13 March 2003

Presidents of Churches Together in England sign personal covenant

New Free Churches Moderator is inducted - and makes commitment with fellow Christian leaders

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Rev David Coffey, Moderator of the Free Churches, have endorsed a Personal Covenant between the Presidents of Churches Together in England (CTE) on Wednesday 12 March.

The signing took place during the Induction of David Coffey as the new Free Churches Moderator at Westbourne Park Baptist Church, Paddington, on Wednesday 12 March. The Free Churches Group represents 15 different denominations in England - including the Methodist Church - on various occasions. More than a million adults and children belong to the free churches represented by the Moderator.

An original Covenant was signed by the Presidents of Churches Together in England on 2 June 2002 immediately following the Jubilee Service at St George's Chapel, Windsor in a ceremony in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen. Since then, Dr Williams has succeeded Archbishop Carey, and this week saw David Coffey take over from Revd Anthony Burnham as Free Church Moderator.

The other signatories to the Covenant are the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and the Rev Esme Beswick, of the Joint Anglo Caribbean Council of Churches.

All the Presidents stress that this is a personal Covenant, indicative of where they feel themselves to be in the pilgrimage towards Christian unity.

The wording was worked out by the Presidents themselves. The first part is based on the Charta Ecumenica, a document drawn up to improve working relations between churches in Europe, by the Conference of European Churches and the Council of European Bishops' Conferences. The second part draws on the experience of Personal Covenants used in the intermediate (county) ecumenical bodies.

The Presidents are planning a 24 hour consultation of church leaders of the Member Churches of Churches Together in England in September, when they will be invited to share the aims of the Covenant and to comment on the ways in which it can be implemented.

The Presidents of Churches Together in England are currently:

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams
  • The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
  • The Free Churches Moderator, the Rev David Coffey
  • the Rev Esme Beswick, of the Joint Anglo Caribbean Council of Churches.

Bill Snelson, General Secretary of Churches Together in England, said: "Everyone is delighted that the hopes and commitments expressed last June are being taken forward by a new generation of Church Leaders and Presidents of Churches Together in England. The Presidents' Covenant will enhance the united mission of the Church in this country, and it should be an encouragement to local Christians to see how they can work and witness more effectively together."


A PERSONAL COVENANT (full text)

between the Presidents of Churches Together in England

Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:3-6

We believe in the Triune God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because we confess "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" our paramount ecumenical task is to show forth this unity, which is always a gift of God. Jesus Christ revealed to us on the cross his love and the mystery of reconciliation; as his followers, we intend to do our utmost to overcome the problems and obstacles that still divide the churches.

We rejoice that the Churches in England are steadily growing closer in mutual trust and respect. As Presidents of Churches Together in England we have in common many joys and hopes, and we have much to offer and to receive from one another in the rich diversity of our traditions.

We believe that in our common pilgrimage we are being led by the Holy Spirit, and that God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, is calling us to a deeper unity and to a greater sharing in our mission in his world.

We therefore commit ourselves

  • to persevere in seeking a common understanding of Christ's message of salvation in the Gospel;
  • in the power of the Holy Spirit, to work towards the visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ in the one faith, expressed in common discipleship, worship, witness and service.

We undertake

  • to develop our mutual friendship and support,
  • to pray, study and work together for the unity and mission of the Church,
  • to consult together on issues affecting the common good,
  • to promote justice, integrity and peace,
  • to speak with one voice to give common witness to Jesus Christ, as far as we are able.

We pray God to lead us, with all our sisters and brothers in Christ, towards communion in faith, life and witness; so that, united in one body by the one Spirit, we may together witness to the perfect unity of his love.


Notes: Created in 1990, Churches Together in England is the officially recognised inter-church body for England. It "unites in pilgrimage those churches in England which, acknowledging God's revelation in Christ, confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures, and, in obedience to God's will and in the power of the Holy Spirit commit themselves: to seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another in the Church, which is his body; and to fulfil their mission to proclaim the Gospel by common witness and service in the world to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

Churches Together in England (CTE) is made up of twenty three Churches or fellowships of Churches, including most of those in membership of the Free Churches' Group. CTE relates to and supports Intermediate (County) and local ecumenical "Churches Together" groupings, each of which is autonomous.

The Free Churches Group has elected Moderators since 1940. They represent free church people on national occasions, appear as 'patron' or 'honorary president' of many causes and charities, and are available to the media for a Free Churches viewpoint. The Moderator is appointed four years. The Rev David Coffey has been General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain since 1991.

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