15 January 2003

Model proposed for Scottish Churches is 'first steps' on way to union

The fruit of seven years' work towards the unity of the Christian Church in Scotland - "a few, first steps on the way to union" - are published this week in a report by the Scottish Church Initiative for Union (SCIFU) group.

Recommendations for a model of a united Church, call on the churches involved * to:

  • reaffirm their commitment to the goal of full visible unity
  • welcome the theological principles of the SCIFU report, which are an expression of that commitment
  • approve the SCIFU proposal in general terms as an appropriate model for pursuing full, visible unity in Scotland, recognising there are many stages in the process
  • initiate consultation throughout the life of the four churches and not excluding other churches, to share resources and integrate structures, grasping the opportunities arising from the many changes currently occurring in all of them
  • promote and facilitate the piloting of the model locally and more widely where relations between any of the participating churches are sufficiently developed and
  • continue the search for full visible unity through a new group appointed by the four, to complete the unfinished business of the SCIFU proposal and prepare a Basis and Plan of Union.

At the heart of the proposal is the 'Maxi Parish' (Page 4) in which worshipping communities would work together under one leadership body and be grouped together in Regions, with the office of Bishop and a 'Regional Council' to carry out the responsibilities at this level. Fundamental to the life of each congregation and in line with commitment to "the ministry of the whole people of God," would be a 'Church Meeting' of members and a 'Congregational Council' to enable each congregation to carry out its responsibilities. 

A 'National Council' meeting annually, would be "the chief locus of authority" able to declare the mind of the Church in matters of life and witness and final court of appeal (Page 9) approving the united Church budget and specifying sums available for the Church's various areas of work. Elders would be a vital part of the Church, locally, regionally and nationally. Deacons - perhaps one in every maxi parish - would "stir up consciences" on justice, peace and integrity of creation, "encouraging them to get politically involved with issues of justice and environmental concern".

The Bishop would be "a pastor to the pastors" their families and the ministry team. He or she would work closely with office bearers of the region and be expected to give "personal leadership and inspiration" to evangelism, fostering and nurturing communities of faith and articulating the demand for social justice for all in Christ's name.

SCIFU began its work in 1996 in the closing years of "the ecumenical century of the Christian Church" when Christians from different traditions, "often bitterly and even violently divided" began to talk, work and witness together and even re-unite after long separation. SCIFU is more precisely, the "child" of the Multilateral Church Conversation. That Church of Scotland initiative was inspired by the 1964 British Council of Churches Conference on Faith and Order, held in Nottingham, which challenged churches to "covenant together to work and pray for inauguration of union in appropriate groupings such as nations."

In 1997 four Churches have been working towards unity - the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the United Reformed Church. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the United Free Church were observers.

Read the comments of the Scotland Methodist District Chairman

Read the full report

Contacts for further details are:
The Rev Jim Jones, District Chair, Methodist Church Scotland District. Tel: 01355 237411
The Rt Rev Michael Henley (Convener), Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane. Tel: 01738 443173
The Rev Alan Paterson, United Reformed Church. Tel: 01355 222659
The Rev Marjory MacLean, Church of Scotland. Tel: 0131 225 5722

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