Church leaders act with unprecedented Christian unity
Published on 6 April 2020
In an unprecedented act of Christian unity, 22 senior religious leaders from across Britain and Ireland came together on Wednesday 1 April for a video conference.
The Moderator, Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Bishop Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Bishop of Aberdeen, Hugh Gilbert, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, all joined the conference, which was initiated by Archbishop Justin Welby to offer church leaders the opportunity to share the situation in each of their jurisdictions during the coronavirus outbreak.
The group also released a statement calling on Christians to pray together and help and support neighbours in need as they celebrate Holy Week.
Welcoming the statement, the Scottish Church Leaders Forum added their own words to the statement, saying, "We are faced with a series of unprecedented challenges that are impacting upon every aspect of the fabric of our society."
The Scottish Church Leaders Forum statement was signed by representatives of nine denominations, and included Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Moderator.
Senior officers of many of the churches also held discussions on 1 April, looking at online worship, pastoral care in hospitals, funeral arrangements and furlough arrangements being considered by some churches.
The statement is supported by churches in membership of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, along with Churches Together in England, Cytun, ACTS and the Irish Council of Churches. Read a Gaelic version of both statements.
British and Irish church leaders' statement
God's world is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. In the nations that make up Britain and Ireland the Covid-19 virus continues to affect people at an alarming rate. Health services along with many of our institutions and organisations, both local and national, are under extreme pressure and people are getting used to living in a very different way, many in extreme isolation. As with all such crises, there is a danger that the most vulnerable in society will be most badly affected.
Christians the world over are entering an important time in the church year as we look to the events of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. At the centre of our common faith are both the depths of despair and the heights of joy. In the Bible and in the songs and liturgies of the Church, we see Jesus entering fully into human suffering. In His rising again, that suffering is redeemed and transformed into hope and joy. After Jesus' death his disciples were afraid and all seemed lost and hopeless, but the risen Christ met them in their despair and restored hope through his victory over death. We pray that the world today might know this hope in place of despair.
In the Book of Daniel we read about God's people being taken into exile in Babylon. Daniel could not pray in the Temple in Jerusalem, but he continued to pray in exile – opening his window to face Jerusalem. Though he was on his own he joined with the prayers of the people wherever they were. Now we too are separated from each other physically, but when we pray in our homes we join in with this ancient tradition of our home as a place of prayer. Wherever we are, whenever we pray, when we speak and think of Christ, there he is in the midst of us. We join our prayers with all those who pray in our own churches and communities and around the world.
As church leaders from across the many and varied churches of these Islands we urge all people to join us in prayer this Holy Week and Easter; to pray for those who suffer, those who face untimely death and all those who care for them; to celebrate our common faith at a difficult time; to help and support our neighbours in need; and to observe all the safeguards in place to slow the spread of disease.
Loving God, in Jesus Christ,
who died and rose again for our salvation,
cast out the darkness of our anxiety, fear and mourning,
enfold us in your love and give us joy and hope this Easter.
Scottish Church Leaders Forum statement
On behalf of the churches in Scotland, we welcome the statement by the leaders of churches from across the nations of Britain and Ireland.
Within Scotland, as elsewhere, we are faced with a series of unprecedented challenges that are impacting upon every aspect of the fabric of our society.
In the threat to life and livelihood being experienced by so many at this time, we are conscious of the need to remain open to the life of God and to the life of the world.
In the course of this Holy Week, we know that we shall hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'
The experience of being abandoned and forsaken is not absent from the life of God lived out in this world.
Equally, we are conscious that our faith affirms that this experience does not mark the boundary of the love of God.
As we journey through this week, through Good Friday and on to the day of Resurrection, we pray:
Lord of Creation,
Be with us on this journey towards the healing of your world and people.
hold us when we feel alone,
carry us when we lose our strength
and heal us when we are afraid.
Let people of faith speak today with a voice of love,
The love shown to us through the power of the Spirit
and in the love and sacrifice of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Scottish Church leaders statement was signed by:
- Rt. Rev. Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
- Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
- Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
- Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
- Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
- Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
- Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
- Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
- Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
- Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland