By: Jason Bland
The Lambeth proposals, which was made known by a conference of Anglican and Episcopal bishops from all over the world in August, 1920. That provided for a reunion of the churches on the basis that priests of the Roman and Greek Catholic Churches would be accepted as priests of the Anglican Church if their own communions would alternate, while it was asked of the Protestant Churches that they would allow their ministers to submit to reordination by Anglican or Episcopal bishops. Meetings were held during the 1920's to try and further the cause, but acceptance of ordination authority was a major stumbling block.
The implied inferiority or insufficiency of their own authority and ordination under the Lambeth scheme is regarded by the Methodists as an impassable obstacle to the proposed reunion.
Feeling that it would be a humiliating reflection upon the acceptance of their own ministry if they agreed to a reordination of the clergy as a neccesity for church union, the Board of Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church have formally rejected the overtures of the Lambeth Conference.
News remarks that doubtless the Methodist Bishops are correct in feeling that their ministry and laity would resent the knowledge, however lightly laid, that the church, one of the largest Protestant groups, has been without the intensity of authoritative Christendom. One hundred and eighty years have passed since John Wesley became the founder of Methodism as it endures today. Deeply as they are convinced of the unity of purpose of the Anglican Church and their own, they can not subscribe to a theory that Divine authority has not been theirs. On the other hand there can be no doubt of the sincerity and warmth of the union proposals which have been broached by a number of the ministers of the Episcopal Communion.
The World Conference on Faith and Order, the proposed agreement with the Congregationalists, and the Lambeth Conference are all evidences of the spirit of what The Christian Century is pleased to believe is a majority opinion of the men and women of the Episcopal Church.
These various introductions have not been received with very much warmth by the evangelicals of this country. There has been courtesy in the replies, and a studied avoidance of anything offensive, but nothing that looked at all honestly toward closer fellowship.
In rejecting the form of unity suggested in the Lambeth proposals, the Methodist Bishops affirm that they "recognize the desirability of a visible expression of the spiritual unity of all who confess the Lord Jesus Christ as the only mediator between God and man," and that in promoting of the spirit of unity they have "gladly entered into fellowship with the brethren of the various communions, engaging with them in frequent interchange of pulpit ministrations and other forms of Christian service.”
But respecting the condition of union laid down in the Appeal with reference to ministerial orders, we are compelled, with all due regard for the honestness of the proposal and in full view of the tremendous issues at stake, to register our dissent. "We are not unacquainted with the history of ministerial orders. Holding that the ministerial orders of the Methodist Episcopal Church are fully valid and divinely sanctioned, we can not consent to make them secondary to any other. Nor can we, even for the sake of a united Church, cast any shadow of doubt, of invalidity, or of irregularity on them or on their ministrations which have been so signally honored of God."