H) Pastoral Reference and Welfare Committee
1a The Assembly Pastoral Reference Committee will consider the cases of URC ministers which are referred to it on account of some perceived pastoral need by Mission Council, district councils or synods or their committees or moderators of synods, and when the continuation of a minister’s service: (i) within an existing pastoral charge or (ii) within the URC is in question.
1b The Committee will seek to enable the minister’s service within the URC to be continued if that is seen to be appropriate, and to this end may consider financial support for a course of retraining or therapy or counselling.
1c The Committee may initiate discussion about alternative forms of service for a minister, within or outside the URC, and may seek help (practical , financial, professional) in consultation with the minister to make this possible.
1d The Committee may authorise the MoM Sub-Committee to provide stipend or part stipend and may authorise the Secretary for Finance to pay other necessary expenses (including accommodation costs) to a minister not in pastoral charge, for a specific period. Such period will not exceed six months in the first instance but may be renewed by the Pastoral Reference Committee. The MoM Sub-Committee (or such other body as shall in future carry out the functions of the MoM sub-committee) or the Secretary for Finance will accept this authority for payment.
1e In each case the Committee will make clear to the minister concerned the period for which payments will be made and whether or not it may be extended.
2 Limitation on powers :
2a The Committee does not have authority to delete the name of a minister from the Roll of Ministers nor to take any other disciplinary steps against him/her. The Committee does not have to be consulted about and does not have the authority over the process of ending the appointment of a minister in pastoral charge, which process is a matter for minister, church meeting and district council.
2b The Committee may not be involved with, and must withdraw from, any ongoing discussions, counselling or other direct pastoral involvement with any case in which the disciplinary procedures of the Church are being applied against a minister. Nevertheless the Committee may authorise any financial payments allowed under its terms of reference (see 1d).
It is evident that the work of the Pastoral Reference Committee will be confidential and pastoral. Nevertheless it will need to keep a record of its meetings. The Committee’s conclusions should be recorded, given to the person concerned and shared with others directly involved in the matter who need to know the outcome. It would be inappropriate for the Committee as a body, or individual members of it, to divulge any additional information about ministers or churches concerned.
A former Moderator of General Assembly who shall be Convener; the General Secretary; two lay people; one minister in pastoral charge; one Provincial Moderator; the Honorary Treasurer; the Deputy General Secretary who will act as Secretary
5a The minister whose case is being considered by the Committee may request a meeting with the Committee in person if he or she so wishes. Alternatively the Committee may invite the minister to meet some or all of its members. In either case the minister may be accompanied by a friend if he or she so wishes.
5b The Committee shall have discretion to invite other persons involved in a case to meet it.
6 Relationship to Structure
The Committee will report to the Assembly each year. However the report will only deal with general matters and the Committee will not report on, nor may it be questioned on, individual cases.
General Assembly 2007
G) Assembly Committees and their Tasks
Committees of the General Assembly
The task of committees is to carry out the policy of the Assembly and to advise the Assembly on matters which may need its decision. Many of them also relate to local churches and other councils of the church: the remit of each committee is included to help readers know which is the appropriate committee to contact if they have a suggestion or question. Each committee also has a page on the URC website.A full list of the current members of all the committees is published each year.
This acts as a co-ordinating committee. The Moderator of Assembly is in the chair. Each Synod has three representatives, and the Synod Moderators are also members. The Conveners of all the Assembly standing committees (except the Pastoral Reference and Welfare Committee) are members, as are the officers of Assembly and certain other people.The purpose of the Mission Council is to enable the Church, in its General Assembly, to take a more comprehensive view of the activity and policy of the Church to decide more carefully about priorities and to encourage the outreach of the Church to the community. Its service is directly towards the Assembly, but its concern is with the whole Church and all its members, so it will seek to be aware of the pains and joys, the adventures and hopes of the whole body.
This committee works with the whole church to formulate and give expression to our mission and faith. It brings together the work of ecumenical, international and interfaith relations, racial justice and multicultural ministries, public affairs (church and society), prayer and worship.
(i) COMMITMENT FOR LIFE GROUP
Commitment for Life works for justice, for hope and for the future through partnership with Christian Aid and the World Development Movement. The focus is on education, campaigning and fundraising for specific Christian Aid projects. A Commitment for Life Group oversees this.
(ii) Faith and Order Committee
This committee addresses issues of faith and order on behalf of the United Reformed Church, internally, ecumenically and with interfaith partners. It advises the Assembly and its officers and committees on faith and order issues. It responds to concerns raised by local churches, synods and individuals. It also publishes materials on matters of faith and order.
(iii) INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE REFERENCE GROUP
The work of selecting, training and caring for missionaries and overseeing exchange of personnel is undertaken by this group.
(iv) METHODIST/URC INTERFAITH REFERENCE GROUP
This group encourages and supports congregations in interfaith relations. It encourages interfaith dialogue and joint action, developing theological understanding and offering specialist information and advice on Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and New Religious Movements. It also encourages the offering of training in the Resource Centres for Learning, the Methodist colleges, and across the two Churches.
Ministries of the Church Department
The Committee is responsible for the ministry of word and sacraments, church-related community workers and lay preachers. It is concerned with central care and conditions of service, chaplaincies in industry, higher and further education and in the armed forces and 'special category' ministry. It has concern for the pastoral support of ministers, church-related community workers and lay preachers, including supervision, appraisal, self-evaluation and counselling. It is assisted by five sub-committees.
(i) ACCREDITATION SUB-COMMITTEE
Maintaining the Roll of Ministers, this sub-committee accredits those applying for inclusion after training or coming from other denominations. It is concerned with numbers and recruitment and it oversees the work of the national Assessment Board, whose convener is an ex-officio member of the committee.
(ii) CHURCH-RELATED COMMUNITY WORK MANAGEMENT SUB-COMMITTEE
It is responsible for managing the Church-related Community Work programme under the terms agreed in the Church-related Community Work Covenant.
(iii) MAINTENANCE OF THE MINISTRY
Advises on the level of stipend and ministers' conditions of service through the Plan for Partnership. It is also concerned for pensions through its associated Pensions Sub-Committee.
(iv) RETIRED MINISTERS HOUSINGWorks in association with the URC Retired Ministers' Housing Society Ltd.
EDUCATION AND LEARNING COMMITTEE
The Committee will encourage and enable the integration of the training of the whole people of God and to this end will seek to influence the philosophy and methodology of learning; the core content of courses; and the deployment of resources. It gives direct support to, and acts in partnership with the other Assembly committees and synods as they respond to the needs of local churches in training matters. It collaborates with Ministries Committee in the training of ministers of word and sacraments, CRCWs and Lay Preachers.
YOUTH AND CHILDREN'S WORK
This Committee supports, encourages and promotes work among children and young people, including the policy for the Children's and Youth Development Officer (CYDO) programme, giving oversight to Pilots and the Fellowship of United Reformed Youth (FURY). It also ensures that its concerns are fully taken into account throughout the church, facilitating the involvement of young peopleat every level. There is a Pilots Management Sub-Committee and a FURY Council offering further leadership, development and support.
Administration and Resources Department
ASSEMBLY ARRANGEMENTS COMMITTEE
This Committee plans and budgets for General Assembly.
COMMUNICATIONS AND EDITORIAL COMMITTEE
This Committee is responsible for the setting and maintenance of standards of all publications. It acts as the Editorial and Management Board of REFORM, and is responsible for media relations.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES COMMITTEE
The role of the Committee is to develop detailed equal opportunties policies and moniter their implementation, reporting to each General Assembly. They also have oversight of training programmes in equal opportunities.FINANCE COMMITTEE
The Committee is responsible for the general financial oversight of funds administered for the benefit of the United Reformed Church nationally under the overall authority of the General Assembly, for ensuring that proper procedures are in place for the maintenance of accounting records, the safe custody of assets and the preparation of financial statements, for giving financial advice to other councils of the church as appropriate, and for taking such decisions with regard to the finances of the Church as are necessary within the policies set by General Assembly.
(i) STEWARDSHIP SUB-COMMITTEE
This group explores ways of communicating the Church's mission so as to encourage the active engagement of the members and their financial support.
This Committee nominates to Assembly the names of people to serve as conveners and secretaries of all Assembly committees, and as members of those committees. It also suggests names of URC representatives on other bodies. It recommends the people to make up appointment groups for moderators of synods and Assembly appointed staff.
PASTORAL REFERENCE AND WELFARE COMMITTEE
The purpose of the Pastoral Reference and Welfare Committee is to consider the cases of ministers which are referred to it by Mission Council, synods, their committees or moderators of synods. It also deals with all welfare and emergency matters including the use of welfare funds. Because of the nature of many of the cases, it is a confidential committee which reports in general terms only, directly to the General Assembly.
UNITED REFORMED CHURCH TRUST
Responsible for the properties and assets of the central Church, this group seeks to ensure denominational compliance with all legal requirements. It also offers strategic oversight as regards the Church's resources.
UNITED REFORMED CHURCH MINISTERS' PENSION TRUST
This group administers the Ministers Pension Fund.
E) Guidance Concerning Baptism and the Basis of Union
The following statement was accepted by the General Assembly in 1989 as an interpretation of paragraph 14 of the Basis of Union:We affirm, along with the whole Church of God, that there is one baptism which God has given us as the means of entry into the body of Christ. Almost alone among churches the URC holds in trust for the coming great Church a dual track practice of baptism, in which as a church we recognise both infant and believer's baptism. Beyond those differences we hold that baptism 'is the sacrament of entry into the Church and is therefore administered once only to any person.' (Basis of Union, Clause 14. As a church we hold that baptism, whether of believers or of infants, is administered in the light of the divine promise and in response to the priority of grace.
We therefore affirm with Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, that "Baptism is an unrepeatable act. Any practice which might be interpreted as 'rebaptism' must be avoided."
We confess that the baptismal practice of the Church has sometimes been the cause of pain and scandal. We recognise that some have, for various reasons, ceased to regard their baptism as infants as true baptism. In our own communion, uncertainties about the conscience clause in the Scheme of Union have led to perplexity and misunderstanding.
With regard to the conscience clause the Basis of Union is explicit that as a church we affirm that 'both forms of baptism are understood to be used by God in the upbuilding of faith.' (Basis of Union, Clause 14). The rights of conscience allow that no particular minister shall be compelled to administer baptism in a form to which s/he 'has a conscientious objection.' They do not allow that a congregation may declare one exclusive mode of baptism. We believe that ministers are obliged to make it clear to their congregations that there is a case for both forms of baptism. We also believe that if we are to be truly a dual track fellowship, the opportunity for both forms of administration must be made quite plain. All parents bringing an infant for initiation must be informed that there are two possible forms of initiation.
We believe that careful pastoral practice will help to prevent some of the pain and misunderstanding that have been a feature of recent experience. On the one hand the seriousness of vows made by parents and the congregation must be stressed. On the other hand, we would wish to encourage opportunity to be given for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows both at the point of personal declaration of faith and as a regular feature of the church's worship.
The URC depends for its well-being on the conciliar discipline according to which we voluntarily and with integrity order our pastoral practice according to the Basis of Union. We affirm that it is the responsibility of District Councils to see that those who make vows before God make them seriously and with the intention to live in accordance with them. These considerations must be borne in mind particularly at the time of inductions to pastorates.