Saturday, 9 July 2011

Partly So...

This is part of a post from the General Synod Blog:

The URC has its ultimate origins in the expulsion from the Church of England of Nonconformist dissenters following the Act of Uniformity in 1662, and if the recommendations in the report are passed by Synod, they will result in the request that "representatives of the two churches should join together in an act of worship in 2012, that would mark both the 350th anniversary of the Great Ejection of nonconforming ministers following the Act of Uniformity 1662 and the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of the United Reformed Church. The service should contain an expression of penitence for our part in perpetuating the divisions of the past, a desire for the healing of memories and an act of commitment to work more closely together in the future." That strikes me as being at least as important a thing for Synod to be doing as the various things that people this afternoon said we ought to be talking about. Apart from anything else - this thing might actually make a difference...

Presumably, Unitarians won't be invited.

The URC represents, by merger in 1972, the Independents who left the Church of England on St. Batholomew's Day 1662, but arguably they were going and gone anyway. That was the point. The Church of England had become royal, episcopal and corporate again and did not want the rag tag of ministers and hangers on, but nor could it keep other Puritans. It was the parish-minded Presbyterians who, having left, by and large over the generations became Unitarian.

The Presbyterian side of the URC was, in the main, a Scottish export into England because so many English Presbyterians were Unitarians by drift. The reason why was because they were trustee run, rented pews and did not require membership confessions, welcomed the parish, relied on the Bible alone (so interpretations changed), used the findings of the colleges they created into the pulpits, and were thoughtful.

Today, the URC to maintain itself has expanded back into Scotland, and incorporating a number of independent Protestant Churches, some of which do not believe in infant baptism and thus causing some internal divisions. This expansion masks a massive contraction in the core, as with the Methodists. The coming back to the C of E is also, therefore, about the numbers, the plant and equipment, and that some of these old issues are being forgotten. Except the URC accepts presbyters and deacons and the C of E bishops, presbyters and deacons, whereas the Methodists have absent bishops.

Unitarians will be holding their own 350th birthday parties, though usually they have their birthday parties for when their churches began as a continuous congregation. Hull kicks off at 1672 and the Indulgence that allowed it, making it up to 1689 with the change of regime.


Anonymous said...

"Presumably, Unitarians won't be invited."

If Unitarians are now post-Christian then there is a reasonable argument for them not being invited - unless the organisers want to mark this significant point in England's religious (yet ultimately Christian) recent history by inviting all faiths.

Again, it strikes me that Unitarians want to cut ties with Christianity but still want their place at the table when they choose.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

This is the obvious counter argument, but it's about inviting those streams of religious life that were involved in the Great Ejection. The fact is that these congregations are continuous and parliament enshrined the principle of change in 1845.

Anyway, not being invited along actually helps those of us who would emphasise a post-Christian future (though this includes those of a Christian outlook - pluralists don't exclude).