Much has been made of the creation ‘Anglican Ordinariates’ in the Catholic Church (properly called Personal Ordinariates) and it has been hinted others can be created for other Christian communities who want union with Rome: so how about Ordinariates for Methodists and other Wesleyans? The answer is they are already here.
The Personal Ordinariates were created so certain communities who converted to the Catholic Church could preserve their ‘Anglican Patrimony’. The catalyst for the creation of the Personal Ordinariates was the application by members of break away Anglican groups called the Continuing Anglican Movement: when they applied to come into union with Rome, they already were not in union with Canterbury.
Methodism as a faith movement, and as a matter of history, is an Anglican break away group. The three founders of Methodism, with John Wesley being the main one, were all Anglican clergy and this helped shape the movement. The liturgy of Methodism was based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer as in the words of John Wesley:
“I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breaths more a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England.”
It is not often discussed how the English school of liturgy, shared by Anglicans and Methodists, is the third biggest in the world behind the Roman and Byzantine Rites, and that is why the Ordinariates were perhaps overdue: but of course the Ordinariates are not just about liturgy but Lex orandi, lex credendi “the law of prayer is the law of belief”.
The Personal Ordinariates were created for Anglo-Catholics who wanted to come into union with Rome: in a doctrinal and sacramental unity based on Catholic belief which Anglo-Catholicism professes. Methodists on the other hand would be considered more “Low Church” , but John Wesley has a great interest in Eastern Orthodoxy and worked some of its beliefs into Methodism- beliefs also expressed in Catholicism. In 1999 there was the major ecumenical event of the signing of the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation: for the short version it basically resolves the 500 year conflict over the nature of Justification that arose during the Reformation. In 2006 the World Methodists Council adopted the declaration as well (and in 2017 so did the World Communion of Reformed Churches).
According to the Vatican, former Methodists can claim the Patrimony and join Personal Ordinariates; after all there are former Low-Church Anglicans that are now members of the Ordinariates- the main issue is they have converted and now hold the Catholic Faith.
The main issue is regarding those who wish to be Ordinariate priests: for the Anglo-Catholic clergy who came over they needed two years of formation- were for Methodist clergy it would be longer. But in our modern age an unprecedented amount of Protestant clergy have converted to the Catholic Church, who recognises their call to ministry and a path has been put in place for them towards priesthood (for more information check out The Coming Home Network).
Personally I know of one Methodist group that is keen on joining an Ordinariate, and I have spoken with one Minister who is interested but the issue of a large young family and how he would support them etc is an issue working against him for now. But this group and this individual minister are aware that Methodists/Wesleyans can join the Personal Ordinariates, or even that they exist- my point is we should be reaching out to those Methodists who have already converted, are converting or interested to let them know they already have kindred in the Catholic Church who they can find a home with.
Now a couple of Lutheran groups in the past have expressed interest in Ordinariates of their own, but that is a story for another time……