Archbishop calls off Methodist ordinations

From the Herald: “Archbishop calls off Methodist ordinations.”

This looks like a very unfortunate misunderstanding.

Does anyone out there know what the Catholic Church’s ecumenical directives say about such services?



  1. From the Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, March 25, 1993), para 137:

    Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services.

    1. Surely, Paul, that was trumped by “Liturgiam Authenticam” in the paragraph that says “We don’t care about common texts or Ecumenism any more and if the Prots want to get on board they can pay us to use the Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal” or words to that effect.

      Incidentally, if you or anyone else wants to see the glorious true face of Pope Benedict’s “reform of the reform” (based as it is on the hitherto unheard of “two forms of the one rite” and the celebration of an abrogated rite which the Fathers of an Ecumenical Council decided needed reform) just take a look at the comments from the “trad” Catholic readers of the “Herald” after the news item.

      I sat here wondering if those people come from the same planet as the writer of, say, “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia” of 11 October 1962. And then I realised, of course they do – why, they even get a mention in that document: they are Blessed John XXIII’s “prophets of doom.”

    2. I have to be just a bit cheeky here…. the directive in this case says that the Bishop MAY allow them such use… not that he MUST allow it. It seems that the Bishop is perfectly in his right to not allow it as well. Once again, fouled by a wishy-washy “may” guideline. And this one isn’t even a “should” (as is the case in SP where the Pastor “should allow” the EP to be celebrated when requested). At least it’s better than the “can allow” which is just as good as “probably should not allow”.

      That said… I don’t really see why this event was cancelled. One thing I do wonder…. were there any women in the group to be ordained? I would think that this might be the reason that “confusion” was cited as a reason… “ordaining” women in a Catholic Church might have seemed like an event that would cause confusion among the Catholic parishioners and therefore unwise. I just wonder if there isn’t more to this story than is being reported.

    3. The CH article refers to the blog of a young Methodist due to be ordained in July, and he cites the same text as Paul. But the CH does not mention the prospective Methodist presbyter’s dismay at this rebuff.

      I heard of this scandalous cancellation 8 days ago at a local interchurch Bible study, led by an experienced Methodist pastor. His throw-away comment of deep regret at this development when commenting on Jn 17 “That they all may be one” was picked up by the Catholics present with profound shame and outrage at such discourtesy on the part of our church.

      In times past there has been steady and notable progress made in interchurch relationships in Liverpool, especially between the respective (Arch) bishops of the Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals, linked geographically by a thoroughfare called Hope Street. Hope stymied, it would seem.

      Methodist gossip, unattributable, says that Archbishop Kelly had gladly agreed to the Catholic Cathedral being one of four venues for their ordinations on 3rd July, two large Methodist churches and the Anglican Liverpool cathedral being the others. Clearly some Catholics expressed outraged concern – delation is not too strong a term – and in due course the Papal Nuncio told ++Kelly that the permission must be withdrawn. When the Archbishop said he disagreed with such a rebuff, the Nuncio pointed out that the “recommendation” had come from the “Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.”

      The Archbishop was skewered. Together with his friend the Liverpool Methodist leader Rev James Booth he concocted a “Statement” in an attempt to smooth over the situation. Rev Booth also produced a statement:

      [Continued below)

    4. Cont of above – beginning with comment by Rev James Booth.

      I, along with many others – both those to be ordained and those supporting them, have for many months now, been joyfully anticipating the Ordination Service that was to have been held in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King here in Liverpool on 3rd July. I had been delighted when, in the Autumn of last year, Archbishop Patrick Kelly confirmed his permission for the Methodist Church to celebrate this most special act of worship in the glorious building that is the Metropolitan Cathedral. There had been careful conversation about how the Methodist Ordination Service could appropriately and properly be held in the Cathedral, honouring and respecting both Roman Catholic and Methodist tradition and understanding, whilst at the same time affirming the ecumenical journey that we share and the fact that the destination of that journey is not yet reached.
      The statement of Archbishop Patrick, to which I add these words, explains why he has now had to withdraw his permission for our use of the Cathedral. To say that I am disappointed that this decision has had to be taken would be an understatement, but it is a decision that I, and the Methodist Church, must respect and understand. I also want to say that, working with Patrick as a colleague and friend, I know that it is a decision he has not been taken lightly, but under that discipline of belonging that, as Methodists, I hope we understand.
      Of course, with the decision coming as it does so close to Conference, there are many immediate practical issues to resolve, not least that of finding an appropriate alternative venue. These matters will be resolved, I am sure. The Ordination Services will take place and will, once more, be great occasions of commitment to ongoing discipleship for all involved.
      Finally I, with Patrick, commit myself to our ongoing ecumenical journey, to our continued working together as disciples of Christ here in Liverpool and…

    5. . . . by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit, we will be strengthened, not weakened, by the events of these past days for that ongoing task.
      The Revd James A. Booth Chair, Liverpool District,

      That Methodist statement is a great example of Christian charity, to my mind.

      I entirely agree with Claire Mathieu (further down this thread), that there is a clear problem here of Vatican power play. What is the authority of the local ordinary in his own see to decide a local matter? Just about none, even for an Archbishop of a Metropolitan see. Bishops are treated by the Vatican as untrustworthy area office managers. Toowoomba anyone?

      I sincerely hope that Archbishop Kelly will go to Chester Cathedral, the substitute venue for this ordination and join in the prayers for the ordinands.

      In case anyone is interested in the Methodist concept of ministry you may well find this article on “What is a Presbyter?”gives food for thought:

      Would that our primping priests were similarly motivated for service.

    1. How is allowing a scheduled Ordination to go on an “act of charity”? I wonder (and honestly don’t know the answer) if a Methodist Church or other Protestant house of worship would allow a Catholic community (like back in the days when the SSPX, FSSP and other groups had to find locations to say Mass) to use their facilities. Does anybody know of any such instances? Would a Catholic group even consider asking such a thing?

      1. Do you mean before Vatican II and/or Mass in the EF?

        Because there are limitless examples of rural parishes & newly established parishes using Protestant churches.

      2. Chuck… that’s exactly what I was wondering. I know that our parish met in a rented storefront (1950’s) before building the Parish Hall which was then used until the building of the sanctuary. I haven’t personally known of a fledgling catholic parish meeting in a protestant Church. If you know of such a thing I’ll have to take your word for it.

      3. Oh, I agree with you. Pre-Vatican II and EF: no.

        But in all the cases in the world, I could imagine some welcoming (again think small town rural) Protestant or Orthodox. But I could be very naive.

      4. When the Rt Rev Mgr Canon William J Mitchell (retired Vicar General of Clifton diocese UK) died in Tetbury in August 2008 the Requiem was celebrated in Tetbury Anglican Parish Church, a fine large building which still had difficulty in providing space for those who mourned this popular local Catholic priest. The clergy alone would have filled the little Tetbury Catholic Church!

      5. I know personally of situations of Catholic masses taking place in Methodists premises – some ad hoc and some more regular. Indeed some members at one of the churches I serve told me of a Methodist Church they had visited while on holiday where a regular Saturday night vigil mass was held by the local Catholic community. I suspect that requests from SSPX, FSSP and similar organisations to use Methodist premises don’t happen very often, but I see no reason why they would be treated any differently from other Catholic requests.

  2. “bring pain to some, relief to others, and confusion to many”…how many times do we hear of the supposed scandal of the majority as the criteria for a judgement in the church? Now its the scandal of the minority that is at stake? (Although in reality it is always really just a minority but inflating the numbers seems to imply moral credibility)…

    I have no problem with Methodist at the Metropolitan, but why wouldn’t they use the Giles Gilbert Scott’s Anglican Cathedral, especially as the UK Methodist are in a process to be folded back into CofE?

  3. J. Thomas :
    why wouldn’t they use the Giles Gilbert Scott’s Anglican Cathedral, especially as the UK Methodist are in a process to be folded back into CofE?

    This got me thinking: Rome’s decision on this really totally blows out of the water any chance of “Ordinariate” groups seeking to keep using their former Anglican churches!!!

    1. Furthermore, it may be a sign that the ordinariate has gone about as far as it is going to go. With little help from the UK hierarchy which this pope and his predecessor have taken to the dog house for dragging their feet in implementing it. There has been a growing rift between the British bishops and Rome ever since B16 became pope. Masked by the endless round of happy talk surrounding the pope’s visit and beatification of blessed Henry Newman.

  4. It has always been one of my favorite cathedrals. The only problem is that it is a bit dark inside – to my tastes. It’s a stunning piece of architecture.

    I see on another blog that most of the conversation centered on the building thus demonstrating the inability of some to understand and appreciate modern architecture.

  5. What I get from the article:
    -the archbishop agreed with Methodists to let them use the cathedral for their ordinations
    -some Catholics, unhappy about it, complained to Rome. The article cites the “Countercultural Father”blog.
    -the Vatican contacted the archbishop to “advise” (or to “order”, according the CathNews) that the invitation be rescinded
    -weakened by a recent surgery, the archbishop yielded.

    The power play seems fairly clear. In my read, it points to the further centralization of authority in the Vatican, the growing influence of “conservative” Catholics there, and a further undermining of episcopal authority.

  6. Or when infamous Bishop Shelby Spong was ordained an ECUSA bishop in the Roman Catholic cathedral! Decades apart have now become centuries apart!

  7. That said, all this should be worked out BEFORE invitations are extended

    We are in a transition period during which bishops are not clear on which decisions can be made by them and which ones need them to check with Rome for approval. Once everyone is on the same page, those tacky incidents will disappear.

  8. “That said, all this should be worked out BEFORE invitations are extended, to prevent the tackiness or rescinding an invitation previously made.”

    This is not the Catholic way. The proper thing is always to get a good idea, and issue an invitation. Then withdraw that invitation at a most inopportune time–though not so inopportune as to wait when the people show up at your door. Then utilize the press to get the maximum benefit for the detractors of the Church.

    This way, the Temple Police get their hormone surge for the day. The host gets to grimace and wring hands and offer milquetoast apologies. The pope keeps his smile. And the Right has wheedled political donations from the ranks of the confused. It all fits perfectly, don’t you know?

  9. “I don’t get the part about political donations. Has this any bearing on politics?”

    Talk to Deal Hudson about that. Or see how cash donations lubricate the Vatican mechanism. Trust me: this is all about politics.

  10. Much ado about nothing. Store the ciboria in a chapel or in the church vault, leave the tabernacle door ajar, and blow out the sanctuary lamp. Doesn’t take much time at all.

    If the Bishop of Liverpool allows concerts in his cathedral, then he should (by analogy and charity) also allow other Christian communities to occasionally use his Cathedral for ceremonies.

    The article did not state if the Methodists intended to celebrate a communion service in conjunction with the ordinations. There might be some problems with the celebration of a communion service on a consecrated altar. Perhaps the Methodists themselves would feel uncomfortable serving the communion from an altar. Maybe the prospect of Methodists using the altar is the real fear behind those who petitioned for the event to be canceled. Still, couldn’t the Methodists say a communion service on a table brought in especially for that occasion?

    I have my conservative pet peeves, but this isn’t one of them. I don’t think that most Catholics would doubt their faith if on rare occasions Protestants celebrated a major event in a Catholic church.

    1. How would a Methodist ordination service be any different than a concert?

      Many Catholic churches host concerts. The Blessed Sacrament is temporarily reserved elsewhere.

      Does a music concert contain ontological meaning or impart grace? No.

      Do Methodist ordinations contain ontological meaning or impart grace? No, according to the Catholic faith. The Methodists would probably agree.

      What is the difference between the two events with respect to ontology and sacramental grace? None that I can discern.

      So, why would a music concert be permitted and not a Methodist ordination?

      If a Catholic is not scandalized by the thought of a music concert in a Catholic church, but is scandalized by the thought of a Methodist ordination in a Catholic church, then he or she is not consistent in their argument.

      One might say that a Catholic could attend the Methodist ceremony and mistake it for a Catholic sacrament given the venue. Then, the bishop would, I suppose, be committing scandal on some level. Then again, a well catechized Catholic would know that a non-Catholic rite held in the cathedral does not change the consecration of the cathedral.

      However, there is no logical difference between a Methodist ordination and a music concert. Perhaps the bishop should now forbid secular performances in his cathedral for consistency’s sake.

      1. I don’t think Methodists would agree that our ordinations are not means of grace. We’d probably have a discussion about the ontological significance – I’d certainly regard them as significant in an ontological sense and as occasions of grace. But it seems to me that all this service required the Catholic Church to recognise was that (1) Methodism is a Christian tradition and (2) the ordination service is a significant event in the life of the Methodist Church. We know that our understandings of that significance are different.

      2. Thanks Mark for pointing out the ambiguity of that statement.

        I am not well versed in Methodist theology, so I probably shouldn’t make a comment in that area. Catholics and Methodists do disagree over the notion that ordination confers ontological change. However, I am not sure if Methodists believe that their ordinations confer sacramental grace. This isn’t relevant, however.

        As you note, no theological disagreement should come before a simple gesture of hospitality. The article portrayed the relationship between the Archbishop of Liverpool and Rev Booth as very positive. It’s a shame that this friendliness might have been weakened as a result of partisanship.

        After reading traditional Catholic reactions to the cancellation, I am convinced that some traditional rage over Christian ecumenism is really a symptom of a deeper illness. For some trads, dignitatis humanae shattered the notion that Catholicism is impervious to cooperation with non-Catholics, non-Christians, and secularity. The visceral reaction of some trads against holding Methodist ordinations in a Catholic cathedral demonstrates the anxiety occasioned by Fortress Trent’s loss of the “enemies” that provided self-definition for centuries. Below this anger lies the ultimate malignant metastasis that afflicts some in the tradsphere: interior (and not so interior) rejection of nostra aetate.

    2. All these considerations are right and proper vis a vis the bishop’s making up his mind.

      However, in this case a government department of the institutional church overruled him.

      Recovering from surgery, the 72 year old bishop didn’t have the stomach to resist them. It’s hard to blame him. But, that’s the type of bishop the Vatican appoints: compliant and supine.

      It’s an abuse of power. Pure and simple.

      Lord Acton’s aphorism comes to mind: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    3. Much ado about nothing. Store the ciboria in a chapel or in the church vault, leave the tabernacle door ajar, and blow out the sanctuary lamp. Doesn’t take much time at all.
      Right, the timing of the Vatican’s gauche behavior couldn’t
      be better. Leaving the archbishop to explain to his Methodist guests a new policy, ” hide all the silver,the Methodists are coming” ?
      Who writes the pope’s scripts?

      1. “Who writes the pope’s script?”…
        Not Frau Stamp, that’s apparently part of the problem…

  11. In our Diocese, the Episcopal Bishop of Georgia (south Georgia) was ordained in our Catholic Cathedral in Savannah about ten years ago although it did cause some controversy in the Catholic community, but not overwhelming.
    I’m allowing a Lutheran wedding in my parish this summer because the Lutheran Church is too small for the wedding. It has been quite common for both Protestants and Catholics to share buildings when there is a need, especially in our rural areas where a large wedding might take place and the Catholic Church is too small and so the Baptist Church allows it to take place in their facility. I celebrated my nephew’s wedding in a small Georgia town in a Southern Baptist Church. It was a Catholic wedding.
    I don’t know if this would be allowed today, but an Episcopal parish in south Georgia was using the local Catholic Church for their Sunday Eucharist (including use of the altar) for about three years until they built their facility. Their rector was a female minister.
    Certainly ecumenical sensitivities should take place with both sides and neither side should try to embarrass the other in terms of differences, nor should situations be contrived outside of legitimate need.

  12. Where I live on Roosevelt Island in New York City, all of the Roman Catholic masses on Sundays are held in an Episcopal Church ( the local parish does have a separate chapel also on the island). This Church is also used for governmental and community meetings, concerts, etc. Do the theological concerns only go one way or should Cahtolics be concerned that they are worshipping in an inappropriately holy place?

  13. Vatican II did not change the fact that God’s Church is not Methodist, regardless of how he may choose to work through individual Methodists to bring folks into the Church. I am speaking from experience as a Methodist. She is still as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic as ever. As the Vatican II degree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, says, “We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.” Methodists do not possess the sacrament of Holy Orders. That’s always been truth, regardless of what our current ecumenical responsibilities are toward Methodists themselves. Unitatis Redintegratio, by the way, says of protestants, “it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is ‘the all-embracing means of salvation,’ that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation.” This is because the same Vatican II document states that the goal of ecumenism is that “all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning.” I appreciate the fact that VII’s decree on ecumenism reminds us that, “It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.” I was Methodist for the first 28 years of my life, and this is not offensive to me. If today’s Peter were timid and unsure, tepid and shy about the Catholicity of the Church, I probably would have picked something easier. Truth and Clarity actually helped bring me into the Church. Along with my Methodist wife, Methodist mother, and Methodist father.

    1. Impressive testimony.

      Is Methodism “easier” than Catholicism? The most challenging sermon I heard in 2010 was from a Methodist preacher.

      The Church teaches that the one Church of Christ is “present and operative” in the other Christian commmunions. That means that our differences are nothing compared with what we have in common.

      1. Yes, actually. Ever try living in the South? Catholicism is hard here. Clarity helps. If I were told it didn’t matter, I daresay it may not have seemed worth it. And yes, the Catholic Church was surely present and operative in Methodism, and the elements which were operative there led me into the Catholic Church. I am thankful that God and the Church met me exactly where I was with the grace I needed. Still, we must be clear–the Methodist churches are not the Catholic Church, whatever elements of Her may be operative within them. I am truly amazed at where God will go to save his sheep. A lot worse places than Methodism, I assure you, and I’ve been in very dark places. God found me even then. So it’s no surprise that he would allow his Holy Spirit and his Church to operate in places like the Methodist churches where many people truly love Him and many seek truth. I sought truth in the Methodist church, and it was encouraged of me by Methodists. And lo and behold, She found me. And I am home. We ought take the idea of the Shepherd leaving the fold to find the lost sheep very, very seriously. But we also need to remember that the reason he leaves is to ultimately return them to the fold. And we mustn’t forget the importance of remaining in the fold, lest we grieve our Shepherd or end up with a broken leg–or worse, off a cliff, where I dangled.

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