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The Declaration Of Intent

ON THIS FOURTEENTH DAY OF OCTOBER IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1972, we whose names are appended hereto, meeting in the Congregational Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, London, and representing several thousand more in our land, reaffirm our faith in Jesus Christ, and in the “gathered church” as that pattern of His whole Church which came to be designated ‘Congregational’.

WITH grace we acknowledge that on the fifth day of October 1972 many of our brethren who had until that time declared their own faith in the Congregational Way, deemed it right for them to forsake the Congregational Way for another pattern of Christ's Church which it pleased them to call ‘The United Reformed Church’. We pray God's blessing upon them and upon what service to Christ they may render. Nevertheless, since every man must be obedient to the faith that is in him, we here reiterate our faith, and pray God's strength and courage to be loyal to it.

THE Lord Jesus Christ “was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross” and our tongues shall “confess Him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

THE Apostles, when challenged by their contemporaries in the crisis which called for a declaration by which they would stand fast, announced that they “ought to obey God rather than Men”. In that same spirit, throughout many centuries, the Fathers dedicated their life and service, not a few of them suffering martyrdom for Christ's sake.

In the year of our Lord 1593 John Greenwood, Henry Barrow and John Penry were detained in a prison which stood on this site whereon stands today Congregational Memorial Hall, and were taken from it to Tyburn, there to be executed because they refused to recant that faith in which they offered sole obedience to the authority of God in Christ.

In the year 1662, some two thousand clergymen of the Church of England, required by the law of the land enacted in Parliament to conduct worship by no other form than that prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, surrendered their livings in the established Church, and gathered companies of believers around them for free worship independent of all other external human authority. For a century and a half such gathered companies of independents became consolidated in local churches having complete autonomy under God. They suffered hardship and privation, but at much personal cost remained loyal and true to conscience.

In the year 1831, on the thirteenth day of May, one hundred representatives of local independent churches throughout the land, assembled in the Congregational Library in Blomfield Street, London and formally signed a document pledging themselves to help one another in the service of Christ, and to that end to form the Congregational Union of England and Wales, “founded on full recognition of their own distinctive principle namely the scriptural right of every separate church to maintain perfect independence in the government and administration of its own affairs; and therefore that the Union shall not in any case assume legislative authority or become a court of appeal”.

NOW, on this fourteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord 1972, we who are here gathered, standing in this same glorious tradition pledge ourselves to maintain it and extend it and to that end sign our names, knowing that within three hours we shall join many more in Westminster Chapel, who will stand with us to reaffirm that same foundation principle for the Congregational Federation under which title the fellowship of independent churches may continue.