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Archbishop calls off Methodist ordinations

By on Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Liverpool Cathedral (Photo: Press Association)

Liverpool Cathedral (Photo: Press Association)

The controversial proposed ordination of Methodist ministers in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral in July has been called off.
On the advice of the Vatican Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool has withdrawn the invitation he gave to the Methodist church last year.
In a statement last week the archbishop said he had always recognised that “the occasion would be a symbol”.

Given “the iconic reality of the Metropolitan Cathedral far beyond Merseyside it would be watched, interpreted, scrutinised quite properly by many. And symbols are dangerous things; they can explode,” he said.

“Every pattern of ordination known to me is at the service of communion and an occasion for profound renewal of the most personal, hidden demands of discipleship. Spotlights, controversy, fear of misinterpretation undermine the prayer and discipleship into which the Spirit would lead us,” Archbishop Kelly said.

The proposed ordination service was roundly attacked by Catholic bloggers earlier this year. One called it “sacrilege”, while others criticised it for the confusion it would bring.

“It might result in people who protest against Catholic truth… conducting a service in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in whose presence they don’t believe,” Ben Trovato wrote on the blog Countercultural Father. He continued: “It might lead people to imagine some equivalence between Methodism and the One True Church founded by Christ.”

Archbishop Kelly gave permission for the ordination service last autumn when he was approached by the Rev James Booth, chairman of the Liverpool Methodist District.

Methodist ordinations take place in conjunction with the annual Methodist Conference. Buildings of other denominations are often used because the Methodist have fewer large churches of their own.

Archbishop Kelly said the event “was not just a question of a large enough venue. It could also be a word about the ecumenical journey to which we have been long committed, which was re-affirmed when Cardinal (Walter) Kasper visited Liverpool at Pentecost in 2010 and yet more powerfully by Pope Benedict during his visit to this island last September.”

But over the last few months, while convalescing following his hip replacement surgery, Archbishop Kelly said he had “time to reflect” on his decision.

“I found myself often wondering if what I had encouraged was inappropriate at this time and a possible scandal in the original meaning of that word, a stumbling block for an ordination and for the ecumenical journey.”

He said he was “not entirely surprised” when learning that “this was the judgment of the Holy Father’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity in their interpretation of the principles set out in the ecumenical directory of that same Pontifical Council”.

Sadly, he said, he would have to withdraw the invitation. “I recognise that this decision will bring pain to some, relief to others, and confusion to many. I am very aware that it gives rise to very practical problems for the Methodists only two months before their ordinations,” he said.
“I can only apologise for any drift for which I am responsible and pledge that I will continue to be as faithful as I have for all the nearly 50 years of my life as a priest to the ecumenical journey to which the Second Vatican Council committed every Roman Catholic,” he said.
Mr Booth said he had been delighted when Archbishop Kelly had agreed to the ordination “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, while at the same time affirming the ecumenical journey that we share and the fact that the destination of that journey is not yet reached,” he said.

“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,” he continued.

Referring to Archbishop Kelly as “a colleague and friend” he said he knew it was “a decision he has not taken lightly, but under that discipline of belonging that, as Methodists, I hope we understand”.

The Methodist ordinations will now take place in the Anglican cathedral in Chester.

One of those who had been due to be ordained in the Metropolitan Cathedral, Mark Rowland, said in his blog that the withdrawal of the invitation “reflects the rather colder wind that is now blowing for our ecumenical dialogues and relationships”.

He said: “The 21st century will look very different to the 20th in that regard and it is perhaps regrettable that we did not seize more fully the opportunities that were then available but are now fast slipping away, if they have not already gone.

“If this can be a wake-up call to us all as to the urgency of the ecumenical task then it has the possibility to be a blessing, but I suspect it may simply be a sign of what is to come.”

  • Anonymous

    Dear Bellevuetarn,

    Thank you for your letter. It is clearly your wish to express the truth as you see it uncompromisingly, and I respect that. Sadly there seems to be a huge gulf between us, which there ought not to be, since we both acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. But the Truth as you perceive it is revealed in the Catholic Church, and the truth as I perceive it is revealed in Holy Scripture. For both of us there is no compromise.
    Shalom, David

  • John Binns

    And yet the Cathedral was designed by a Methodist.  That’s ok is it? To worship in a building designed by a protestant.  I wonder how Cardinal Heenan would have felt about all these goings-on.  He seems to have been happy to work alongside a protestant!

  • Rich


    With respect, this is a nonsense and as an educated man you must surely know it. The Catholic church believes that truth is contained in scripture, and it has been interpreting scripture and teaching it for the last 2k years.

    Scripture tells us Christ founded his church on earth and appointed Peter to lead it, and history tells us this is the Catholic Church and the various Popes throughout the ages are the successors of Peter. History also tells us the Anglican Communion broke away from the church founded by Christ, re-interpreted scripture and made up its own rules. Please, we cannot pretend this didn’t happen. Truth it seems by its very nature is uncompromising.

    That isn’t to say that holy men and women don’t exist outside the Catholic Church, that also would be a nonsense. But that the Catholic Church contains the fullness of revelation by virtue of Christ’s mandate. You must agree, surely.

    Kind regards


  • Rich

    Absolutely fine, I’m sure it was built by one or two too.

  • Bellevuetarn

    Have you any experience of love? If you do then you must have learned that love is never based upon lies or fudges of the truth. A period of 30 seconds thought and you will reveal to yourself what that means in terms of faith or religion. If we pretend, dissimulate, deceive and cover up or ignore what we believe to be true we will never coherently be able to ‘dialogue’ and our ‘love’ will be founded upon a lie.

  • Anonymous

    Fr Wayne

    Please see the comments here as the exception rather than the rule. These blogs tend  to attract  (although not exclusively so) people who often have difficulties relating in real life. Some of their comments reveal why this is so.

    Please accept apologies for the lack of charity which has been shown here. It is not representative of Catholicism. May the Lord bless your ministry.

  • Fr Wayne

    Thank you sincerely, and may Christ bless you also.

  • Fr Wayne

    May the Lord bless you and you ministry. I have been most impressed by the very Christian and compassionate comments you have made on this blog.

  • MatthewM

    I am so sick of reading about Catholic Bishops and priests whining about continuing ‘ecumenical’ dialogue with heterodox and heretical groups. The Methodists came from the Anglicans, let them use the Anglican Cathedral and make nice. Wake up people!

  • Bellevuetarn

    Dear David

    You interpret Holy Writ as you desire. This can be seen as some sort of a human right and I would not deprive you of any of your rights. For me, Holy Writ is informed by Tradition, as it has always been, else you would not have the Bible that you do – it has all been handed down to us, has it not? I read it often, and often not in translation, and I find myself unable to interpret it other than does Tradition.

    pax et bonum


  • Bellevuetarn

    forgive me…your point is what?

  • William

    What an ugly architectural monstrosity that Liverpool Cathedral. What possessed the church in allowing such a hideous building be called a Cathedral?

    Contrast that with the beauty of Canterbury Cathedral which rightly belongs to the catholic church.

  • Bellevuetarn

    The whine as much as they do because they crave acceptance by those, same people. As to their being ‘catholic bishops’, the jury is out on their being catholics, at all.

  • Bellevuetarn

    In architectural and visisble terms it faithfully represents the ugliness, disjointedness and confusion of a pseudo-church that no longer knows what it believes, where worship is man-centered and no longer God-centred, where there is no order and no ordered discipline. It is perfect for non-sacrificial worship of a presbyterial/communitarian kind but is out of step with the real and everlasting Church, Her teaching and Her belief. Itt is a construction for a new religion,  just as the Novus Ordo Missae is not the Mass but an entirely new order – this, for once, being a faithful rendering of what it ‘says on the can’..

  • David Griffiths

    Have you ever spent time in the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool, William? If not, and you live withing easy reach, you could do worse than to spend a morning or afternoon there during the week – when little else might be happening there – just quietly walking around, sitting, relaxing, and drinking in God’s presence. I presume you are referring to the Catholic rather than the Anglican Cathedral. If the latter, my same comments apply. You may not find much quietness in the latter, but you will certainly be aware of God’s presence. I write as a Methodist who loves lively, good, contemporary worship, but also needs a pilgrimage to places like these from time to time.

  • David Griffiths

    I’ve been offline for a few days due to family illness, so am only just getting round to replying to messages. It really doesn’t help serious conversation to tell people with whom you disagree that they are talking nonsense, Rich. You make the very point I was trying to make in the previous blog. Namely that in the views expressed in many of the blogs that have arisen out of the withdrawal of the wonderful Metropolitan Cathedral as a venue for some of this year’s Methodist Conference Ordinations, Scriptural truth is found only as interpreted in the teaching of the Catholic Church. Christ founded His Church on St.Peter’s Declaration of Faith. The Catholic Church grew and developed as a consequence of this.

    I apologise if what I say now sounds heretical, or offensive, or both. Over the last 1900+ years Christians of all persuasions – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, have wandered away from God’s Truth from time to time because we are sinful human beings. Too often we have homed in on those things which appeal to us and tried to make them the whole of the Gospel, and thrown on one side the things we don’t like. The problem is that pride and arrogance gets in the way of truth.

    When we all stand before the judgement of God it will be our love for Him and one another that will be his concern, not whether or not we have been loyal to our own particular interpretations of what we believe is doctrinal truth. 1 Corinthians 13 has some very uncomfortable things to say to those of us who neglect to shown the primacy of the kind of love in our live which our Lord demonstrated in His.

  • Basil Loft@ss

    I live “far beyond Merseyside” but what’s an “iconic reality” when it’s at home? 

  • Aunt Raven

    It’s interesting that Protestants decided to omit some uncomfortable books / parts of the Bible which didn’t endorse their “theology”–even though the Bible itself says that no-one is to add to or to remove any part of Sacred Scripture ! 
    (Why couldn’t they just leave ‘scripture alone’?” ;-)

  • Aunt Raven

    Nick, you are my favourite math nerd, and a way-cool apologist.  . . . . 

  • Aunt Raven

    The word for “an apparent contradiction” is “paradox” and it would be helpful if you would use it.  As in, the  paradox of a loving God who permits evil, or the paradox of an all-just and an all-merciful God.  In God, who is the absolute perfection of every good,  the opposite of one truth is not falsehood, merely  another truth.  

  • Aunt Raven

    Yes, but only partially; they do not have the fullness of truth of the Catholic Church

  • Aunt Raven

    To accurately call a person a heretic is not mockery.  (Call it “truth in labeling”) I love the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach, would have loved to have him as a dinner guest, but as a Lutheran he was indeed a heretic, one whom this Catholic would never dream of mocking.  

  • Aunt Raven

    Hummm.  Novus Ordo Seclorum is the motto on the American Dollar, and the watchword of the Masonic brotherhood and “One World Government” proponents like Kissinger and the Bilderburgers.  I think you have perhaps insulted the good Methodists !  :-) 

  • Aunt Raven

    This recalls an amusing story to the effect that Napoleon told a French bishop that he would destroy the Catholic Church in France. The bishop replied calmly that a thousand years of French bishops had not been able to destroy the Catholic Church in France; and who was Napoleon to think he could do any better?

  • Aunt Raven

    And your point is–? 

  • Aunt Raven

    Come on, Prince Charles (we know it’s really you) –tell us how you REALLY feel about the architecture of LIverpool Cathedral , , , !

  • Aunt Raven

    Try “unorthodox”. 

  • Bellevuetarn

    All right, gosh you got me! Cannot a man anywhere voice his opinions?  It is a monstrous carbuncle on the face of Holy Mother Church or would be if she were Holy Mother Church and not the masonic Jezebel that she really is……Camilla doesn’t like it either

  • Aunt Raven

    You’re really deft at throwing the first stone ! You will be judged according to the judgement you just gave  re his “uncharitable and bigoted rants” — yours aren’t, of course ! 

  • Fr B

    “No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the
    Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have
    honour, one can have SACRAMENTS, one can sing alleluia, one can answer
    amen, one can have faith in the Name of the Father and the Son and of
    the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation
    except in the Catholic Church.” St Augustine
    ****This dogma has been
    affirmed many times over by the Churches Magesterium. It has been
    affirmed by Pope Innocent III (DS 423), The IV Lateran Council (DS
    430), Pope Boniface VIII (DS 468), The Council of Florence (DS 714),
    Pius IX (DS 1647), Pope Clement VI (DS 5706), The Council of Trent (DS
    861) etc. ****

    So why this silly none-sense from His Excellency the Archbishop? Why would His Excellency dare to offer up a Holy Temple of the Lord for the defilement of the Protestants?!? No wonder Traditionalists are leaving to join the likes of SSPX.

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