Columba Declaration passed in historic show of unity at Synod

The Church of England's ruling body has passed a historic motion of unity with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland today.

Justin Welby said he regretted the hurt caused to the Scottish Episcopal ChurchHarry Farley

The Columba Declaration was passed by members of General Synod by 243 in favour to 50 against today. There were 50 abstentions.

The agreement will commit the two churches to "grow together in communion and to strengthen our partnership in mission" and will allow clergy to worship and minister in each other's churches.

However Mark Russell, chief executive of the Church Army and member of the Archbishops' Council led a move to delay the agreement to allow time to do "repair work" with Anglicans in the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) who said they were "deeply hurt" by the measure.

The declaration was leaked on Christmas Eve before the SEC, which already has close ties with the C of E, had seen the document.

"I think Synod needs to listen to Anglican voices north of the border," Russell told Christian Today after the debate.

He added the fact nearly 100 had not voted in favour of the declaration was "significant" but said the agreement will be seen as English interference in Scotland, where the Church has no jurisprudence.

He warned the declaration was "mistimed" when the United Kingdom was already fragile.

"Many Episcopalians feel hurt, hurt by us, we need to hear that hurt," he said in the debate.

"I profoundly believe my amendment is helpful, it is not a derailment amendment, and simply gives space.

"My amendment proposes to allow some space, some breathing space to allow dust to settle, to allow rebuilding relationships work to be done."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in response to Russell's amendment, said his "fear" was if they delayed it "will be seen and heard as a turn against ecumenism and a turn against walking together".

"I too have had not one, but numerous conversations, with the primus (head of SEC) and have listened very carefully. Yes the announcement was cack-handed; it was discourteous and badly handled.

"I would add my apology. It was not done in the way it should have been. The SEC rightly felt upset.

"But once they'd seen it, their response has been that it is a much more moderate agreement than they had realised."

He added that while he "regrets" the hurt, "it was a cock up not conspiracy".

History was made in presenting the declaration as the Church of Scotland's moderator addressed Synod for the first time. Rev Dr Angus Morrison said the invitation was "a real honour" and added the Columba Declaration is "proposing to commit ourselves to growing further in communion and to strengthening our partnership in mission".

The Church of Scotland's General Assembly will debate and vote on the declaration in May.