URC Youth Assembly unanimously condemns CTE decision

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Youth Assembly voting banner 2The United Reformed Church’s Youth Assembly has strongly spoken out against the Churches Together in England (CTE)’s decision to sideline Hannah Brock Womack due to her same-sex marriage.

“As a body of young people, URC Youth Assembly 2020 feels outraged and underrepresented by the CTE on this matter,” they said, calling for “a more just outcome”. The statement was unanimously supported and passed by consensus.

The 2020 Youth Assembly offered to contribute towards “necessary reconciling conversations” with CTE, echoing and commending the URC’s statement on this matter and recognising that the URC includes a variety of positions. The Youth Assembly’s statement was approved on the second day of its weekend meeting, on 25 January. URC Youth plan to send the resolution to the CTE and to the youth organisations of other Church denominations.

Hannah, a member of the Quakers in Britain, had been nominated by the Quakers, the Lutheran Council of Great Britain, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, German-Speaking Lutheran, Reformed and United Congregations in Great Britain and Church of Scotland (Presbytery of England), to become one of CTE’s six Presidents.

In November 2019, CTE announced that while Hannah remains the fourth President, she will not be able to take her place alongside the other CTE Presidents when they gather. The fourth chair will be left empty as a symbol of the work still to be done to find unity.

Issac and Jennie formated

“I’m happy and excited that we’ve taken this step,” said Victoria Turner, who originally proposed the motion. Victoria, who also wrote for Reform about the CTE’s decision, argued that Miss Womack “would have been the dreadfully needed breath of fresh air” among the “middle-aged-to-elderly males holding all the [other] President roles”.

The full text of URC Youth Assembly’s statement can be found at the end of this report.

Other resolutions passed by the URC Youth Assembly included:

  • A call for “further, more drastic action” to address the climate emergency: The Assembly formally declared ‘our world is in a climate emergency’ and challenged the URC ‘to recognise the climate emergency and do everything possible to make their events eco-friendly’. It committed to encourage local churches and communities to become more environmentally friendly, and to ensuring that all events organised by URC Youth are environmentally conscious and actively reduce negative climate impacts. The Assembly also called on its Youth Executive to become ‘green apostles’. They thanked Mission Council for resolving to divest from fossil fuels.Youth Assembly members 2
  • Support for alternative URC membership: The URC Youth Assembly expressed “dissatisfaction with the current options available to those who feel local church membership is not appropriate or possible for them” and noted a “strong desire of many young people to become members of the URC despite not attending a local URC regularly”. It asked the Church to “create options for people to formally recognise their commitment to the URC, regardless of personal circumstance”. And
  • A drive to better support university students: The Assembly called for the URC’s Councils to support and make information available about two student support initiatives: Fusion’s Student Link up, and the Student Christian Movement’s Connect Noting that university students often struggle to find places of worship while away from home, the Assembly urged all local churches and ecumenical partnerships to sign up to resources that specifically address this issue. Tom Howells, representing the URC’s Thames North Synod, spoke movingly about how Fusion’s Student Link up service had helped him personally while at university.

Special congratulations to all URC Youth members who were elected to serve in national roles over the course of this Assembly. Joanna Harris, 19, was elected to the Moderator-elect role on Sunday (26 January).

“Jo gave a moving and passionate speech during the hustings on Saturday, outlining her plans to build on this Assembly’s support for inclusivity, and to encourage Christians to move outside of our comfort zones,” said Charissa King, Production and Marketing Officer (Reform) who reported on the event.

Jo represents the URC’s National Synod of Wales and is currently studying popular music at the University of Gloucestershire. She will serve as Moderator of the 2022 Youth Assembly.

Youth Assembly member

The full text of URC Youth Assembly’s statement on CTE’s decision to not appoint Hannah Brock Womack as its Fourth President:

“In response to the decision of the Enabling Group of Churches Together in England (CTE) to deny Hannah Brock Womack the Fourth Presidency seat, URC Youth Assembly 2020 commend the URC's official statement: https://urc.org.uk/latest-news/3282-urc-s-response-to-cte-statement-about-its-fourth-presidency.html. URC Youth Assembly 2020 echo the statement's praise for the resilience and grace shown by the Quakers and for the commitment to allow greater inclusivity within the CTE Presidency.

“URC Youth Assembly 2020 hold a strong stance on inclusivity, as can be demonstrated by the 2019 Youth Assembly theme 'One Body.' We are dismayed that such a gifted person as Hannah Brock Womack has been denied the opportunity to share their gifts in this ecumenical body, purely on the grounds of her equal (same-sex) marriage. We are also saddened that, as a result, there continues to be no serving female CTE Presidents.

“URC Youth Assembly 2020 understands ecumenism as 'oikumene,' the whole body of God, which stretches beyond ecclesiastical boundaries. We are therefore disappointed that the full diversity of society and of CTE's member churches cannot be represented amongst the leadership of one of the UK's important ecumenical instruments. At a time where CTE were encouraging the involvement of young people, by increasing youth voices in their 2019 Forum, we are disappointed to report that as a body of young people, URC Youth Assembly 2020 feel outraged and underrepresented by the CTE on this matter.

Youth Assenbly member 4“We call on member CTE churches to move on from the empty chair of the fourth Presidency and allow Hannah to take up her duly appointed position. In this way CTE will be holding fast to their founding principles of a diverse group of churches journeying together, not as strangers but fellow pilgrims, despite their differences.

“URC Youth Assembly 2020 request that the necessary reconciling conversations within CTE are prioritised and are ready to be part of those discussions, so that a more just outcome can be reached.”






Pictures by Jacob Lowe.
Published: 29 January 2020


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