First Apostles

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:28
Disclaimer: My own views - not those of The Sodality of the Holy Spirit, or Sanctum Collective. I grew up through school a Methodist.

There are a number of excellent Anglo-Catholic responses to the report Mission and Ministry in Covenant - the report on working towards further unity between The Church of England and Methodists.
Andrew's critique rests heavily on the pattern of the early church. Understanding the Church of England to be Catholic and Apostolic is not about vestments, journeying with Rome, or even sacramental theology (although those are all part of being Catholic). 

It is not even about desiring full unity between Christians (although we do). 

Rather it is a desire to be shaped by the teaching and mission of the primitive church, expressed in scripture and the apostolic (early church) tradition. In the Church of England when we assent to the 39 articles we are assenting to that spirit - indeed I suspect that if the Anglican reformers were writing today with our greater knowledge of the apostolic era the 39 Articles would be rather different. But still we have this:
It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people.
Article 24

Here then is the spirit of Anglicanism. To reject that which is repugnant to the Word of God and the custom of the Primitive Church. (They really had a way with words!)

The New Testament uses the word bishop to mean an overseer - rather than a particular office. However Paul is clear in the direction or flow of ministry and order. This order is not hierarchic, rather it reflects the development of New Testament ministry.

  • First apostles, whose roles varied from settled to missionary.
  • Second prophets (together with Evangelists) a role expressed in the permanent diaconate both ordained and (due to historic issues in the CofE) lay.
  • Third teachers, here we must embrace the fullness of meaning of pastor teacher as expressed in Jesus' ministry as shepherd rabbi.

Presbyters are not the source of the church's ministry and mission. Bishops, as successors of the apostles (spiritually and through the laying on of hands), are the source. 

Bishops are not presbyters writ large, but rather presbyters are bishops writ small. 

Both are apostolic - Jesus' ministry as shepherd & rabbi cannot be considered anything but the prime model.

The disciples of the disciples understood the role of bishop in this way. St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the C1st using deeply poetic language:

“For your justly-renowned presbytery, being worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Thus, being joined together in concord and harmonious love, of which Jesus Christ is the Captain and Guardian, do ye, man by man, become but one choir; so that, agreeing together in concord, and obtaining a perfect unity with God, ye may indeed be one in harmonious feeling with God the Father, and His beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
St. Ignatius: Letter to the Ephesians; Ch 4

As I noted in the Church of England the diaconate is lacking - Methodism has much to teach here. Readers, and other lay ministers act in a diaconal role in many parishes (including my own). We are not perfect, and I certainly do not off hand reject the validity of Methodist orders and sacraments. As a Charismatic I am very aware that the gifts of the Spirit work in the church even when unacknowledged. However the fullness of the Spirit in gift and sacrament demands a deeper alignment. 

The question is how Methodist Presbyters can be joined together in concord with the Bishops as string are to the harp. I know how I was joined - through confirmation and ordination. Anything less, as the articles would have it, falls short of 'the Word of God and the custom of the Primitive Church.'

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