The Covenant Council
The Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland
Church of Ireland
Right Revd Alan Abernethy, Bishop of Connor (Co-Chair)
Ms Elva Byrne
Very Revd Nigel Dunne
Revd Dr Maurice Elliott
Revd Barry Forde (Secretary)
Mr Harold Giboney
Revd Canon Ginnie Kennerley
Revd Dr Peter Thompson
Revd Winston Graham (Co-Chair)
Revd Donald Ker
Revd Andrew Dougherty
Revd Janet Unsworth
Revd Louise Donald
Ms Gillian Kingston
Dr Fergus O’Ferrall
Mr Nigel Beattie
Interchangeability of Ministry
2014 will be remembered as a pivotal year in the life of the Covenant between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland. Council was delighted with the overwhelming support given to the Bill on Interchangeability by Synod, this being an affirmation of the continued support given by Synod to the Agreed Principles in 2010 and 2011. The presentation given by, and reception afforded to, the Methodist President, Revd Dr Heather Morris, was a moment of joy as the aspirations of the Covenant became ever more realised.
The subsequent participation by the Most Revd Richard Clarke, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, and the Right Revd Harold Miller at the installation and consecration of Revd Peter Murray as President and Episcopal Minister of the Methodist Church in Ireland, was the first step in bringing interchangeability into effect. This was followed by the participation of the current Methodist President, Revd Peter Murray, and former Presidents, Revd Donald Ker and Revd Winston Graham, as Episcopal Ministers in the consecration of Rt Revd Kenneth Kearon as Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe on January 24th 2015. This was the second step required and had the effect of bringing Interchangeability into full effect.
This is a monumental step in the life of our two Churches, and a model of ecumenism that is being both observed and admired in other jurisdictions. Council is keenly aware however that we must not view the passing into law of interchangeability as being the goal or the end of the matter. Rather, it is a mandate to deepen our relationships, mission and ministry. It needs to be acted upon, and not just admired. Covenant Council is pursuing protocols for participation in services of ordination, encouraging greater and more regular communication between our two Churches at episcopal level, and in the realm of theological education, as well as undertaking to develop greater unity in the arena of lay ministry training. Council aspires to host a conference focussed on the mission of our Churches, and will look to progress this in the next year.
Local Covenant Partnerships and Projects
As indicated there is much work that is ongoing and new work enabled by interchangeability. Council was delighted to see the development, under the Covenant of the relationship at Queen’s University, Belfast. At the Methodist Conference in June 2014 the Church of Ireland Chaplain, Revd Barry Forde, was confirmed as the Methodist Chaplain, replacing Revd John Alderdice who took up a new position at Edgehill Theological College. The governance of the chaplaincy at Queen’s continues to evolve to consolidate the unity already achieved. The Church on the Hill in Maghaberry continues to strengthen the bonds of unity, whilst new appointments in Movilla for both the Church of Ireland and Methodist Church offer up renewed hope for working together. Links continue to grow between the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and Edgehill College, and Council is grateful for the student observers from the Institute and the College who attend Council meetings.
The Covenant Council continues to encourage all dioceses and parishes to look for opportunities in which the Covenant might be of assistance for ministry and mission. Further, Council continues to encourage all Churches to consider celebrating the Covenant on or around the date of 24th May, this being Wesley Day in the Church
AMICUM and IASCUFO
The Covenant Council was delighted to welcome the attendance of, and updates by, the Right Revd Harold Miller and Dr Andrew Pierce. Bishop Miller provided insights into the current work of AMICUM, the Anglican-Methodist International Commission for Unity in Mission, together with its observances on interchangeability. Revd Dr Pierce spoke of the commendation by IASCUFO, the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order, of interchangeability, recognising the importance of local context and welcoming a visible realisation of ecumenical aspirations.
The Covenant Council was delighted to welcome and is thankful for the role of Revd Tony Davidson as Presbyterian Observer on the Council.
The Covenant Council website, www.covenantcouncil.com has been revised, with a forum page for Covenant Facilitators, and worship resources and Covenant Council booklets available for download.
The Conference receives the report.
The Conference continues to encourage congregations to celebrate the Covenant relationship with neighbouring Methodist congregations on or around Wesley Day, 24th May, each year.