Methodist Ordinariates in the Catholic Church?

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……

39 thoughts on “Methodist Ordinariates in the Catholic Church?

  1. Yes, there are Methodists who will and have responded. I myself am a former United Methodist ordained deacon who last February 2017 wrote my application to join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross and desires to be ordained as a priest. I left the United Methodist Church last June 2016, and there are at least two other UMC clergy who are also contemplating to cross the Tiber. We are here in the Philippines.

    The United Methodist Church does have High Church clergy and lay, most of which are members of the UMC Order of Saint Luke (OSL). One pf the principles espoused by the OSL is what it calls the “apostolic hope”, i.e., a desire for the reunion of UMC with the universal church, i.e., the Catholic Church. The OSL fully embraces the liturgical heritage that original Methodists shared with the CoE, i.e., the BCP.

    There are currently eight of us of Methodist heritage which have applied for membership in the Personal Ordinariate, and we are joined by seven former members of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and two former Episcopalians, making us seventeen (17) in all, and there are others who are in the process of joining us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The timing of this is extraordinary. We happened to be talking about this during fellowship time at our parish yesterday as one of our members comes from a Wesleyan background and she said she had heard evidence John Wesley was eventually ordained an Orthodox bishop.

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    • That’s a minority view. Wesley did spend significant time studying with the Orthodox bishop of Arcadia in Cyprus (he also founded the Orthodox community in Amsterdam), and some of Wesley’s companions suspected that this Bishop had ordained Wesley a bishop, which was within his power.

      However, Wesley himself never confirmed this, citing English law that forbade anyone outside the Church of England from ordaining anyone in England.

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      • To be clear, it was the Bishop of Arcadia who founded the community in Amsterdam, not Wesley 😀. I just realized the way I worded it could have been confusing.

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    • I think that this is a myth without historical foundation. What may be the case is that Wesley sought to have some of his lay preachers ordained by an Orthodox bishop. It is unclear whether such ordinations actually took place.

      In the end, of course, Wesley abandoned – to the disgust of his brother Charles – his family’s high-church belief that bishops were a different order of ministry than presbyters, and in 1784 he ordained the first two “elders” for American Methodists. From the Wikipedia article on the “Methodist Episcopal Church:”

      “The American Revolution severed ties to England and left America’s Anglican Church in disarray. Due to the scarcity of Anglican ministers, Methodists in the United States were unable to receive the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. On September 1, 1784, Wesley responded to this situation by personally ordaining two Methodists as elders for America, with the right to administer the sacraments, and also ordained Thomas Coke (who was already an Anglican priest) as a superintendent with authority to ordain other Methodist clergy.

      Because Wesley was not a bishop, his ordination of Coke and the others was not recognized by the Church of England, and, consequently, this marked American Methodism’s separation from the Anglican Church. Wesley’s actions were based in his belief that the order of bishop and priest were one and the same, so that both possess the power to ordain others.

      The founding conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, known commonly as the Christmas Conference, was held in December 1784 at Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore, Maryland. At this conference, Coke ordained Francis Asbury as co-superintendent according to Wesley’s wishes. Asbury had been serving as general assistant since Rankin returned to England. The German-born Philip W. Otterbein, who later helped found the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, participated in Asbury’s ordination.”

      On Coke, see:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Coke_(bishop)

      Liked by 2 people

      • What I find bothersome about this website is that its focus seems to be on the preacher rather than on the message of salvation and on the Lord himself.

        Norm.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wait, Dr Neal is well-known? Never would have guessed that, even though I’ve practiced organ in his church many times…

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      • Or perhaps I should say, well-known *and* high church? Color me very surprised. Anyway, the Wesleyan study ministry in Commerce does not have a good reputation as upholders of any kind of orthodoxy.

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    • God willing, we may in time also be accepted into the Personal Ordinariate. But I can understand why the current view among Anglicans and former Anglicans is that Methodists aren’t really part of Anglican Patrimony. As was noted in the other comments, the ordinations in Methodism all come from John Wesley who was not a bishop and justified his ordaining presbyters by rejecting the doctrine of apostolic succession and embracing a more Presbyterian polity. Charles, John’s brother, became so upset that he wrote a letter and several songs denouncing John Wesley.

      It is because of this that I have decided to apply for both Ordinariate membership and ordination. John Wesley’s abandonment of his high church principles is the root of United Methodism’s decline into doctrinal and liturgical anarchy, with their “bishops” unable to exert any real authority or impose any meaningful discipline. Ordination of women led to support of both abortion and divorce and is now leading the UMC into validating homosexuality.

      The question is: will us from the UMC who are “high church” be recognized as such when we apply for Ordinariate membership, or will the general perception in Commonwealth countries that Methodists are by default “low church” mean that we former Methodists will have a longer path to take to full communion with Catholicism?

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  3. The fact that Methodism is considered to fall within the realm of the Anglican tradition, and thus that former Methodists who have already come into the full communion of the Catholic Church may enroll in an ordinariate, is not exactly news. The FAQ section of the web site of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter first stated this a few years ago.

    Note, BTW, that any Protestant Christian who is received into the full communion of the Catholic Church “within the jurisdiction of an ordinariate” also becomes eligible for membership in the ordinariate thereby. The terminology in quotes encompasses not only those received into full communion within an actual ordinariate community, but also those received by non-ordinariate clergy on the ordinary’s behalf.

    Norm.

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    • Hello Norm- can you point to an article people can send friends exclusively about Methodists being able to join the Ordinariates? I had a quick look and could not. Even though this is not news, it was a resource that needed to be created.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Simon,

        Go to the FAQ on the “Resources” menu on the banner of the web site of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, then do a search (Ctrl-F is the keyboard shortcut) on “Methodist” — it’s still there.

        Unfortunately, there seems to be something funky happening with the URL’s for the pages of this web site in my browser so I’m not sure that I can provide a direct link to the FAQ.

        Norm.

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      • Norm I stand by my original statement, as the whole ‘if you go to one of the Ordinariates websites you can find the info on a downloadable FAQ, if only you do a word search for the world Methodist…’ does not cut it in terms of promoting the Ordinariate to those of a Methodist background at all. As already attested to by a comment from a former member of the Methodist clergy there was doubt if he could join an Ordinariate- as in many members of those denominations although Methodists came from Anglicanism, their members see themselves as distinctive of each other- psychologically it is called an ‘in group preference’. Also there is no guarantee they are going to find the downloadable sheet, let alone actually download it. Also is the CSP website the ASC blog? Does it flesh out the reasons of the shared heritage? (the answer is no). The more resources out there on the topic, the better.

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      • Simon,

        I suspect that the real point of confusion is a lack of understanding of the fact that the Rite of Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church (“Rite of Reception” hereafter) includes completion of the sacraments of initiation in the reception itself. This nuance is very relevant, as Article I, Section 4, of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus extends membership in ordinariates to “those who receive the Sacraments of Initiation within the jurisdiction of the Ordinariate” with no requirement for prior membership in an Anglican body. The completion of the sacraments of initiation in the Rite of Reception fulfills this provision.

        Of course, I’m not sure what percentage of ordinariate clergy understand this nuance….

        Norm.

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      • Norm, all of the Ordinariate clergy understand this nuance, the matter would touch on those of Methodist/Anglican background who have already come into the Catholic Church but can switch to the Ordinariates because of it. At the moment the key issue is seminarian recruitment is really restricted to long term Ordinariate members- those of other backgrounds that converted in the last 5 years would be unlikely seminary recruits because it is likely they have not been Catholic for long enough.

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    • One reason why I did not immediately apply for Ordinariate membership when I left the United Methodist Church in June 2016 was that I really thought that “Anglicanorum coetibus” was only open to former Anglicans, so I thought that I had to join an Anglican/Episcopalian Church first and then attempt to cross the Tiber.

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  4. You might want to mention that former members and close relatives of members or former members of the United Church of Canada can also become Ordinariate members, because of the Methodist connection.

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    • I used the general “Methodists/Wesleyan” in the article, as not all Wesleyans are members of a Methodist group and either are apart of something like the United Church of Canada, or an independent group. As Methodism is the major one, I thought it was important to focus on that.

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  5. Everyone here, everyone mentioned, everyone seeking, everyone commenting, all y’all and your intentions and your journey will now be remembered at the offertory of our daily Mass. The Hound of Heaven will never give up. God bless and keep y’all always safe in the palm of His hand.. Guy McClung, Texas

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  6. A minor historical note: The Methodist circuit riders of the last half of the 19th century in the American west were largely, if not exclusively, thoroughly Protestant with no real Anglican connection or tradition except for a few hymns. Having lived in Texas for almost two decades, I can say, without pejorative, that all Methodists I knew were pretty much plain vanilla in their worship with little to distinguish themselves with several other denominations.

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  7. Off topic but you mentioned some of the history surrounding the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and I was wondering if you could provide some further clarification. Your short version said that “it basically resolves the 500 year conflict over the nature of Justification that arose during the Reformation.”

    I suppose for the purpose of brevity, this is close enough. But it was my understanding (and I actually read most of it a while ago) that it set forth what the various churches agreed upon but did not actually resolve every point so that we can say that Catholics and the Protestant churches see eye to eye on this. In short, we have moved closer together but are not quite together on the doctrine.

    Is that the less rose-colored state of affairs at the moment?

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    • As close as you can get with Protestants- not close enough to be in complete agreement, but close enough that they cannot say Catholics cannot be Justified (I call that a win).

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    • No, a document that’s two decades old is far from the current state of affairs. Even right on its heels (1999), the joint committee issued an Annex to the Joint Declaration that addressed, or at least attempted to address, the issues raised by the Catholic official response to the original text. Further, there has been a LOT going on “under the radar” in this process over the past twenty years, with frequent meetings of representatives from both bodies.

      As Anglican bishops, John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham, and Keith Newton visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith very discretely many times over the course of several years to lay the groundwork for the formation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, but these visits did not become public knowledge until well after the announcement of the formation of the ordinariate late in 2010 — and this is the manner in which the magisterium of the Catholic Church customarily operates. The official line of the Vatican is always that nothing is going to change until there’s an official announcement of a change. Here, the adage that still waters run deep is what comes to mind.

      Some of the discussions between the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican probably have delved into the issues of (1) the ecclesiastical structures that Lutherans would form within the Catholic Church after reconciliation and (2) the process by which the reception of Lutheran bodies into the full communion of the Catholic Church, including Catholic ordination of Lutheran clergy, and the formation of those ecclesial structures would take place. Of course, there is no way for any of us to know to what level such discussions have progressed. There might already be a detailed plan with a timetable awaiting a “go” from both sides.

      Norm.

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  8. I am one such former Methodist (well, half Methodist, half Anglo-Catholic) who converted via OLSC in Feb 2016. With my crossing the Tiber, I have given up dreams of joining 13 of my extended family members as a Methodist minister (though God willing, if I am able to fulfil a dream of attending seminary just to study theology out of personal interest, that would be wonderful). My Ordinariate priest after hearing about my predicament (and after many conversations post-Divine Worship) assisted with a “fast-track” to converting after consultation with his Ordinary. OLSC is definitely open to Methodists converting to Catholicism!

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