Church of England and Church of Scotland to move closer in historic agreement

The Church of England and presbyterian Church of Scotland have moved towards an historic agreement to work more closely together.

Bishop of Chester Peter Forster during a visit to the Vatican in Rome.Reuters

The Columba Declaration, to be debated next year by the General Synod of the Church of England and the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, will commit both churches to growing closer together in communion and mission.

It will mean that clergy and laity from both churches are recognised and welcomed by each other.

Both churches have particular constitutional responsibilities. The CofE is the established church in England with the Queen as Supreme Governor and 26 bishops in the House of Lords. The Church of Scotland is that country's national church but is self-governing, with the right to pass laws without needing Royal Assent. The Queen is represented at the assembly by her appointed Lord High Commissioner.

Church of Scotland minister John McPake and Bishop of Chester Peter Forster have already signed the 15-page declaration which comes at a time regarded by both churches as "particularly critical" in the life of the United Kingdom. Both churches hope it will enable them to speak and act together more effectively "in the face of the missionary challenges of our generation."

Pake said: "We believe that approval of the Columba Declaration by our two churches will represent a significant step in the long history of their relationship, one that affirms the place we have come to and opens up new possibilities for the future."

Earlier this year the churches worked together to set up the  Churches' Mutual Credit Union to help low-income families access to low-cost banking and loans.