Churches Together in England celebrates 30 years

Today ‘Churches Together in England‘ celebrates its 30th birthday! Its Inaugural Service took place at 12 noon on Saturday 1 September 1990 at St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark. At the service, 19 senior Church Leaders signed the Basis and Commitment to the new ecumenical journey. The statement read,

‘Churches Together in England unites in pilgrimage those churches in England which, acknowledging God’s revelation in Christ, confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures; and, in obedience to God’s will and in the power of the Holy Spirit commit themselves to seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another in the Church, which is his body, and to fulfil their Mission to proclaim the Gospel by common witness and service in the world, to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’

The Inaugural Service was followed by a Forum with 350 delegates, and an Informal Celebration of Christian Unity. One major difference between the new ‘Churches Together in England’ and its predecessor body, the British Council of Churches, was the focus on England, as opposed to the British Isles (Scotland, Wales and Ireland each also had their own new ecumenical body). A further major change was the full involvement of the Roman Catholic Church alongside Protestant and Orthodox Churches in the new body.

In addition to the commitment to a shared pilgrimage between Churches at the national level, ‘Intermediate Bodies’ operating at city or county-level were introduced, each employing an Ecumenical Officer to coordinate and promote ecumenical dialogue and development. At the local level, ‘Churches Together’ groups and Local Ecumenical Partnerships (congregations or ministries which belong to more than one Church) were formed. These intermediate and local expressions of Christian unity continue in Birmingham and Solihull (and around the country) to this day, bringing Christians together in shared prayer, witness and service to the local community.

Churches Together in England has experienced remarkable growth from its origins 30 years ago. It now embraces 50 member-Churches, six Presidents, 49 Intermediate Bodies, 2,000 local Churches Together groups and 900 Local Ecumenical Partnerships. The arrival of Orthodox, Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches continues to swell the ranks. Diversity of doctrine, worship style and organisational structure becomes ever more apparent. In the face of such diversity, the prayer of Jesus that those who believe in him would come to complete unity (John 17:20-23) still captures hearts, inspires minds, guides decisions and galvanises endeavour. Based on that prayer, the CTE strapline is ‘One in Christ Jesus, engaged in God’s mission, empowered by the Spirit.’

Sadly, due to the ongoing restrictions concerning public gatherings, CTE’s 30th anniversary Celebration Service planned to take place at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, in November 2020 has been postponed. Notwithstanding, the ecumenical pilgrimage continues. As Revd Dr Paul Goodliff, current General Secretary of CTE puts it,

‘As we celebrate thirty years of ecumenical life in England, the best birthday gift we can give to each other is a renewal of the commitments made by twenty churches at CTE’s inaugural service in St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, on 1 September 1990. May we deepen the commitment to journey in pilgrimage together as fifty Member Churches, whatever the challenges along the way; to renew the ecumenical life at county level, and in every local gathering of churches in villages, towns and cities across the land.’

Read more about CTE HERE. To read the original documents leading up to the formation of CTE, and the Order of Service for the two gatherings held at St George’s Cathedral on 1 September 1990, visit THIS LINK.

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