Christian Leaders in Wales to Take Unity Recommendations to Local Churches

(Photo Credit: All Saints Church, Cyncoed)Participants from the Covenanted Churches in Wales take part in 'The Gathering' ecumenical conference in Aberystwyth University in Wales on October 13, 2012.

Christian leaders representing 2,500 churches from most denominations in Wales will present recommendations to work more closely together - including a new type of bishop and a single United Church of Wales - after a major ecumenical conference over the weekend.

The event at Aberystwith University called The Gathering, included representatives from the five Covenanted Churches in Wales – the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the Church in Wales and some Covenanted Baptist congregations.

The five churches will respond to the recommendations "in due course," according to separate statements released by the Church in Wales and the Presbyterian Church in Wales.

The set of reports launched at the conference outline plans for new bishops adopted by and expressing a Reformed church understanding of the office of bishop. They also envision a single church in which there will be an interchange of ordained ministries by those with church or chapel backgrounds.

Materials released on the day of the conference include documents discussing current and proposed structures for church governance (12 pages), a recommended 'Order for the Gathering' for churches (16 pages), a discussion of pastoral oversight (38 pages).

The documents are available on the website of The Covenanted Churches in Wales.

Four Decades of Working Together, Waiting on the Holy Spirit

The churches first began discussing ways to work more closely together in the 1970s.

"Four decades ago, five of the leading Christian traditions of Wales embarked on a path towards presenting a united witness to the Gospel. They made a solemn covenant before God and with one another in order that they might be brought into one visible Church to serve together in mission to the glory of God," said Rev. Gethin Abraham-Williams, Chair of the Commission of Covenanted Churches.

He said churches gathered would reassess their progress in achieving those goals.

He said the meeting was "an occasion to wait again upon the Holy Spirit for the moment that will 'create out of their separated lives a new ecclesial community committed to common mission in the world."

The World Council of Churches said in a statement ahead of the meeting that the denominations would "discuss ways of eradicating traditional divisions between churches in order to move towards greater unity."

The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches was invited to give a keynote address.

Rev. Tveit told those gathered "you are contributing significantly," according to a Twitter post by the Rev. Aled Edwards of the Church in Wales. Rev. Edwards is also the Chief Executive Officer of Cytûn - Churches Together in Wales, the organization that made the recommendations.

"[P]eople understand the need for churches to come together not only because of environmental reasons, for economic reasons but the discernment on our part is that this may be, in faith terms, the will of Christ because he does not wish us to be divided," Rev. Edwards told the BBC.

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