The Church of Ireland can now implement Interchangeability of Ministry Agreements with the Moravian Church. Through a shared commitment to a threefold ministry which, among other provisions, has enabled any Moravian deacon entering the ministry of the Church of Ireland to exercise diaconal ministry in the manner traditionally understood by the Church of Ireland , and vice versa.
Any Church of Ireland priest wishing to serve a Moravian congregation would be received as a priest, and vice versa. The Church of England “is pleased that the bishops of the Church of Ireland are fully involved in the consecration of Moravian bishops, even when it takes place in England, provided that the local bishop C of E is informed by courtesy”.
The deal was approved by the House of Bishops in November 2021. The Bishop of Tuam, Limerick and KillaloeThe Rt Revd Michael Burrows, who moved the motion, described conversations between the two Churches since 2015 as “thorough, extremely gracious and helpful”, and the Moravian Church itself as a historic Church, “representing something something distinctive and renewing”.
He continued: “We dare to hope that the Church of England will learn something from us – but don’t quote me unless you are reporting for the Church hours.” The Church of Ireland, he said, wanted to build on the Fetter Lane Anglican-Moravian Agreement of 1995, in which the two churches had achieved significant theological convergence. “With each agreement on ecumenism, we commit ourselves episcope‘s wings – to make it an office of unity,” he said.
Bishop Sarah Groves of the Moravian Church said she was “absolutely delighted to be here at this time”. Moravian bishops were bishops for life, she said: they are elected by the province at synod, can operate anywhere in the Church and are paid like deacons. They were a home of unity.
She was also thrilled to be called a “bearable anomaly.” The talks between the two Churches had shown that “you not only learn about the other Church, but about yourself in the process”.
The Dean of Cork, the Very Reverend Nigel Dunne (Cork, Cloyne & Ross) hoped the Synod would legislate to back up this legislation under Canon 10, giving it “a legal basis from which to develop our future relationship”. Canon Helene Steed (Down) saw it as an opportunity to broaden ecumenical discussion and involvement: “It’s about the whole household of God, not just bishops and clergy.”
George Woodman (Connor) had been very moved to find the church at Gracehill, Ballymena, on a map of the settlements during a visit to a folk museum in a remote part of Moravia. He welcomed the exchange of ministries: “Such a move is worth taking as ties with Europe outside the immediate West are fragmenting.”
The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, The Rt Revd Andrew Forster, said: “Today is about continuing and deepening these relationships. . . The motion leaves room for that relationship to grow. That’s the whole story.”
The Archdeacon of Belfast, Ven. Barry Forde (Connor), drew on the covenant experience with the Methodists to stress the importance of looking at what would happen after the covenant, in shared spaces and in towns and cities. “Let’s not find ourselves saying after the fact that ‘it can’t be done because that’s how we’ve always done it. “”
Bishop Burrows, in conclusion, suggested that the Church of England sometimes found the mechanics of these processes more delicate, and was perhaps “often quite pleased that its Celtic neighbors explored the ground ahead”.
The motion is carried unanimously:
“That the General Synod, in accordance with its resolution of 2015 —
recognizes that the conditions now exist for the implementation of arrangements providing for the interchangeability of ministries with the Moravian Church, in accordance with the attached agreement concluded between the representatives of our Churches and approved by the House of Bishops;
empowers the standing committee to take the necessary steps to establish the necessary reference group.
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