Historic ecumenical partnership agreement signed

Dr Russell Barr
Dr Russell Barr and Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby sign the Columba Declaration.

A landmark agreement to enter into an historic ecumenical partnership has been signed by the Church of Scotland and the Church of England.

Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly, and Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby made the Columba Declaration official in London.

The ceremony at Crown Court Church near Covent Garden was attended by a range of dignitaries including Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, Principal Clerk of the Church of Scotland, Rev Canon John McLuckie of the Scottish Episcopal Church and representatives of the Church of England and British Armed Forces.

The Columba Declaration, which was 15 years in the making, represents a "significant step" between the two denominations and will open up new future possibilities of closer working together to develop God's Church.

The Scottish Episcopal Church will also be involved.

Whole people of God

The Declaration marks the Church of England and the Church of Scotland’s mutual acknowledgment of each other as ‘belonging to the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and truly participating in the apostolic ministry and mission of the whole people of God.’

Among the mutual commitments the Churches make in the Declaration, all building on the foundational one: ‘We commit ourselves to grow together in communion and to strengthen our partnership in mission.’

Under the terms of the agreement, the Church of Scotland and the Church of England would welcome one another's members into congregations and ordained ministers would be allowed to exercise ministry within the existing discipline of each church, though only within England and continental Europe.

Dr Barr said: "We share, in part, a common history because we are churches shaped by the Reformation.

"We share a common calling which is to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ in places in which we are called to minister.

"Some of those places are hard places, they are at the margins of our society and sometimes beyond the margins but that is where we will find Jesus Christ."

Right Rev Dr Russell Barr

Growth

Dr Barr said the Declaration, backed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May and General Synod of the Church of England in February, was "modest".

But he added that it was historic as both churches have now acknowledged each other and committed themselves to growth in communion and partnership.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said the Columba Declaration represented a commitment for the two denominations to "learn to work properly" together, along with the Scottish Episcopal Church.

"It is a sense of great joy that we have got there - It is good news," he added.

But the Archbishop said the declaration did not represent a "dramatic" step because the Church of Scotland was not introducing Bishops and the Church of England was not introducing Presbyteries.

The Columba Declaration was signed on Monday.