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General Assembly Daily Summary

United Reformed Church General Assembly 2014 daily summary:


Saturday 5 July 2014:

Bible study
The morning’s Bible study was led by the Revd Kate Gray of the Dandelion Community in Manchester. Her theme was Isaiah chapter 12 (NRSV) and she focused specifically on verse 3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

Revd Gray reflected on what salvation can mean: balming, healing, the wholeness of a life with God. She explored how a wellspring of faith brings joy, yet can be difficult to access - and illustrated the point by looking at two stories behind wells and water where great suffering and faith have been involved. 

Moderators elect announced
The results are in for the United Reformed Church General Assembly moderators serving from 2016 to 2018; the Revd Kevin Watson – the current Yorkshire synod moderator – has been elected as the ministerial moderator, and Alan Yates – an accredited lay preacher, elder and former member of the Thames North synod executive committee – has been elected to the role of lay moderator.

WWI commemoration
David Tatem, URC secretary of ecumenical relations, introduced a commemoration of World War I, welcoming visiting speaker Decan Michael Pernt-Weigal to offer a German perspective.

Michael Pernt –Weigel is minister of a church in Winnweiler within the Church of the Palatinate with which the United Reformed Church has had a Covenant of Table and Pulpit since 1957. His church is twinned with St Andrew’s United Reformed Church in Southampton.

Assembly appointments
The Revd John Proctor was formally appointed as general secretary of the United Reformed Church. The Revd Michael Hopkins was appointed as clerk of the United Reformed Church General Assembly.

Foodbanks resource commended to churches
The Faith in Foodbanks? resource pack produced by the Joint Public Issues Team was unanimously commended to churches by Assembly. The Revd Tracey Lewis, presenting the resolution, noted increasing numbers of people having to use foodbanks, who are not “scroungers” but people, often working, who cannot make ends meet. It is presently only available online, but Assembly agreed that a print version should be produced, which the Mission Committee agreed to. You can download the resources here

Church commits to mental health awareness
The Revd Tim Meachin, children’s and youth work committee convener, and Matthew Barclay, FURY moderator, presented a resolution on mental health, committing the URC to raising awareness of mental ill health issues, providing adequate training, and work towards ending the stigma of mental ill health.

Mr Meachin said: “The resolution may seem obvious but our attitudes to differences of sex, race & gender have changed because some people have kept pushing them.”

Mr Barclay explained that they were not asking ministers to fix problems, but asking the URC to grow in understanding of mental ill health. Members of Assembly warmly welcomed the resolution, sharing stories of mental ill health and concerns about how it is dealt with. It was passed by consensus.

Community Awards Project Winners
General Assembly announced the winner of this year’s Community Project Awards, which are sponsored by Congregational & General.
The overall winner, presented with a cheque for £3,500 and a wall plaque, was Glenorchy Work Club. Based at Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth, the Work Club provides specialist help to unemployed people in the area following the closure of Exmouth job centre. Three equal runners-up projects, each receiving £2000 and a commemorative wall plaque were: the Messy Church SEND project for children with special educational needs and disabilities – and their carers and families, at Adeyfield Free Church in Hemel Hempstead; Chapelfield Grow your Own, growing organic vegetables to give away to local people in need, at Stand United Reformed Church in Manchester; and Hope Restored, a support project for homeless people, operating from Gloddaeth United Church in Llandudno.

Item on student financing remaindered
A debate on reshaping the denomination’s financial support for ministerial training was remaindered for a later business session.

Marriage of same-sex couples debate

The Revd John Proctor has issued the following statement on behalf of the Assembly Arrangements committee:


 "A clear majority of members of Assembly expressed the view that local congregations should be permitted to offer same-sex marriage to those who seek that opportunity. However, because our decision-making process is based on the seeking of full consensus, Assembly was unable to reach agreement."


Friday 4 July 2014:


Discussion on the future of the Church
General Assembly discussed the future of the United Reformed 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.

Election of moderators of General Assembly 2016-18
Ballots opened 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 the Revd Martin Camroux, the Revd John Durrell and the Revd Kevin Watson. The candidate for the position of elder moderator is accredited lay preacher, Alan Yates. The results will be announced later in the Assembly.


The United Reformed Church and the Trussell Trust take the debate on food poverty to the pews for “Breadline Question Time”

FaithInFoodbanks-Trussell-Trust-Foodbank-UseThe United Reformed Church and the Trussell Trust, Wales, will be challenging the growing crisis of food poverty in Wales by hosting a “Breadline Question Time” event on Friday 4 July, 8 - 10pm, at City United Reformed Church, Windsor Place, Cardiff. Panellists including MPs and charity executives will debate the increasing rise of foodbank usage and the impact of food poverty on families in Wales.

The event follows a damning report by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust that reveals the use of foodbanks in Wales to be disproportionately high in relation to the population. Tens of thousands of people are living below the breadline in Wales, relying on foodbanks to feed themselves and their families. In the 2013 – 2014 financial year, 51,148 adults and 27, 901 children relied on Trussell Trust foodbanks in Wales. Housing benefit cuts and changes to council tax support has, according to research undertaken by Oxfam and the New Policy Institute, left 1.75 million of the poorest families in the UK significantly worse off.

Tony Graham, Trussell Trust foodbank network manager, Wales, said: “The Welsh population has been hit hard by welfare cuts, falling incomes, high unemployment and a rise in living costs. In the past year we have witnessed a 120 percent rise in the use of Trussell Trust foodbanks over the previous financial year.

“We’re doing our best to help the 79,049 people who have relied on our foodbanks in the last year alone, but we also need to be asking why this is happening? I’m hoping that Friday’s debate will offer a platform to highlight the facts about food poverty and bring about a better understanding of the reality of life for people struggling on low incomes, so that politicians of all parties can push through policies that help the poorest.”


United Reformed Church’s General Assembly 2014

GA 2012The United Reformed Church General Assembly 2014 will be taking place 3 – 6 July 2014, at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, in the Synod of Wales.

Approximately 400 people from United Reformed Church congregations across the three nations of England, Scotland and Wales, as well as representatives from other reformed churches across the globe, will gather in Cardiff to worship God and explore together some of the major questions facing the denomination in 2014.

The Revd Roberta Rominger, general secretary of the URC, said: “General Assembly 2014 will be addressing some very important questions for the church today, such as: how we can revitalise our church meetings? What is our Christian attitude and response towards mental illness? And not least, what do we understand to be the nature of marriage?”


Getting the name right by Keith Forecast

Getting-the-name-right-image-228x228Ever wondered what our distinctive role as the United Reformed Church is? Or questioned how and why we came about? Keith Forecast contemplates such questions in Getting the Name Right: Exploring the Identity and Role of the United Reformed Church 1972 - 2012.

Keith has wide experience of the United Reformed Church, serving as a minister in pastorates across England and Wales, working as a member of staff in Church House as secretary for Christian education and children’s work, serving as moderator of the General Assembly, 1989 – 1990, as well as moderator of the North Western Synod. The author applies this experience to his latest book, offering a detailed analysis of the history and identity of the United Reformed Church, he asks the reader to consider a variety of issues relating to what it means to be part of the United Reformed Church today, taking into consideration – worship, practice and daily living.