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Churches Together in England statement on the Fourth Presidency

22 November 2019

A Statement on behalf of Churches Together in England:

Churches Together in England (CTE) is the national ecumenical instrument, supporting and encouraging the diverse range of churches in England to work together in unity.

CTE is represented by six Presidents from the major traditions of our forty-nine Member Churches. They meet regularly to discuss matters concerning the Churches in England, and together seek to serve as a sign of our unity.

Upon the Fourth Presidency becoming vacant, Quakers in Britain (formally The Religious Society of Friends) made its nomination, and with the Lutheran Council of Great Britain, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, German-Speaking Lutheran, Reformed and United Congregations in Great Britain and Church of Scotland (Presbytery of England), they appointed Hannah Brock Womack, an active Quaker, to this role.

Over recent months CTE has been engaging with the reality of living with diversity, acknowledging that although so much unites us as churches, we remain in disagreement over certain issues. Prompted by Hannah’s recent equal marriage, an ongoing process of discussion, listening and prayer has begun, recognising that churches hold different views regarding human sexuality, and that for many this is a very emotive and painful subject.

While remaining committed to the journey of unity we are on as churches from many traditions, the Member Churches of CTE, through the Enabling Group, have recently requested the Fourth Presidency Group to refrain from enacting its Presidency at this time, leaving the Fourth Presidency as an ‘empty chair’ for the current term of office. This empty chair represents the lack of agreement within the churches in England regarding human sexuality, and the reality that this dimension of the churches’ pilgrimage together is not yet complete. CTE commits to continue listening to the voice of the Fourth Presidency Group and the churches they represent and is working with them to find ways to ensure that, during this period, their voice in the collective presidency is still heard.

In statements released today, the Revd Dr Paul Goodliff, General Secretary of CTE, and Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain, said they were committed to continuing in conversation together, “knowing that God will hold us together in gracious love”.

General Secretary of Churches Together in England, Revd Dr Paul Goodliff, says:

“CTE acknowledges the pain and sadness caused by this decision. We recognise and value the important giftings of the churches of the Fourth Presidency Group, and the significant contribution they make to our ecumenical family.

“The Member Churches of CTE are committed to continue walking together closely in our pilgrimage of unity and witness to our shared faith. Listening carefully and deeply to one another and to God, and offering Christ’s love to all without condition, we will continually hold one another in prayer, seeking to maintain the unity of the Body of Christ which we receive as God’s gift.”