Ekklesia, 21 June 2005 — Eighteen years after the landmark Swanwick Declaration was signed bringing ‘Churches Together’ into being, the Churches need to respond to the challenge of a twenty first century multifaith Britain, the organisation says.
The Churches have renewed their commitment to work together, so essential work on race relations and mission and faith and inter faith will continue, as well as working with the growing number of minority ethnic people in all the Churches.
Some other work will however cease.
A third of staff posts may go or need to seek funding from new sources, CTBI says.
With less money to fund the work, the Churches have opted for a more ‘streamlined structure’ through which to work together.
The new body, keeping the title Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), will be an agency of the ‘Churches Together’ bodies in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England. It will be recast as a company limited by guarantee.
While the members of the company will be the Churches, its governing board will be nominated by the national ecumenical bodies.
There will also be substantial changes in the work done, in the ways of doing it, and in what role is played by CTBI and what by the national bodies, especially the largest of them, Churches Together in England.
CTBI grew out of the British Council of Churches, formed in 1942. In 1999 it changed its name from the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland, which had been founded in 1990. It brings together Churches across the spectrum of denominations including Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Reformed and Pentecostal Churches.
CTBI trustees have sais they faced difficult decisions on how to prune budgets and posts. They also point out that meanwhile more Churches are continually applying to join CTBI. The Church of God of Prophecy was welcomed as a new member in April when Bishop Wilton Powell joined the twice-yearly gathering of British and Irish Church leaders. In May the Antiochene Orthodox Church joined, bringing the total of member Churches and bodies of Churches of CTBI to thirty five.
The changes come after a year-long review when options were considered that might have scrapped CTBI altogether – leaving the national bodies to coordinate their activities without a separate body for Britain and Ireland. In the end the Churches affirmed that relating together across the whole UK and the Republic of Ireland matters to them theologically, practically and politically. The new CTBI will embody that relationship.
CTBI’s general secretary, Dr David Goodbourn said of the changes ahead: “The Churches are all clearly committed to ecumenism, but they have differing expectations of ecumenical bodies. The last year has been a time of balancing the desire of some for lighter structure, focusing more on relationship, with the continuing need of others to be resourced ecumenically.”
Dr Goodbourn is to move on from his post as general secretary having completed his seven-year term, to be president of the Partnership for Theological Education, based in Manchester. He will take up his new post in September 2005 while completing his commitments to CTBI until March 2006, by which time a new CTBI general secretary should be in office.
Reflecting on the changes ahead Aziz Nour, Secretary of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches said; “The work of CTBI is essential to us. If CTBI was to cease it would be like removing the heart from the body. You can replace it with a machine, and it may pump or it may not. The bigger Churches have departments who could function without CTBI, but the smaller Churches do not.”
CTBI is perhaps best known among local churches for producing the worship resources for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Also for encouraging many to take part in Racial Justice Sunday, held each September. A range of Churches have been inspired by the innovative Building Bridges of Hope project. In recent times CTBI has led four-nations delegations to the Middle East and to China. And there have been challenging publications like Time for Action: sexual abuse, the Churches and a new dawn for survivors. Currently its work includes Church Life, Church and Society, Mission, Inter Faith Relations, International Affairs and Racial Justice.
CTBI employs around 20 staff whose salaries are paid for by the Churches, plus a further 14 whose salaries come from other sources such as charitable trusts, the Department for Education and Skills and Christian Aid.
© 2005 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website: www.ekklesia.co.uk