General Synod votes to approve historic agreement between Churches

Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison
Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison addresses the Synod of the Church of England.

An historic agreement recognising the longstanding ecumenical partnership between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England and paving the way for future joint working between the two churches has been backed today by the General Synod.

Members voted to approve the Columba Declaration and welcome Growth in Communion, Partnership in Mission,a report by the Joint Study Group of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, as a 'significant development' in the relationship between the two churches.

The General Synod also called on the Council for Christian Unity to oversee the implementation of the commitments in the declaration and to set up a Contact Group to coordinate future work between the two churches.

The motion backed by the General Synod also notes the Church of England's valued relationship with the Scottish Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion and requests that the Council for Christian Unity ensures that the Scottish Episcopal Church is invited to appoint a representative to attend meetings of the Contact Group.

The vote on the motion as amended was 243 to 50 with 49 abstentions.

Commending the report and declaration, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison, told the General Synod: "The strengthening of the bonds which already exist between us can only serve the 'advance of the Gospel' which is our united desire and aim.

"I am fully persuaded that that the Report and the Columba Declaration now before the Synod for debate offers us all a very special opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to move forward together and to work out together the implications for us all, and for the vital mission we share, of the concern so close to Jesus' heart." Find the full text of the Moderator's address here.

Moving the motion, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, co-chair of the Joint Study Group, said: "The dialogue and partnership between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland is shaped by our shared calling as 'national' churches, which have a parish structure covering the nation, and a recognition by the State and wider society.

"As our country has become more secular, we find ourselves drawn together as we face common problems, and opportunities.

"For all the ways in which our recognition and calling as national Churches has had very different histories and legal structures, we have found that we have more in common, in our common tasks in mission, than we might have been led to suppose."

The report will now go to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May for approval.

The Columba Declaration is set out in the 15-page Joint Study Group report and commits the two churches to grow together in communion and strengthen their partnership in mission.

To read the report and the declaration in full, along with a cover note from the Council for Christian Unity and a preface from the study group co-chairs the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster and the Rev Dr John McPake, download the pdf here.