British Free Churches address the Queen for her Golden Jubilee

British Free Churches have today presented a Loyal Address tothe Queen to mark her Golden Jubilee year. In doing so, theyexpressed hope that members of other faith communities in the UK beallowed to enjoy the same religious freedoms that previousgenerations of protestant leaders successfully strove to achievefor the non-conformist Christian churches.

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

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

Presenting the Loyal Address on behalf of the deputation, theRev Peter Godfrey of the (Unitarian) Westminster Divines, said: "weoffer Your Majesty our loyal congratulations upon the50thanniversary of Your accession to the Throne.

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

The Secretary of the Free Churches Group, the Rev GeoffreyRoper, said after the deputation left Buckingham Palace: "Themake-up of our deputation says something about the Free Churches in2002. We are no longer all-white, all male nor all middle-aged. Weare showing today the vitality and variety of a significant elementin the nation which the Queen has served so constantly these fiftyyears."

The Loyal Address of the Free Churches has a long history,dating back to the reign of William III and Mary II in the17th century. Recognised representatives of thenonconformist protestant churches were given access to address themonarch on special occasions or to bring more specific matters ofgrievance on issues such as freedom to worship and the citizenshiprights of Free Church people. At present this representation isundertaken by the Free Churches Group.