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What does the URC think about…

Through its history, the United Reformed Church has agreed reports, statements, policies and resolutions on many issues in society. Usually such official positions are reached after discussion at a meeting of the General Assembly. Some of these are summarised below.

Of course, sometimes members and individuals who hold positions within the URC will have different views from those expressed by the General Assembly. The Church’s positions and policies are also periodically reviewed and updated through the committees and councils of the Church.

Social and environmental issues

The URC recognises that we are living through a climate emergency, and has said that “the changing climate and its consequences for all life on planet earth cannot be over emphasised as the most significant underlying issue of our time.” (Environmental Policy, 2016)

In response, it has pledged to act urgently to reduce carbon emissions across the whole of church life, and to advocate to the UK government and others for action to foster the transition to a net zero carbon economy.

Read the URC Environmental Policy.

The URC has expressed its deep concern about poverty and inequality in the UK. While poverty is often hidden and misunderstood, it continues to prevent many from fulfilling the potential that God has given them.

It believes Christians are called to stand beside those in poverty as well as challenge the structures and injustices which allow poverty to persist. So it encourages churches and church members to actively challenge attitudes and language which treat those in poverty as anything less than people made in the image of God, supports Church-Related Community Workers and others in working with the poorest communities, encourages employers to pay a Living Wage, and is active in campaigns against poverty.

New Reality, Same Mission began as an initiative in response to the Covid pandemic, but it is being broadened to include responses to other issues, including the cost of living crisis.

 

The URC supports the rights of refugees and believes the UK government has a responsibility to those seeking safety in the UK. It has called for an approach to immigration that treats every individual, whatever their status, with humanity, dignity, respect and fairness.

It values and celebrates the valuable contributions that refugees make to many communities and local congregations.

The URC recognises that the Bible includes an “unequivocal call” to care for ‘the stranger in our midst’, and encourages local churches to extend hospitality and welcome to people seeking sanctuary in the UK, and challenge racism and selfishness. It also works with others to campaign for change.

Human relationships

The URC believes that all people are created in God’s image and are loved by God.

In his ministry, Jesus showed God’s love by his openness to all people, including those who were marginalised in his day. The URC aims to show the same openness to all people in today’s world.

It intends in spirit and in deed to promote equality of opportunity and diversity in all spheres of its activity, and is committed to behaving as an equal opportunity organisation.

Read the URC’s Equalities Policy

The URC stands in solidarity with the struggles of black people (of all ethnicities) – in the UK and globally – for freedom, justice and equality. It has unreservedly affirmed that Black Lives – the lives of black, Asian and minority ethnic people – matter in the life, work and existence of our Church. At the same time, it recognises that the URC is an imperfect body, existing in a world shaped by white supremacy.

The Church has sought to recognise and address this disparity over many years, and in 2020 committed itself to “a journey towards being an anti-racist Church”, which involves identifying barriers within all parts of its life, and initiating strategies to combat racism within its own body and in wider society.

Find out more on our Global & Intercultural Ministries and Legacies of Slavery pages.

The URC Worship Book describes marriage as “a gift of God within creation… a way of life made holy by God.”

Within the URC, a very wide range of views are held with integrity about issues of human sexuality and same-sex marriage.

Recognising this diversity within the Church, the General Assembly of the URC agreed in 2016 that it would be for each local church to decide whether to register its building for marriages of same-sex couples, and for each URC minister to decide whether to conduct or participate in same-sex marriages.

Matters relating to life and death

The URC has not made any formal statement on abortion since its formation in 1972.

The URC regards all human life as being God given, and therefore precious. It recognises that there is a time to die and that there are circumstances in which it will be wrong to continue to provide treatment designed to prolong life.

It also recognises that some palliative treatment for the terminally ill makes the patient more comfortable and pain free, but can also hasten death. It believes this to be acceptable, as long as the primary purpose of the treatment is pain relief and comfort of the patient.

The URC does not support legislation that would empower medical staff to intervene in ways which deliberately seek to assist a patient to die, and opposes any change in the law to permit voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Read the full report on this subject from 2007 (PDF | 2mb)

International issues

The URC has affirmed that Israel is a country which is recognised within the international community of States, with all the rights and responsibilities attendant on that status. It has also affirmed the United Nations commitment to a State of Palestine which is recognised within the international community of States, with all the rights and responsibilities attendant on that status.

It has condemned all acts of violence in the region of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In 2021 the URC expressed its deep concern over the worsening situation for the Palestinian people. All Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, forced house demolitions and the acquisition of land by coercion, are breaches of international law. It has urged the Israeli Government to abide by international law and reverse its de facto annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories.

 The URC has encouraged members and churches to consider this situation as they make purchasing decisions and plan visits to the Holy Land, and to engage with MPs about it.

Read more in the 2021 report to General Assembly (PDF | 55kb)

The URC has long viewed nuclear arms as a threat to the very security which the weapons are held to guarantee. It opposes their use for warlike purposes, supports efforts towards multilateral disarmament, and has urged the UK to give up its nuclear armaments. It supports the removal of nuclear weapons from British territory, and opposes the manufacture and purchase of nuclear armaments by the UK Government, including Trident.

The URC has supported and championed the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a means to bring about the elimination of all nuclear weapons internationally.

Peacemaking lies at the heart of the biblical story and is a core calling of Christians. The 2006 Methodist-URC report ‘Peacemaking: a Christian Vocation’ examines the shifting challenges to peace which the world faces and invites reflection on how people might respond the call to be peacemakers in our communities and our world.

The URC has been a strong supporter of Fairtrade since the launch of the first products with the Fairtrade Mark in 1994. Fairtrade works to secure a better deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. It sets social, economic and environmental standards for the companies and farmers involved in the supply chain. For farmers and workers the standards include protection of workers’ rights and the environment, and for companies they include the payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price safety net and an additional Fairtrade Premium.

The URC encourages shops and supermarkets to stock products with the Fairtrade Mark, and churches and church members to buy, use and promote Fairtrade products.

Through its Commitment for Life programme, the URC is a member of the Fairtrade Foundation, the UK arm of the international Fairtrade system.

Learn about becoming a Fairtrade church

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