A landmark report proposing the Church of Scotland and the Church of England enter into an historic ecumenical partnership agreement has been published today.
The Columba Declaration is scheduled for debate at the Church of England’s General Synod next month and at the Kirk’s General Assembly in May.
The proposed partnership agreement has led to a rare invitation to the Right Rev Angus Morrison, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to address the General Synod.
The Rev Dr John L McPake, co-chair of the joint study group and one of the authors of the report, said the Columba Declaration affirmed the distinct identities of both churches but recognised that the challenges of mission in the 21st Century “cannot be addressed in isolation from one another”.
It would also allow ministers from both the Church of Scotland and Church of England to give sermons in each other’s churches.
Denominations would also welcome one another’s members into congregations.
However, Rev McPake said both churches would retain their own identities.
“There is no suggestion of merger and coming together. That has never been on the table. The Declaration is about two distinct expressions of Church faith.”
Asked if the Declaration would be extended to include the Catholic Church, he replied: “We hope the Declaration and report will provide opportunities for further conversation in whichever way is appropriate.
Under the terms of the Columba Declaration, the Church of Scotland and Church of England would pray for and with one another, explore opportunities for ecumenical partnerships in England and continental Europe and identify theological, social, political and ethical issues that arise and be prepared to allocate resources to joint initiatives for addressing them.
In 2015 a group of churches established the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union as a response to concerns that low-income families needed access to low-cost banking and loans. And that’s just one of the areas where the two churches already are collaborating.
The Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council and the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs are in discussion regularly about a range of issues from poverty to refugees.