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Columba Declaration agrees closer ties for churches of England and Scotland

An historic agreement has been reached between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, committing them to working closely together.

The Columba Declaration will be debated by the two churches' ruling bodies in the new year.

Their first formal working agreement will enable them to "speak and act together more effectively in the face of the missionary challenges of our generation".

It also aims to strengthen the relationship between the two churches at a time " when it is likely to be particularly critical in the life of the United Kingdom".

The agreement will allow members and clergy to worship and exercise ministry in each other's churches, and will also offer opportunities for congregational partnership, formal and informal, where there are churches close to each other.

It was authored by Church of Scotland minister Rev John McPake and Rt Rev Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester.

Dr McPake said: "The Columba Declaration recognises the strong partnership that already exists and will help encourage and support new initiatives.

"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."

The churches were formed separately during the Reformation. The Church of Scotland's governing system is Presbyterian, while the Church of England is Anglican.

The churches have already worked together on a number of issues. They established the Churches' Mutual Credit Union as a response to concerns that low-income families needed access to low-cost banking and loans earlier this year.

The Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council and the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Division talk regularly about "everything from poverty to refugees".

The document will go to the Church of England's Synod in February and to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May for approval.

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