15 October 2010

Churches vote to stand with the poor

In the first ever joint meeting of the United Reformed Church Mission Council and the Methodist Council, the Councils voted to work together to challenge the causes of poverty and inequality ingrained in British society.

The joint meeting took place at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, on 13-15 October and encouraged members of both Councils to explore the areas in which the Churches might be most effective when working together.

Council members voted to confirm their commitment to the living wage, to stand alongside those poorest and most vulnerable, and to campaign for benefit and wage policies that allow people to live and work in dignity. This will involve working with other partners, including the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Church Action on Poverty.

The Revd Dr Kirsty Thorpe, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, reflecting on the council, commented: "The joint sessions have shown that the two denominations share much, perhaps more than they ever imagined. On issues such as poverty and the commitment to the young people and children in our congregations we share a common mind. It has been a positive three days and as a result of our time together we have reaffirmed our shared commitment to Jesus and our desire to serve him."

"This joint meeting signals a real appetite in both Churches for being the best we can be as Christian disciples," added the Revd Alison Tomlin, President of the Methodist Conference. "In all our discussions we have seen a deeper commitment to working together to make Christ's love known in the world, to challenge poverty and injustice wherever we find it and to support and share with one another on our different journeys."

In their discussions, the Councils re-committed themselves to working together with children and young people in Britain through the widest variety of means. They also agreed to form a group to take forward recent joint work between the Methodist Church and the URC on church buildings, focusing on the potential to share expertise and resources.

The URC Mission Council and the Methodist Council also met separately to discuss matters affecting the Churches individually.

In its separate business sessions the Mission Council of the United Reformed Church considered a range of business issues including a resolution from the Human Sexuality Task Group, which was brought following the passing of the Equality Act. The Council heard that the act will require a statement of URC policy on whether or not its church buildings may be registered for holding civil partnership ceremonies and the Mission Council authorised the Task Group to begin work on writing such a policy.

In its separate sessions, the Methodist Council discussed a range of issues, including how the Church's structures might best encourage and facilitate the Church's mission in local and regional areas. Council members also welcomed the news that the Fijian government has dropped most of the charges against leaders of the Methodist Church in Fiji. The members of the Fiji Methodist Church Standing Committee were charged with attending an unauthorized meeting held in April 2009, and all but four of them have had their charges dropped due to 'insufficient evidence'.

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