United Methodists, Episcopalians deepen ecumenical ties

Special liturgy marks Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 26, 2007

At the invitation of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Jeremiah Park of the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. David Henritzy joined Bishop Christopher Epting, the Episcopal Church's Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer, for a special Eucharist in the Episcopal Church's Chapel of Christ the Lord in New York on January 25, observing the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and concluding the celebration of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Henritzy, a Methodist minister, former hospital chaplain, and long time staff member at the Church Center, publicly thanked Jefferts Schori, who attended the celebration, for initiating the idea, and Park for granting permission and encouraging the joint celebration in compliance with the interim eucharistic sharing agreement achieved by the United Methodist and Episcopal churches. The agreement, approved at the 2006 General Convention, is similar to the stage of Eucharistic sharing engaged in by the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, leading up to the declaration of their full communion in 2001.

Such interim Eucharistic sharing is a step toward full communion and marks sufficient agreement in doctrinal and theological matters. Permission by bishops of both churches must be obtained, an authorized eucharistic liturgy of one of the two churches must be used, and an ordained bishop or presbyter of each church must stand together at the altar for the Eucharistic prayer. This symbolizes that the two churches have reached the point where ordained ministers can stand together at the Table, but not yet interchangeably.

In this first celebration at the Episcopal Church Center, Henritzy preached the homily, focusing on the importance of personal conversion as evidenced in the life of both Paul the apostle and John Wesley in the face of conflict in the institutional church. He pointed out that such conflict often arises from within the institution rather than outside and calls for an even deeper commitment and faithfulness to Christ in the face of such division.

The congregation included the Rev. Doug Mills and Tim Yeo, from the United Methodist headquarters on 475 Riverside Drive in New York City, who brought greetings not only to Henritzy but to Jefferts Schori. Information about the new agreement with the United Methodist Church can be obtained from the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations at the Episcopal Church Center, http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/ecumenical-interreligious.