Published: Friday, 04 July 2014 20:37
Following a discussion on the marriage of same-sex couples, General Assembly is to appoint a facilitation group to draw up a resolution on the issue, which will be debated later in the Assembly.
Before the discussion began, chaplain Nigel Uden led Assembly in prayer, asking that the “lively presence of the Holy Spirit” would not be resisted. Elizabeth Caswell, convener of the Human Sexuality Task Group, explained that the group had not wanted to steer Assembly by bringing its own resolution. Instead it wished to encourage open discussion, allowing General Assembly to “listen and listen”, trust the Holy Spirit and “see what happens next”.
A range of views and personal stories were shared in a plenary forum chaired by moderator David Grosch-Miller:
Published: Friday, 04 July 2014 16:49
General Assembly discussed the future of the church, and agreed to three resolutions instructing the Faith and Order committee to continue with its work on this and bring a proposal to the 2016 Assembly. Presenting the resolutions, the Revd Elizabeth Welch, said that they affirm the United Reformed Church’s identity as both united and Reformed. They affirm the URC’s gift of conciliarity while opening up conversation on how well it is working and how to develop it, she said. And they match a need - the lack of ministers - with a gift of the Reformed tradition - eldership.
Comments from delegates included the following: “The URC should be a prophetic witness to unity even if other denominations are no longer so interested.” “We need to consider how developing URC conciliarity will effect LEPs.” “Changing the role of elders should be done for theological reasons, not just to plug a gap.” Mrs Welch said the committee would look at the issues raised before presenting their 2016 proposal.
Published: Friday, 04 July 2014 16:46
The subject of segregation in faith schools was debated in a special interest group led by the Accord Coalition. The chair of Accord, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, argued that Judaism and the United Reformed Church have a common cause of fairness, which is not always what happens in admissions to faith schools. Children of all faiths should attend the same school, he said, and church schools should teach all religions, not just their own.
The second member of the panel, Revd Ian McDonald, argued that Christianity is incompatible with favouritism. He said that the present system encourages hypocrisy - going to church purely to get a school place. The third panellist, the Revd Tim Meachin, shared his experience as a teacher, that faith schools can operate fairly, giving pupils a strong sense of mission and what they can go on to achieve, but can also be highly exclusive.
It emerged in the discussion that there are both state schools and private schools operating under a URC banner, but that delegates didn’t know a lot about them as there is no central oversight. The questions were raised: Could more information be made available? Could a URC policy statement be made on fairness in school selection?
Published: Friday, 04 July 2014 11:27
The ballots have opened today for the election of moderators of General Assembly 2016-2018. Following an explanation of the electoral process and a prayer for the election given by moderator John Ellis, Assembly members proceeded to cast their votes.
The three candidates for the position of ministerial moderator are as follows:
- The Revd Martin Camroux, recently retired minister of Trinity Church in Sutton, Surrey, former convener of the church and society committee and co-founder of the Free to Believe group;
- The Revd John Durrell, retired minister and member of the North East synod development team – and convenor of the Assembly nominations committee;
- The Revd Kevin Watson, Yorkshire synod moderator and formerly a minister in both Wales and Yorkshire synods.
The candidate for the position of elder moderator is: Alan Yates, an accredited lay preacher, elder and former member of the Thames North synod executive committee.
The results will be announced later in the Assembly.