Churches of Scotland and England reach first formal pact

Crathie Kirk, Crathie Parish Church, where the Royal family attend Sunday Service when in residence at Balmoral Image copyright PA
Image caption The Queen, who is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, attends services at Crathie Kirk - which belongs to the Church of Scotland

A "historic" agreement has been reached between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland - marking their first formal working arrangement.

A document - the Columba Declaration - will be debated by the ruling bodies of both Churches next year.

It commits the Churches to "grow together in communion and to strengthen their partnership in mission".

Founded in two different branches of Protestantism, England's Church is Anglican and Scotland's Presbyterian.

The declaration has been authored by Kirk minister the Reverend John McPake, and the Church of England's Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster.

They say the agreement will allow clergy and lay people from each Church to be welcomed into the other when they move across the border.

The pact also recognises that the two Churches have constitutional responsibilities in separate parts of the UK.

"We face the common reality that constitutional change could have a significant impact on our own identity and relationships," the 15-page declaration says.

'Ministry challenges'

In a joint statement from both authors they said they hoped the pact would "affirm and strengthen our relationship at a time when it is likely to be particularly critical in the life of the UK".

They also said they wanted it to "enable us to speak and act together more effectively in the face of the missionary challenges of our generation".

The Church of England's ruling body - the General Synod - will discuss the document in February, while the Church of Scotland's General Assembly will go through the same process in May.

Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption Reverend John McPake was one of the co-authors of the declaration

Both Churches were formed separately during the Reformation - which began in 1517 and focused on ways to reform the Catholic Church.

The new agreement is the first between the Churches - which both describe themselves as part of "one holy catholic and apostolic church" - but have significant ecclesiological differences.

The Church of England retained more vestiges of Catholicism, has Catholic and evangelical wings, and is governed by bishops.

Meanwhile, the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian in structure and has no bishops.

This year the two Churches established the Churches' Mutual Credit Union as a response to concerns that low-income families needed access to low-cost banking and loans.

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