Thinking Anglicans

The Church of Scotland and the Church of England reach an "historic agreement"

Updated Thursday evening to add statement from the Scottish Episcopal Church

Press release from the Church of England and the Church of Scotland this morning

The Church of Scotland and the Church of England reach an historic agreement
24 December 2015

The Church of Scotland and the Church of England have reached an historic agreement that recognises their longstanding ecumenical partnership and lays the groundwork for future joint projects.

The agreement called The Columba Declaration is set out in a 15-page report by the Joint Study Group “Growth in Communion, Partnership in Mission”.

Rev Dr John McPake, co-chair of the study group and one of the authors of the report, said

“The Columba Declaration recognises the strong partnership that already exists and will help encourage and support new initiatives.

“We believe that approval of the Columba Declaration by our two churches will represent a significant step in the long history of their relationship, one that affirms the place we have come to and opens up new possibilities for the future.”

Arranged into four chapters, the report sets out the history of partnership between the two churches and the shared beliefs that allow for close cooperation between the churches, before exploring how the partnership could grow.

This year the churches established the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union as a response to concerns that low-income families needed access to low -cost banking and loans. And that’s just one of the areas where the two churches already are collaborating.

The Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council and the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs talk regularly about everything from poverty to refugees. As well as recognising one another’s ministers, the churches exchange views on ministry and come together for example on initiatives such as Fresh Expressions. The Church of Scotland also sends a representative to the General Synod while the Church of England sends a representative to the General Assembly.

In a joint statement prefacing the report, joint study group co-chairs Rev Dr John McPake and Rt Rev Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester write:

“Our hope is that joint affirmation by our two churches of the Columba Declaration would:

Affirm and strengthen our relationship at a time when it is likely to be particularly critical in the life of the United Kingdom;

Provide an effective framework for coordinating present partnership activities and for fostering new initiatives;

Enable us to speak and act together more effectively in the face of the missionary challenges of our generation.”

The report emphasises that joint ecumenical work should also include other churches and especially the Episcopal Church of Scotland [sic] and the United Reformed Church. At the same time it acknowledges the “distinctive partnership in the gospel to which our two Churches are called within the United Kingdom, rooted in our shared history and in our parallel and overlapping roles as the churches of our respective nations.”

The report will now go to the Church of England’s Synod in February and by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May for approval. A debate is scheduled at the Synod on Feb 16, 2016.

Here’s the full text from the report of the Columba Declaration

THE COLUMBA DECLARATION

38. In the light of our common mission and context (chapter 1), our agreement in faith (chapter 2) and our significant opportunities for growing in partnership in mission (chapter 3), we recommend that our churches make the following Declaration.

We, the Church of Scotland and the Church of England, make the following acknowledgements and commitments, which are interrelated.

a) Acknowledgements

(i) We acknowledge one another’s churches as churches belonging to the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and truly participating in the apostolic ministry and mission of the whole people of God.

(ii) We acknowledge that in both our churches the word of God is truly preached, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Communion are rightly administered.

(iii) We acknowledge that both our churches share in the common confession of the apostolic faith.

(iv) We acknowledge that one another’s ordained ministries of word and sacraments are given by God as instruments of grace and we look forward to a time when growth in communion can be expressed in fuller unity that makes possible the interchangeability of ministers.

(v) We acknowledge that personal, collegial and communal oversight (episkope) is embodied and exercised in our churches in a variety of forms, as a visible sign expressing and serving the Church’s unity and continuity in apostolic life, mission and ministry.

b) Commitments

We commit ourselves to grow together in communion and to strengthen our partnership in mission. Through this commitment, we hope to enrich our continuing relationships with other churches in the United Kingdom and around the world. We will welcome opportunities to draw other churches into the activities and initiatives that we share.

As part of that commitment, we will continue to:

(i) pray for and with one another;
(ii) welcome one another’s members to each other’s worship as guests and receive one another’s members into the congregational life of each other’s churches where that is their desire;
(iii) explore opportunities for congregational partnership, formal as well as informal, in those cases where there are churches in close geographical proximity;
(iv) enable ordained ministers from one of our churches to exercise ministry in the other church, in accordance with the discipline of each church;
(vi) identify theological issues that arise from growth towards fuller communion and be prepared to allocate resources to addressing them;
(vii) work together on social, political and ethical issues that arise from our participation in public life and be prepared to allocate resources to joint initiatives for addressing them.

In order to assist our churches in living out the acknowledgements and commitments of the Columba Declaration, we will appoint Co-Chairs and members of a Church of Scotland – Church of England Contact Group, whose purpose will be to coordinate the different activities that make up our rich relationship and develop new initiatives where these may be needed. The Contact Group will meet at least annually and will report annually to the Council for Christian Unity in the Church of England and the Committee on Ecumenical Relations in the Church of Scotland.

[This text is copied from the Church of England website (which has no hyperlinks) with links taken from the Church of Scotland website. – editor]

———

Some press reports

John Bingham Telegraph Church of England and Church of Scotland forge pact

BBC News Churches of Scotland and England reach first formal pact

———

Update

The Scottish Episcopal Church issued this statement today:

Response to Columba Declaration
December 24, 2015

A spokesperson for the Scottish Episcopal Church says “We have noted the announcement today about the Columba Declaration agreed between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England.

“We welcome the opportunity for the further ecumenical discussion referred to in today’s press statement and look forward to being able to consider the full text of the report when we receive this. We fully understand the desire of the Church of Scotland and the Church of England as national churches to discuss and explore matters of common concern. However certain aspects of the report which appear to go beyond the relationship of the two churches as national institutions cause us concern. The Scottish Episcopal Church, as a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, represents Anglicanism in Scotland, and we will therefore look forward to exploring the suggestions within the report more fully in due course.”

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Kenneth Gordonrobert ian williamsIainAndrew KleissnerJeremy Recent comment authors
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Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

It is astonishing that the Church of England should cross a Provincial border to negotiate an ecumenical agreement just before the Primates meeting in January.

And quite gauche and offensive of both churches to put out a statement saying that “joint ecumenical” work with the Scottish Episcopal Church is important whilst getting the name of the Scottish Episcopal Church completely wrong.

Anne
Guest
Anne

Sounds good. But please will somebody explain to me how this fits with the Scottish Episcopal Church? Thank you.

Kennedy
Guest
Kennedy

If,as is possible, that the CoS allows congregations to call ministers in a same-sex marriage will these married clergy be allowed to serve in parishes in England-shire?

And where is the Scottish Episcopal Church in all of this – you know, the Anglican church in Scotland?

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

O sing a new Song to the Lord!
Make, all and every one,
A joyful noise, even for the king
His restoration.

And now thou hast restored our State,
Pity our kirk also;
For she by tribulations
Is now brought very low!

Consume that High-Place, Patronage,
From off thy holy hill;
And in thy fury burn the book
Even of that man, M’Gill.

Now hear our Prayer, accept our Song,
And fight thy Chosen’s battle:
We seek but little, Lord, from thee,
Thou kens we get as little.

-Robert Burns ( abridged)

Anne
Guest
Anne

Thank you Kelvin. I hoped that I had missed something here, but it seems I haven’t. I hope it is no more than utter thoughtlessness that the C of E has entered in to this agreement without joining together with the Scottish Episcopal Church. Having been a member of SEC when I lived in Scotland I am sad that over forty years later the C of E is still behaving like a Colonial power. And to get the name wrong. Words fail me! I am delighted that there is agreement between the C of E and the C of S… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

The Scottish Episcopal Church has issued this statement. Amazing to show such restraint in not mentioning that the statement got the name of the SEC wrong. http://www.scotland.anglican.org/14409-2/ Response to Columba Declaration A spokesperson for the Scottish Episcopal Church says “We have noted the announcement today about the Columba Declaration agreed between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England. “We welcome the opportunity for the further ecumenical discussion referred to in today’s press statement and look forward to being able to consider the full text of the report when we receive this. We fully understand the desire of the… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

It’s hard to believe that reference to ‘Episcopal Church of Scotland’ would be stated in error.

Was the intention perhaps to have a ‘Church of Scotland’ and ‘Episcopal Church of Scotland’ seem parallel?

Or maybe there was an error, but it does seem odd.

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

ohmy…no mention of the SEC. That was sloppy. Wonder whose idea THAT was.

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

I don’t know how my brethren and sistren in the UK think of this sort of thing, but here in the US we sometimes use the phrase, “ham-handed.”

Paul Richardson
Guest
Paul Richardson

Wow! This has come out of the blue. I am not aware of any Ecumenical conversations leading up to this in the Churches Together network. Who has been behind this move, I wonder and how does it fit not only with CofE conversations with the URC but also with our covenant with the Methodists?

Kennedy
Guest
Kennedy

(iii) explore opportunities for congregational partnership, formal as well as informal, in those cases where there are churches in close geographical proximity;

Carlisle? Berwick on Tweed?

Sounds awfully like Provincial boundary crossing.

There is a phrase referring to the proximity of tanks and lawns.

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

At the risk of disappointing any of our conspiracy theorists, maybe it isn’t Berwick or Carlisle where C of S and C of E have close by churches. Nor will it be border crossing. More likely it will be those 20 or so C of S churches in the Presbyteries of England and Europe, and their C of E neighbours. And (at the risk of upsetting any members of the “If the C of E does it, it must be wrong” brigade) I can’t see any of the seven clauses in the agreement that should raise any alarms. Not least,… Read more »

keithmcianwil
Guest
keithmcianwil

As a cradle Anglican baptised in the (United) Church of South India, I welcome this agreement. As a Christian (even of a very liberal inclusive sort), I welcome what this agreement hopes for. But then there are comments of another sort. Surely, in this fragile Season of Hope, when we remember how and perhaps why our Saviour gets born in a dirty stinking animal shed, with no room in the inn, and recalling a certain tetrarch tried to eradicate a rival, we can see where our indignation and loyalty should really lie. “It shall not be so with you” says… Read more »

Kennedy
Guest
Kennedy

Here’s what Mark, the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness had to say on Facebook: “I had planned to spend today preparing a joyful Christmas message, instead I have spent Christmas Eve trying to discover who in the Church of England decided to issue a statement on closer links with the Church of Scotland. This statement was made without bothering to inform the Scottish Episcopal Church, their sister church in Scotland. As an ecumenical member of Inverness Presbytery I am clearly not upset about closer links between churches, but this matter has been handled so badly and dare I say… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

A Happy Christmas to Simon and all others who work on the Thinking Anglicans website.
I appreciate the effort you put into it, and the level of discourse on this site, compared to other sites I visit, is amazing!

Tim M
Guest
Tim M

Is there any role for the United Reformed Church in this? It is, after all, the primary inheritor of the Presbyterian tradition in England. Over 40 years after the formation of the present-day URC, many English towns still have formerly-Presbyterian URC congregations, where a significant proportion of the membership were born in Scotland and grew up in the Kirk.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Heartily seconded, Peterpi!

Kennedy
Guest
Kennedy

David Walker said …maybe it isn’t Berwick or Carlisle where C of S and C of E have close by churches. Nor will it be border crossing. More likely it will be those 20 or so C of S churches in the Presbyteries of England and Europe, and their C of E neighbours. Here’s the list of CofS congregations in england Presbytery of England[edit] Crown Court Church, London WC2 St Columba’s Church, London SW1 St Andrew’s, Liverpool – see also Church of Saint Andrew, Liverpool Corby, St Andrew’s NN17 Corby, St Ninian’s NN18 Jersey, St Columba’s Guernsey, St Andrew’s in… Read more »

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

And of course since Queen Victoria, British monarchs have been communicant members of the Church of Scotland.

Peter Owen
Guest

The Liverpool Church of Scotland congregation meets in the Anglican Cathedral, and has done for many years.

peter kettle
Guest
peter kettle

robert ian williams; And of course since Queen Victoria, British monarchs have been communicant members of the Church of Scotland.

But are they? I always understood that the monarch does not actually receive communion in the Church of Scotland, only attends the services. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

‘[T]his matter has been handled so badly and dare I say with great rudeness to those you are supposed to be “in communion” with.’

Fairly typical behavior from the Church of England.

ExRevd
Guest
ExRevd

So the Anglican Communion matters when it suits the CofE, as a figleaf for its bigotry and homophobia.

fr rob hall
Guest
fr rob hall

I don’t like to take issue with an outstanding bishop, much and fondly missed in our part of the world; but, re David Walker: ‘At the risk of disappointing any of our conspiracy theorists…’ I’m no conspiracy theorist but, if there are any in the C of E or indeed on Thinking Anglicans that may be because the C of E and its leadership appear to be profoundly nervous of transparency. Just in the past year we have had major strategic decisions appearing unexpectedly in the press before coming to Synod as a done-deal ( for example the Green Report… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Queen Victoria was a unique case and caused concern among the hierarchy of the C of E…there is an essay on Queen Victoria’s religion by Owen Chadwick which mentions that some of the correspondence relating to the incident ( it was a one off, I think) remains embargoed.I don’t think subsequent monarchs received communion in the Kirk until the present Queen who I think communicated when she was present in person at the General Assembly. Worth noting that Michael Ramsey also received on one occasion ( again at the General Assembly) but asked if he could receive kneeling.

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

Peter Kettle: Interesting point you raise; and I’d like just to share a little anecdotal with you: Fr Philip G once told me – it was in 1971 – that HM the Queen preferred the Church of Scotland; or, at least, no more vestments then surplice and stole. The things one remembers 44 years later!

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

And out of interest the Presbyterian Reformed Church of France has had a church in the crypt of Canterbury cathedral since 1565.

Also Hanoverian monarchs were co-communicants with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hannover.

Jim
Guest
Jim
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Can’t say I know a whole lot about this issue and the implications; but I have a couple of questions. Is this agreement possibly an alliance between two established national churches that fear themselves endangered species? Is the arrangement a kind of subterfuge in with politics hidden in ecumenism? Just asking.

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

The Queen is a Lord High Commissioner of the Kirk, and has a reserved seat in general assembly..it is inconceivable that she would not be a communicant.
The Royal family are not very deep thinking on religion… Prince Phillip gave up his Greek Orthodox faith to marry into the British royal family.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

As the Primus says, “The Church of England is not a Scottish Church nor does it have any jurisdiction in Scotland.”

This is a point that several provinces are having to make to the Church of England–so far with little success.

Strange it is to try to apologize for 19th-century imperialism by renewing the imperialisms of earlier centuries.

Andrew Kleissner
Guest
Andrew Kleissner

Not a CofS congregation as such, but St. Columba’s URC in Cambridge functions as the CofS Chaplaincy for the University and uses CH4 in its worship.

Iain
Guest
Iain

Robert Ian Williams – The Queen has acted as Lord High Commissioner twice, I think. She is not a member of the General Assembly, nor is the Lord High Commissioner.

Prince Philip remains Orthodox, I understand, and has had an Orthodox chapel constructed. He probably, though, as you suggest is ‘not very deep thinking on religion’, but I do not think the same can be said of his wife or eldest son, or, for that matter, his late mother in law or sister in law

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

Prince Philip was received into the Church of England in 1947.

Kenneth Gordon
Guest
Kenneth Gordon

I find it all the more surprising that the Scottish Episcopal Church was wrongly named “The Episcopal Church of Scotland” in the Report of the Study Group whose Co-Chair was the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester. He trained for the ministry at the Scottish Episcopal Theological College in Edinburgh (then known as Coates Hall)and obtained his BD and PhD degrees at the University of Edinburgh.