THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
The Constitution of the World Methodist Council (Oslo 1961) defines it as "an association of Churches of the Methodist tradition spread through the world. The Council does not seek to legislate for its member-churches nor limit their autonomy. Its aim to serve them and give unity to their witness and action". Among its specific purposes are "to encourage Methodist participation in the ecumenical movement and to promote unity of methodist and the other world-communions of the Christian Church, to study proposals for union and re-union involving the methodist member-churches and to give advice and help when desired".
The World Methodist Council embraces the majority of the methodist churches in the world and counts twenty million members. The fifteen million U.S.A. Methodist and the nine hundred thousand British have the greatest influence, especially in the mission territories they take responsibility for: Africa 1,1000,000; Asia 178,000; Australia 473,000; Latin America and the West Indies 178,000.
The President of the World Methodist Council is Bishop Odd Hagen of Stockholm. The Secretary Generals Dr. Lee Tuttle (U.S.A.) and Dr. Max Woodward (Great Britain). The 500 delegates are designated by the member-churches. Other organizations affiliated to the Council are the Methodist Youth Council Theological Conference, The Consultation of Family Life and the World Federation of Methodist Women.
The Conference (last held in London August 18-26 last year) is only a forum for discussion. The 1966 meeting was notable for electing a more international and less clerical executive committee. The ecumenical theme also assumed a new prominence, and full support was given to the resolution passed a few weeks earlier by the Methodist Youth Assembly.
"In an ecumenical age, we Methodist are not interested in self-preservation of Methodism, but in sharing our heritage with the whole Church of Christ".
The Council approved the setting up of a special ecumenical commission and gave it a broad and vigorous mandate.
Relations with the Roman, Catholic Church
At all sessions of the Second Vatican Council the World Methodist Council maintained a group of sixteen exceptionally qualified observers, among whom were the President and the two Secretaries General. In October 1965 the then President Bishop Fred P. Corson informed Bishop Willebrands that the World Methodist Council through its Executive Committee invited the Catholic Church to form with it a Working Group for joint study and action by the two communions. The was repeated after the Roman-Anglican joint declaration of March 1966 and in April the Holy Father approved the plan in principle, reserving more detailed arrangements until after the World Methodist Congress of August 1966.
The S. P. C. U. was invited to send observers to the August Congress. Canon Hulme (Gt. Britain) and Mr. D. Meaney were charged with this mission and Fr. Stransky also attended and addressed a meeting of young people.
A considerable impression was created by the addresses delivered at the Congress by Cardinal Heenan and Archbishop Cardinal, the Apostolic Delegate. The final message of the Congress contained this passage:
"In the brief five years since our last Conference amazing progress has been made in courtesy and cooperation and ignorance the Christian denominations. The most remarkable is the lowering of the barriers of suspicion and ignorance that have divided us from our brethren in the Roman Catholic Church and them from us. The Commission on Methodist Ecumenical Relations is to give particular attention to exploratory talks with representatives of the Vatican Secretariat of Christian Unity";
On October 18th Bishop Corson visited the S. P. C. U. offices and asked Bishop Willebrands to outline his views on the "next steps". The Secretary sketched a plan similar in broad lines to those already followed with other Joint Working Groups. The present plan is to hold an initial meeting in October. Date and place await confirmation, and advice is still being taken on the composition of the Roman Catholic delegation.