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

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

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

  • reaffirm their commitment to the goal offull visible unity
  • welcome the theological principles of theSCIFU report, which are an expression of thatcommitment
  • approve the SCIFU proposal in generalterms as an appropriate model for pursuing full, visible unity inScotland, recognising there are many stages in theprocess
  • initiate consultation throughout the lifeof the four churches and not excluding other churches, to shareresources and integrate structures, grasping the opportunitiesarising from the many changes currently occurring in all ofthem
  • promote and facilitate the piloting of themodel locally and more widely where relations between any of theparticipating churches are sufficiently developed and
  • continue the search for full visible unitythrough a new group appointed by the four, to complete theunfinished business of the SCIFU proposal and prepare a Basis andPlan of Union.

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

A 'National Council' meeting annually, would be "the chief locusof authority" able to declare the mind of the Church in matters oflife and witness and final court of appeal (Page 9) approving theunited Church budget and specifying sums available for the Church'svarious areas of work. Elders would be a vital part of the Church,locally, regionally and nationally. Deacons - perhaps one in everymaxi parish - would "stir up consciences" on justice, peace andintegrity of creation, "encouraging them to get politicallyinvolved with issues of justice and environmental concern".

The Bishop would be "a pastor to the pastors" their families andthe ministry team. He or she would work closely with office bearersof the region and be expected to give "personal leadership andinspiration" to evangelism, fostering and nurturing communities offaith and articulating the demand for social justice for all inChrist's name.

SCIFU began its work in 1996 in the closing years of "theecumenical century of the Christian Church" when Christians fromdifferent traditions, "often bitterly and even violently divided"began to talk, work and witness together and even re-unite afterlong separation. SCIFU is more precisely, the "child" of theMultilateral Church Conversation. That Church of Scotlandinitiative was inspired by the 1964 British Council of ChurchesConference on Faith and Order, held in Nottingham, which challengedchurches to "covenant together to work and pray for inauguration ofunion in appropriate groupings such as nations."

In 1997 four Churches have been working towards unity- the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, the ScottishEpiscopal Church and the United Reformed Church. The Roman CatholicChurch in Scotland and the United Free Church wereobservers.

Read the comments of the Scotland Methodist DistrictChairman

Read thefull report

Contacts for further details are:
The Rev Jim Jones, District Chair, Methodist Church ScotlandDistrict. 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: 01355222659
The Rev Marjory MacLean, Church of Scotland. Tel: 0131 225 5722