Presidents of Churches Together in England sign personal covenant

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

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

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

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

The other signatories to the Covenant are the Roman CatholicArchbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and theRev Esme Beswick, of the Joint Anglo Caribbean Council ofChurches.

All the Presidents stress that this isa personal Covenant, indicative of where theyfeel themselves to be in the pilgrimage towards Christianunity.

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

The Presidents are planning a 24 hour consultation of churchleaders of the Member Churches of Churches Together in England inSeptember, when they will be invited to share the aims of theCovenant and to comment on the ways in which it can beimplemented.

The Presidents of Churches Together in England arecurrently:

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most RevDr Rowan Williams
  • The Archbishop of Westminster, CardinalCormac Murphy-O'Connor
  • The Free Churches Moderator, the Rev DavidCoffey
  • the Rev Esme Beswick, of the Joint AngloCaribbean Council of Churches.

Bill Snelson, General Secretary of ChurchesTogether in England, said: "Everyone is delighted that the hopesand commitments expressed last June are being taken forward by anew generation of Church Leaders and Presidents of ChurchesTogether in England. The Presidents' Covenant will enhance theunited mission of the Church in this country, and it should be anencouragement to local Christians to see how they can work andwitness more effectively together."


between the Presidents of Churches Together inEngland

Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in thebond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you werecalled to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, onebaptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and throughall 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" ourparamount ecumenical task is to show forth this unity, which isalways a gift of God. Jesus Christ revealed to us on the cross hislove and the mystery of reconciliation; as his followers, we intendto do our utmost to overcome the problems and obstacles that stilldivide the churches.

We rejoice that the Churches in Englandare steadily growing closer in mutual trust and respect. AsPresidents of Churches Together in England we have in common manyjoys and hopes, and we have much to offer and to receive from oneanother in the rich diversity of our traditions.

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

We therefore commit ourselves

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

We undertake

  • to develop our mutual friendship andsupport,
  • to pray, study and work together for theunity and mission of the Church,
  • to consult together on issues affectingthe common good,
  • to promote justice, integrity andpeace,
  • 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 oursisters and brothers in Christ, towards communion in faith, lifeand witness; so that, united in one body by the one Spirit, we maytogether witness to the perfect unity of his love.

Notes: Created in 1990, Churches Together in England is theofficially recognised inter-church body for England. It "unites inpilgrimage those churches in England which, acknowledging God'srevelation in Christ, confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God andSaviour according to the Scriptures, and, in obedience to God'swill and in the power of the Holy Spirit commit themselves: to seeka deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another inthe Church, which is his body; and to fulfil their mission toproclaim the Gospel by common witness and service in the world tothe glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

Churches Together in England (CTE) is made up of twentythree Churches or fellowships of Churches, including most of thosein membership of the Free Churches' Group. CTE relates to andsupports Intermediate (County) and local ecumenical "ChurchesTogether" 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, andare available to the media for a Free Churches viewpoint. TheModerator is appointed four years. The Rev David Coffey has beenGeneral Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain since1991.