Registered Charity No. 1117022
Revd Stephen Copson
For general enquiries, please email:
Churches Together in Hertfordshire unites in pilgrimage those churches in the area which, acknowledging God's revelation in Christ, confess the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord according to the Scriptures, and in obedience to God's will and in the power of the Holy Spirit commit themselves:
To seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another
in the Church, which is his body; and
To fulfil their mission to proclaim the Gospel by common witness
and service in the world:
To the glory of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
NEWS AND EVENTS - archive of earlier material
Church Leaders deeply saddened
Statement by the Presidents of CTE in response to the killing of
Fr Jacques Hamel in Rouen, France
We are deeply saddened to learn of the brutal murder of our brother, 84-year old priest, Fr Jacques Hamel in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Rouen, France. That a man of peace who had dedicated his life to serving people could be killed during Mass is testimony to the evil that drives the actions of those who commit such a crime. We offer our deepest sympathy to his family, friends and parishioners. We pray for the wellbeing of those who were taken hostage, their families and the entire community served by Fr Jacques; indeed we pray for the peace of France, Europe, the Middle East and the world for which Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gave his own life.
We call upon all people of goodwill to pray and work for justice and peace. In particular, we implore everyone to help people everywhere to pursue the path of peace and human flourishing – which is the will of Creator God.
The Presidents of Churches Together in England, 27 July 2016
Many of the linked documents on this site are in PDF format. Download the free Reader if you do not have it.
Archbishop Longley hints at exciting progress
Expressing a personal view, but one that excites many other Christians, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, the Roman Catholic Co-Chair of the Third Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) has said that further relaxations in Vatican rules on eucharistic sharing may be possible.
Speaking to the editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette following a joint session of the National Advisers' Committee on Ecumenism of the Irish (Roman Catholic) Episcopal Conference and representatives of the Church of Ireland's Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, he mentioned changes in ‘specified circumstances’ set out in the 1993 Ecumenism Directory. He said,
‘Given that that represents a change, and a very significant shift away from the impossibility to the limited possibility, then I could imagine and foresee one of the fruits of our ecumenical engagement as moving towards a deeper understanding of communion and a deeper sharing, a deeper communion between our Churches which perhaps would lead to reconsideration of some of the circumstances.’
A warm welcome in Rome was extended to the National Ecumenical Officers of the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army, and the Baptist Union of Great Britain between September 30th and October 3rd 2013. David Cornick, General Secretary of Churches Together in England, said that warmth of the welcome ‘speaks eloquently of the state of the relationship between the Catholic Church and their ecumenical partners.’
Organized jointly by Churches Together in England (CTE) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the visit included some significant national figures in ecumenical work in Britain: the Convenor of CTE, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, the Bishop of Portsmouth; the Rt Revd Paul Hendricks who has responsibility for ecumenism within the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference; Fr Robert Bryne CO, the Conference’s Ecumenical Officer; the Revd Dr David Cornick, General Secretary of CTE and Jenny Bond, Field Officer for the North and Midlands.
A unity of the Heart
The 32nd Ecumenical Conference of Bishops in Jerusalem, organized by the Focolare movement
A unity of the heart, founded upon profound relationships in God, was the purpose of a meeting in Jerusalem of 33 bishops – Anglicans, Catholics (of different rites: Latin, Syriac, Chaldean, Maronite and Melkite), Evangelical Lutherans, Methodists, Orthodox of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and Syrian Orthodox. This was the 32nd Ecumenical Conference of Bishops organized by the Focolare Movement held from 18th to 22nd November 2013.
It was, in its way, a colourful gathering as well as important. The bishops came from all over the world: Australia, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Moldavia, Sweden, Thailand, Uganda, Uruguay and the USA. The theme of the meeting contributed to their moving spiritual experience. It was ‘The Reciprocity of Love Among the Disciples of Christ’. Their focus, therefore, was to meet, understand and love one another. Doctrinal and other differences were merely fuel for understanding and loving one another more deeply, not a reason for division.
On the basis of such a living unity, the Holy Spirit, as several of the bishops affirmed, can work to bring about visible unity. It is not a matter of ignoring current divisions, but of giving a framework for quickly overcoming them.
This is why perhaps the most powerful moment of the conference was when, in the church of St Peter in Gallicantu, the bishops made a Pact of mutual love. They vowed to love one another as Jesus has loved all and to love each other’s churches as their own.
The bishops chose this specific church for their Pact because it is next to the Roman stairs where, tradition has it, Jesus, on his way from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane, offered his High Priestly pray, ‘May the all be one’ (John 17:21).
Before the conference began, a group had visited the Latin Patriarch, His Beatitude Archbishop Fouad Twal who was about to leave for Rome. They also met the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III. He told them that he considered their coming to Jerusalem a blessing. ‘For the Christians of the Holy Land,’ he said, ‘it is an encouragement to meet bishops who are united, even if they belong to different Churches. It is also a strong support for us, because it is a clear sign that we have not been forgotten. You don’t only talk about dialogue but you are a living dialogue.’
Various significant aspects of international ecumenism were studied: the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Commission’s document The Church: towards a common vision; the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity’s From Conflict to Communion which looks at the 2017 commemoration of 500 years since the Reformation; and the ‘Together for Europe’ network of about 300 Movements of different churches working to give a soul to the Europe.
Of course they visited the holy sites, and were deeply touched by them. But above all they experienced the real presence of Jesus among them, as he promised ‘Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst’ (Mt 18:20). In this way they took a further step in building the united Church, gathered around its one Lord.
The Herts Team. On the right is Bishop Robin, former Bishop of Hertford, and centre is Ecumenical Facilitator Callan Slipper. On the left is Pierre Mouallem, Melkite Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Galilee.
The bishops came from all over the world to
meet, understand and love one another.
It was the Reciprocity of Love Among
the Disciples of Christ.
His Excellency Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor spoke on ‘The Ecumenical Legacy of the Vatican Council’ at the Focolare Centre in Welwyn Garden City on Saturday 6th July.
This memorial lecture marked the fifth anniversary of Chiara Lubich, Founder of the Focolare Movement and was attended by about 200 people representing a number of denominations.
With characteristic humour and personal anecdotes, the Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster described the sometimes complex processes that have led to a renewed commitment both to ecumenism at a local and regional level and also to the strengthening of the work to identify and celebrate areas of theological unity. Speaking after the event Frank Johnson, joint co-ordinator for the Focolare Movement in Britain said: ‘We are immensely grateful to the Archbishop for both for being with us and for a lecture that has inspired and encouraged all who attended.’
Saturday, 6 July 2013, 3.00pm
A Pentecost message from
the CTE Presidents
On the day of Pentecost the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the Church. This same Spirit had brooded over the chaos waters at the time of creation, inspired the prophets, poets and kings of the Hebrew people, and descended on Jesus at his baptism. Now the Spirit fell like fire on the Apostles of Jesus so that his message of God's kingdom of love, justice and hope might reach the ends of the earth.
On the Day of Pentecost, the gift of the Spirit brought understanding, for all found they could understand each other's languages. In our divided world we pray for that gift, that there might be understanding between divided nations and conflicting ideologies, that the unreconciled might begin to walk the path of reconciliation.
Artists often depict the Holy Spirit as a dove. Doves have come to symbolise peace. This Pentecost, amidst conflict and tension in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and on the edges of Europe, we pray for all who are suffering, and for all who work patiently to lessen tension and fashion peace rather than war.
Pentecost is an announcement that the world doesn't have to be as it is. God offers us a different way. The Bible speaks of the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22) - those are some of the qualities which create and sustain good societies. Christians don't have a monopoly on those qualities, but they do know that they are evidence of the Spirit's presence and activity. They also know that the power of the Spirit enables them to do the will of Jesus, so our prayer this Pentecost is that all Christians everywhere will live out their love of Jesus by working to build good and healthy societies where all may flourish as God intends.
To find out more about the Christian faith visit www.christianity.org.uk
To find out more about ‘A good Society’, visit http://agoodsociety.org/
Archbishops of Canterbury and York initiative for Pentecost: www.usewords.org
CT HERTS goes Twitter
Churches Together in Hertfordshire has moved further into the world of digital communication by setting up a Twitter account.
Twitter has grown into a vast social networking system in just a few years and differs from other facilities by limiting users to brief sentences rather than extended monologues. Postings left by Twitter users are called ‘tweats’ and are an excellent way to make short comments and to publicise events etc. The account, operated by Facilitator Callan Slipper, aims to develop insights, experiences and practical suggestions for Christian unity. See what Callan has to say by looking at @manybut1. The Twitter icon to the top left will be permanently added to this site and access is direct. You do not need a Twitter account to read the posts but you may want to create one and contribute yourself!
Christians of different churches working together for the local community is an effective way doing unity and mission at the same time. It reflects the words of Jesus, recorded in various ways in all four gospels, that if we lose ourselves, we find ourselves.
Losing ourselves in love for the community makes us find ourselves in our deep reality: one Body. And, at the very same time, we give true witness to the One who urges to give ourselves, the One who makes us one. We give true witness to Jesus.
Society round about feels the need, even though it does not know always how to put it into words. The need is for Jesus, in the whole of what he brings, a personal relationship with God and a world transformed. The longing for a social transformation is why the Government has launched an initiative called 'Neighbourhood Planning'. It seeks to generate community involvement in planning issues. For Christians it offers a chance to serve the community by working in unity for it. In several areas, but especially where there is new planning, the churches are already involved in the process. Government figures suggest that, in all and with or without the churches, over 500 local areas are now engaged it.
There is a real opportunity here for ecumenical groups of various kinds to be of service. Churches Together in England have set up a website that can help: www.cte.org.uk/neighbourhoodplanning. Why not think about what you can do? It may well be that the churches in your area could take a lead or work alongside other community groups in this engagement with planning.
Feedback would be appreciated. Stories of what you have done can be shared through Churches Together in Hertfordshire (send stories, with pictures if possible, to facilitator[at]ctherts.org.uk).
Serving the Community
Joking, Callan Slipper sometimes says that this book tells you all you ever wanted to know about ecumenism but never dared to ask. Of course, he is exaggerating. But this book does give a vision, at once spiritual and practical, for how we can live Christian unity.
It offers five steps for Christians to come closer on the path toward unity. (1) See the need; (2) Find the way; (3) Construct the building blocks; (4) Listen to the silent Third, Jesus; (5) Overcome all obstacles.
The insights are drawn from practical experience in the ecumenical field, not least in Hertfordshire, as well as many hours of thinking things through together with God. A core conclusion is perhaps surprising: ‘Christian unity does not depend upon the work of theologians or specialists or even of church leaders, although they too are involved. It depends almost entirely upon the love of individuals.’
In the blurb on the back of the book, Revd John W. Crossin, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, says:
‘Practical wisdom, good examples, and personal challenges fill this book. The 5 steps lead us to the practice of a deeper spiritual life – the life of love – which is essential to unity. This short book is a very helpful addition to the work of ecumenical dialogue.’
It can be obtained from: http://newcity.co.uk/Catalogue/Todaya-s-Issues/5-Steps-to-Living-Christian-Unity/prod_340.htm (Price £4, ISBN: 978-1-56548-501-3, 60 pages)
All you ever wanted to know?
A new book on Christian unity
What is exciting about Receptive ecumenism is the new possibilities it offers in the search for Christian unity. No doubt that is why it is growing in popularity. Its modest approach offers massive dividends.
It starts with abandoning an unconscious attitude. We stop thinking of other Christians or churches: ‘If only they were a bit more like us, everything would be all right.’ And we start asking what we can learn from them. We begin to share their gifts.
The idea of sharing gifts in itself is nothing new and it seems simple. But in the fresh light of Receptive Ecumenism, it has potentially a series of almost seismic effects. It changes us while making us more ourselves; it changes others by making them realize who they are, and it changes the relationship between us, filling it with a spirit of humility, appreciation, empathy and deeper understanding.
It may seem strange that learning from one another does all this, until you think about it. So, if I learn what I can with integrity, then what I gain from the other strengthens me and helps me to be me in a better and more powerful way. And in the process of my seeing something I can learn, in effect I emphasize it for the other and they see their own identity more clearly. Indeed, they may see things about themselves that they never really noticed before. And, what is more, as we change through our relationship we are, of course, also seeing the other as valuable and coming to see more clearly why they are as they are.
One excellent thing about this process is that it doesn’t require anyone to be perfect or to have all of the gifts. However gifted by the Spirit a church may be, it cannot but have points at which it suffers, simply because it is made up not only of God’s grace but also of fallible human beings. Hence people involved in Receptive Ecumenism talk of healing gifts for wounded hands. It means finding things that help in whatever is our particular kind of weakness (not always the same for all).
It is also an academic study. For this reason it is having a big impact also in official conversations between the churches. ARCIC (the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) has said how useful Receptive Ecumenism is in its work.
Indeed, in early June 2014 there was the Third International Receptive Ecumenism Conference, attended (as the name would suggest) by people from all over the world, including the UK. It was held at Fairfield University, Connecticut, USA, a beautiful, if somewhat rainy campus.
Practical examples and living witnesses were given of Receptive Ecumenism from places as far apart as Canada, Australia, South America and northern England. And a great deal of stimulating discussion took place. The key thing, however, was its demonstration of the potential of Receptive Ecumenism when applied.
A thought-provoking aspect of the conference was the host of papers given in other sessions, mostly in the afternoons. Among them were some that showed how Receptive Ecumenism is part of spiritual ecumenism, that is, of the ongoing conversion, the meeting together in God, the care for one another rooted in Gospel love, the prayer and the worship that are core to the search for Christian unity. Through its impact within spiritual ecumenism, it touches down solidly in the life of individual Christians.
Receptive Ecumenism is not only about listening to one another, therefore. It is also about a deeper spiritual life, collectively in our churches and personally too.
Christians of different Churches renew together their baptismal vows. Contributed by Fairfield University, USA
Group Photo: contributed by Fairfield University, USA
Christians of different Churches renew together their baptismal vows. Contributed by Fairfield University, USA
Churches Together in England elects its first Pentecostal President
The first Pentecostal President for Churches Together in England (CTE), Jamaican born Bishop Eric Brown, was installed on Monday 7 October 2013.
In a historic move, he joins the existing group of Presidents, Archbishop Justin Welby, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Bishop Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, the Revd Michael Heaney and Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain.
Bishop Brown is the Presiding Bishop of the New Testament Church of God, a black majority Pentecostal church celebrating its 60th anniversary in the UK.
Treasuring the Riches of our Christian Neighbours
An evening to be remembered
It was the eve of St Agnes, 20 January 2016, and, as in the poem by Keats, ‘bitter chill it was’. But inside, in the Coptic Centre, a roaring fire was burning. This, however, was cool compared to the welcome that awaited.
In the presence of regional leaders of various Churches, 52 of us from across the denominations and across the world had come to pray during the Week of Prayer for Christian unity. Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church, hosting the event together with Churches Together in Hertfordshire, welcomed us all. Other leaders were Bishop Alan Smith of St Albans, Revd Anne Brown the Methodist District Chair, Bishop John Sherrington auxiliary bishop in Westminster and outgoing chair of CTHerts, together with the incoming chair, Revd Stephen Copson, regional minister from the Central Baptist Association.
One highlight of the evening, as we prayed together for unity, was hearing Bishop Angaelos speak about the one Body of Christ suffering now in the Middle East. He addressed this as part his illuminating exposition of the Coptic tradition. Ten years ago 25% of the population in the whole of the region were Christians; now it is only 5%. Four of the five percent are in Egypt. But Christians, and their witness to Christ, are not going away. They offer their experience of what Christ has done and is doing among them to the societies where they live. Those of us elsewhere share in that work and sustain those in difficulty by their prayer. It is a call to open our hearts to these other members of the one Body.