Mission Council day one 19 October 2016

Celebrating ‘remarkable’ Greenbelt success

Mission Council this afternoon heard about the success of the United Reformed Church’s involvement in Greenbelt 2016 as an associate partner. Dan Morrell, URC Youth Assembly Moderator-Elect, highlighted the various activities which made up the URC’s contribution to the annual Christian festival of arts and music, telling Mission Council that there was a very good response to the URC’s theme of Scrap the Church? Many people took part in conversations along the lines of, ‘Well what is the church, what is your church, what is the URC?’

The activities included a Cake and Debate session hosted by URC Youth.  Dan reported: ‘It was a remarkable success and it was great to see so many young people passionate about their churches and change within those churches.’

Steve Summers, coordinator for the Greenbelt project, added that working together on the Greenbelt project helped develop relationships across Mission, Discipleship and Admin and Resources. Plans are now being made for Greenbelt 2017 when the festival’s general theme will be The Common Good; the URC will develop its Greenbelt activities in ways that connect this theme with its own annual theme of ‘Feast and Festivals’.

Paper M2: The decision-making process

The Clerk, the Revd Michael Hopkins, introduced Paper M2, which explains that, after July’s General Assembly, the Clerk and others had realised that the decision-making processes used by the United Reformed Church require review. He said: ‘Our current standing orders are very unwieldy.  The case for change is very clear … but it’s less clear what the changes should be.’ Unwilling to rush into hasty change, the Clerk is seeking to hear the views of a wide number of people.  To this end he issued an anonymous questionnaire to members of Mission Council, asking them to respond openly and honestly to the questions about consensus decision making. The results will be collated and fed back to this meeting of Mission Council.

In brief:

  • The Revd John Proctor, General Secretary, called for nominations for a committee convenor, most of whom were present, to stand for the current vacancy on the Mission Council Advisory Group, which meets three times a year to review the business material that comes to Mission Council. Mr Proctor asked for nominations to come to him by lunch time on Thursday. An election is scheduled for Friday morning.
  • Miriam Webb was appointed as minute secretary for this meeting of Mission Council.
  • The minutes of the March meeting of Mission Council were agreed and signed by Alan Yates. the Moderator of General Assembly moderating the opening session
  • The Revd Richard Church, Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) updated Mission Council on the past case review. Mr Church said that there had been some confusion across the synods as to how public this information should be – urging those in a position to publicise the work in the local churches to do so. 
  • David Thompson updated MC on the Peel Commission (Resolution 38), which relates to disciplinary procedures for those not ordained as Ministers of Word and sacraments. He said that the work that needed to be done would take time and a report would, in time, come to Mission Council.
  • Papers H1 and H2, the papers from the ministries committee on deployment and call, were introduced. The conversation and debate will continue in two sessions tomorrow and we will bring a full report as soon as we can.

Paper F1: the joint declaration on the doctrine of Justification

This paper, from the faith and order committee, urged Mission Council to support the proposal that the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) associate with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Introduced by the Revd Dr Alan Spence, committee convenor, he explained that the WCRC wanted a speedy response, as it is hoped there will be a celebration of the Joint Declaration in the Reformation celebrations in 2017.  As a consequence, Mission Council needed to make a decision at this meeting.  Dr Spence provided some background information as to the importance of the Joint Declaration, saying that, at its centre, ‘is a coming together on a shared doctrine of salvation … an immense moment in our ecumenical life’. He added that other church bodies support it, including the World Methodist Council in 2006 and the Anglican Consultative Council in 2016 and asked Mission Council to add their support to it. During the discussion session there were some calls for ‘a healing of history’ to be included in the document, or the URC’s response to it. John Proctor also explored the link between justice and justification saying ‘Justification is not only a legal doctrine, but it is profoundly relational too. God draws people into right relationship. By embracing the cross, God brings us from distance to intimacy. And if God has done this for me, I cannot be careless about the well-being of my neighbour. As God’s care is shaped in the cross, then we who live by the cross are invited to an active and committed love for the people of God’s world. Justification flows naturally into justice.’  Taken by majority decision, the two-part resolution was put to the vote and carried unanimously without abstentions.