Uniting-Anglican cooperation in Central West

Uniting-Anglican cooperation in Central West

An agreement signed in March by the Anglican Bishop of Bathurst, Richard Hurford, and the Chair of the Uniting Church’s Macquarie Darling Presbytery, Brian Mowbray, cleared the way for increased cooperation between Anglican and Uniting Church congregations in Western New South Wales.

The two representatives of their respective denominations signed the Cooperating Churches Agreement in the office of the Anglican Diocese of Bathurst, witnessed by Uniting Church Presbytery Minister Graeme MacRaild and the Registrar of Bathurst Diocese, Archdeacon Robert Howell.

Macquarie Darling Presbytery and the Diocese of Bathurst cover very similar areas of Western New South Wales, with each stretching from east of Bathurst to the Queensland border.

The Uniting Church region includes 53 congregations, while the Anglican diocese covers 36 parishes.

“This is a significant day,” Bishop Hurford said. “We’ve been walking down this path for some time and today marks a milestone on that journey.”

He acknowledged the work that Mr MacRaild and Archdeacon Howell had put into drafting the agreement and also paid tribute to the contribution of the Rev. Margaret Finlay, who had ministered with the cooperating Anglican and Uniting Church congregations in Canowindra from 2004 to 2009.

Mr Mowbray said it was a joy to be able to come together to sign the agreement and he looked forward to the two church groups continuing “working together to strengthen God’s mission”.

Commenting on the “fragile nature” of the church in rural areas, Mr MacRaild said that, by working together, there was much more that the churches could do.

“For me, the document tries to set out a range of different ways that the congregations of our two churches can work together to strengthen Christian witness.”

Archdeacon Howell pointed out that, while the two denominations had not reached agreement on all issues, the document nonetheless affirms their common ministry.

“It’s what we hold in common that is most important,” he added.

The document draws on Australian Churches Covenanting Together (2006), prepared by the National Council of Churches in Australia, and For the Sake of the Gospel: Mutual Recognition of Ordained Ministries in the Anglican and Uniting Churches in Australia (2001).

It acknowledges that, within the region, there are several communities where varying levels of cooperation are already established and operating satisfactorily.

These range from shared use of buildings, cooperative youth ministries, joint activities between the two congregations and shared worship.

However, it points out that the diocese and the presbytery need to be involved in discussions about any proposal to enter into any form of cooperation very early in the process.

The framework outlines principles of cooperation including agreement on faith and mission, and a statement on the differing understandings of church between the two groups.

It goes on to list guidelines for various types of cooperation including prerequisites for any formal understanding; management and financial; accountability; exercise of ministries; keeping of records and sharing ministry appointments.

There is a brief overview of possible areas of contention in pastoral ministries such as baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist and marriage services.

Bishop Hurford pointed out that the framework had been signed by representative persons, on behalf of their respective church organisations.

“Now that we’ve got the framework, there will be other situations we can apply it to,” he added.

Anglican News

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