The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, explains why he will be supporting new proposals for communion between the Church of England and the Methodist Church in Great Britain.
It is a terrible indictment of the Church of England that Methodists found they had to separate from us in the first place. So much good has been borne of Methodism, though. Having attended a Methodist school I owe it a great debt of gratitude for my Christian formation.
Michael Ramsey described the failure of his plan for reunion with the Methodist Church to garner the necessary two thirds majority in General Synod as the ‘saddest day of my life.’ I was confirmed by him in Canterbury Cathedral shortly afterwards in what I believe to have been the first Anglican-Methodist confirmation service. It was a small sign of hope in a depressing situation.
More than forty years later, we have another opportunity to heal this gaping wound in the Body of Christ. It will involve sacrifices by both communions but they are a small price to pay. I hope with all my heart that we shall be prepared to make them.
For us, the acceptance of the ministry of Methodist ministers does not mean sacrificing the principle of episcopal ordination. It is, rather, a very temporary and bearable anomaly which will enable all to be episcopally ordained in the future.
The acceptance of episcopacy by Methodists is arguably a bigger ask, one which I fervently hope they will be willing to embrace - ut unum sint, ‘That they may be one’.
The Church of England plays a vital role in the life of the nation, proclaiming the Christian gospel in words and actions and providing services of Christian worship and praise.
Our network of parishes covers the country, bringing a vital Christian dimension to the nation and strengthening community life in numerous urban, suburban and rural settings. Our Cathedrals are centres of spirituality and service, and the network of chaplaincies across continental Europe meets important local needs.
Members of the Church of England are actively involved in national life through a wide range of public bodies. Twenty-six bishops are members of the House of Lords and are engaged in debates about legislation and national and international affairs.
In October 2016, approximately 930,000 people participated in a Church of England service each week.
An additional 180,000 people attended services for schools each week in October 2016.
Around 9.4 million people visited a Church of England Cathedral in 2015. Each week, around 37,000 people took part in services in Cathedrals.
In 2016, there were 19,550 ordained ministers in the Church of England, including stipendiary clergy, self-supporting ministers, and Chaplains. Additionally, there were 5,760 Readers and Licenced Lay Ministers.
The Church of England ordained 484 new clergy in 2016, with 299 (181 men, 118 women) ordained to stipendiary ministry.
Over 80,000 volunteers and around 2,700 Church Staff help provide support and activities for children, young people and families.
Over 100,000 children and young people participate in activities connected to the church.
In 2015, Church of England parishes gave £47 million to charity.
76% of churches run activities in local schools, 66% help with food banks, 60% offer parent and toddler groups and 53% organise lunch clubs or drop-ins
The Church of England has around 16,000 churches, serving every part of the country and open to every local inhabitant.
There are 42 mainland Cathedrals, plus one in Peel on the Isle of Man and the Diocese in Europe's Cathedral in Gibraltar.
12,500 church buildings are listed. 45% of all England's Grade I listed buildings are cathedrals and churches.
It says churches are actually more likely to be attacked when they are locked, "possibly as criminals feel they are less likely to be disturbed in a closed church than one where anyone could appear at any time".
Ecclesiastical, the largest insurer to the Church of England, also suggests that churches keep their doors open.
Its advice says that "where appropriate that churches are kept open because of the positive effect that has on security", and adds that keeping a church open during the day with proper risk assessment would not increase insurance premiums.
A spokesman for the Catholic bishops in England and Wales said there was no country-wide policy about keeping church doors open, but the decision was down to each individual bishop.
It is not known which diocese the Bishop of Portsmouth was visiting.
In the 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said: "The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.
"One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door."
In 2015 he said at a general audience in St Peter's Square that churches should make people feel welcome by keeping doors open.
A spokeswoman for the Catholic National Mutual Limited, the main insurer for Catholic dioceses in the UK, said: “Churches are places of worship and sanctuary, and it is important that they remain open and accessible to all.
"Accordingly, CNM Ltd does not interfere with or influence the opening hours of churches, nor does this have any impact on insurance premiums.”
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Westminster, another Catholic diocese, said that many of its churches in London had been forced to lock their doors following vandalism.
She added that protecting the sacrament was a particular concern.
Do you have a bright idea for an app, website or social media campaign to bring more people to faith in Jesus Christ, grow and develop disciples, support your local church or the national church?
We’re launching Church of England Digital Labs to gather together the many Christian coders, creatives and techies who have the skills and passion for using technology to aid the church. Whether you have a fully formed plan for an app, website or social media campaign or just a spark of an idea, we want to hear from you.
The Digital Comms team at Church House has been established for about eight months now. We’ve seen the impact that digital and social media campaigns at Christmas and Easter can have in encouraging existing Christians and bringing new people to faith. There is so much more we can do, which is why we’re establishing Digital Labs.
Our first event will be taking place on Saturday 24th February 2018 (10am-9pm) in central London. You’ll get to meet and network with people like you, spend time refining your ideas and taking advantage of the knowledge and skills available all in one room.
Towards the end of the day you’ll get the chance to pitch your idea to a panel of industry experts with the aim of turning the best ideas we hear into one or two solutions that the Church of England will build and make available to our 16,500+ churches.
Digital Labs is part of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme, aimed at helping us become a growing Church for all people and for all places.
Adrian Harris is Head of Digital Communications at the Church of England