morning beside the President of the Methodist Church, the Revd Dr Heather Morris, when the synod passed the final vote that now clears the way for the inter-changeability of ministry between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland.

The Bill passed its third and final stage this morning in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and has been enacted. It was proposed by Dean Nigel Dunne of Cork, who said this was an historic moment in the Church’s journey of faith. It was seconded by Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory.

Following the vote, Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh said this was a wonderful occasion in the life of the Church of Ireland and Irish Methodism and in the life of the Church worldwide.

Speaking to those within the Church of Ireland for whom the passing of the bill will be difficult and who feel that this is a step beyond our Catholic heritage, he said if he had felt for one moment that his understanding of historic episcopate would be changed he would not have supported the move. He hoped that those who have felt hurt by the move understood that those who have been in favour of it do not hold them in any less regard. “You will always be loved in the Church of Ireland,” he said.

He said the Church of Ireland would be represented next month when the Methodist Conference elects a new President, and he hoped that the Methodist President and two past Presidents would join in the Laying on of Hands at the consecration of the next bishop in the Church of Ireland.

Bishop Harold Miller of Down and Dromore quoted the pioneering ecumenist, Father Michael Hurley, who once said we had been through an ecumenical winter. “What we are doing here is an ecumenical spring,” Bishop Miller said.

The Methodist President, Dr Heather Morris, said this was a great moment and she was thankful to God for the privilege of being at the Synod for this moment. “It is a great moment and it is also a moment that makes great demands on us,” she said. “The gift of receiving could be the biggest challenge ... The challenge is that we allow our traditions to help each other.”

It was a privilege to be beside her as she received a standing ovation.

To my right during this debate and vote was the Revd Dr Heinz Lederleitner, who brought greetings to Synod from the Old Catholic Churches. He said he had been warmly welcomed by members and the discussions of Synod had a certain weight but they were warm and friendly.

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