21 March 2002

British Free Churches address the Queen for her Golden Jubilee

British Free Churches have today presented a Loyal Address to the Queen to mark her Golden Jubilee year. In doing so, they expressed hope that members of other faith communities in the UK be allowed to enjoy the same religious freedoms that previous generations of protestant leaders successfully strove to achieve for the non-conformist Christian churches.

The Free Churches expressed gratitude for a Britain which shares "a vigilant concern for tolerance, freedom and mutual care", as they thanked the Queen for her 50 years of service to the people of the UK and Commonwealth.

Representatives of the Free Churches taking part in a deputation to Buckingham Palace today included leaders of the Baptist, Methodist, Unitarian and United Reformed Churches, and officials representing other Free Churches in England and Wales.

Presenting the Loyal Address on behalf of the deputation, the Rev Peter Godfrey of the (Unitarian) Westminster Divines, said: "we offer Your Majesty our loyal congratulations upon the 50thanniversary of Your accession to the Throne.

"The experience of past centuries in which our forbears strove to achieve freedom of religious practice and parity under the law cause us to prize highly the liberty we now enjoy and to seek it for our fellow citizens in other faith communities."

The Secretary of the Free Churches Group, the Rev Geoffrey Roper, said after the deputation left Buckingham Palace: "The make-up of our deputation says something about the Free Churches in 2002. We are no longer all-white, all male nor all middle-aged. We are showing today the vitality and variety of a significant element in the nation which the Queen has served so constantly these fifty years."

The Loyal Address of the Free Churches has a long history, dating back to the reign of William III and Mary II in the 17th century. Recognised representatives of the nonconformist protestant churches were given access to address the monarch on special occasions or to bring more specific matters of grievance on issues such as freedom to worship and the citizenship rights of Free Church people. At present this representation is undertaken by the Free Churches Group.

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