Representatives of two of Britain’s largest free Churches have met to discuss the opportunities and challenges of working more closely together.
The move from the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church comes as both Christian denominations face declining membership and finance.
The second joint meeting of the United Reformed Church’s Mission Council and the Methodist Council took place in Sutton Coldfield, from 17-19 October 2012.
The bodies haveengaged in wide-ranging discussions about the relationship between the Churches and the challenges that need to be overcome for greater unity, both locally and nationally.
“I feel that we’ve arrived at a new place” said the Rev Roberta Rominger, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church.
She continued: ”I hope we can now start to engage in the kind of fundamental thinking that will enable us to overcome the practical difficulties our united congregations face, particularly when they seek new ministry.”
Council members also considered collaboration in the fields of children and youth work and property, initiated at the last meeting in 2010. Other established joint work includes the Joint Public Issues Team, which combines the expertise of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church in the area of political engagement.
“It’s been wonderful to have a time of learning and fellowship together,” added the Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church.
“We have learnt so much about our similarities and differences. There is clearly a great deal of good will between our two Churches and the desire to explore what closer partnerships in God’s mission might mean for us today,” he added.
The Councils also met separately to consider business specific to the two Churches. Issues discussed by the Methodist Council included finance and plans for the Church’s new Discipleship and Ministries Network. Matters addressed at the separate meeting of the URC Mission Council include a five-year strategy for youth and children’s work and the shape of the General Assembly.
The Methodist Council meets three times annually to undertake ongoing work on behalf of the Methodist Conference, which is the governing body of the Methodist Church.
The URC Mission Council is the executive body of the General Assembly and meets twice a year.