The relationship between the United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church may move forward slightly as the URC’s Mission Council and the Methodist Council gather for their first ever joint meeting.
Between Wednesday 13 October and Friday 15 October, around 140 members of the Church councils will meet at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire. Members will be working through a full agenda including separate business sessions for the denominations and collaborative work in joint sessions and workshops.
The move towards holding this joint meeting began more than a year ago when the Rev Roberta Rominger, General Secretary of the URC, and the Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church began talking informally about ways in which the two denominations may be able to work more closely together.
Both the URC and Methodist Church are keen to point out that the meeting is not a joint council, but rather a joint meeting of the two councils. The Rev Kenneth Howcroft, assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference, commented that it “is not about joint governing of the Churches” but rather, “part of the getting-to-know-you process.”
The Rev Richard Mortimer, deputy General Secretary of the URC, adds: “Both denominations will be conducting separate sessions for essential business but we will also be using the joint sessions to learn and reflect on the shared opportunities and challenges for the Church across every part of the UK. Our focus at all times will be the question ‘what is the cultural background and context in which we try to minister?’” The two denominations already work closely together, perhaps most notably through the Joint Public Issues Team (which also includes the Baptist Union of Great Britain) and the Joint Interfaith Reference Group.
Mr Mortimer explains further saying: “The idea is that, through meeting together across three days, new possibilities for working together may emerge. We all recognise that an element of risk is involved in meeting together - mainly because it allows ‘graced spontaneity’ - we are relying on the Holy Spirit to highlight that which should be brought to our attention and we ask for your prayers before, during and after our time together.”