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Reform Magazine | April 23, 2024

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The URC Act at 50 - Reform Magazine

The URC Act at 50

Matthew Prevett looks at the lasting impact of the act that allowed the URC to be formed

Acts of parliament do not make for exciting reading. They are known for what they permit or restrict, for their impact on day-to-day life. People continue with their lives, often oblivious to the impact of legislation. Yet for the United Reformed Church, the parliamentary bill that enabled its creation remains central to present challenges.

The discussions about union between Congregationalists in England and Wales and Presbyterians in England brought together a shared theological understanding of what it meant to be a Christian Church. ‘The Statement Concerning the Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church’, used at ordinations and inductions, outlines the basis that underpins the URC’s theological beliefs.

A new Church structure was also necessary, inheriting aspects of both Congregational and Presbyterian structure but taking them in a new way. Congregationalism and Presbyterianism place their emphasis (and their property ownership) at opposite ends of the structure: Congregationalism centred on the local manifestation of the Church, with Presbyterianism centred on the General Assembly.

In forming the United Reformed Church, the new structure needed to hold in tension these two aspects, with compromise necessary from both sides. Local church meetings provided a local focus to discerning God’s will and mission for communities, supported and overseen by district councils and synods. Meanwhile property held by individual local churches needed to be held under a common trust deed to bring commonality across the denomination…

Matthew Prevett is a URC minister. His book The Quest for Authority is published by Pickwick Publications and is available from the URC Bookshop

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This is an extract from an article published in the October 2022 edition of Reform

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