From the Convenor of Northern Synod Trust…

‘…the Church is not subordinate to the state…[1]’ is a phrase that strikes deeply into the heart of what it means to be the United Reformed Church. In our history we have been a disruptive force, shunning power and influence in order to be faithful to our call to be disciples of Christ. The relationship between state and church has for us been a delicate balance; our forebears risked imprisonment, ridicule and poverty. In 21st Century Britain we are sometimes forced to seek compromises that can frustrate good intentions. The culture in which the Church finds itself today is increasingly proscribed by legislation enforced by financial penalties for non-compliance. The purpose of this article is to explain the responsibility of the Trust[2] for law and gospel.

 

The Trust is a registered Charity and a Company limited by guarantee. The Trust is the legal entity that holds property and financial assets on behalf of the congregations that make up the Northern Synod of the United Reformed Church. While legally separate the Trust seeks to follow the wishes of the Synod but cannot be instructed to act in a particular way. In most situations there is no conflict and the Directors readily support the various initiatives that further the work of the United Reformed Church. Trust funds are invested in the work at the St. Cuthbert’s Centre on Holy Island, in Synod Staff, in building projects by local churches, in new community initiatives and in supporting ecumenical enterprises.

 

The Directors of the Trust, although appointed by the Synod, are required to act in accordance with the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Trust. If they were unable to follow the wishes of the Synod they would explain why. The failure of the Directors to follow the wishes of the Synod would make them unpopular. However failure to follow legally enforceable legislation would render them liable to prosecution and personal financial penalty.

 

The Trust holds funds and assets on behalf of the churches and the Objectives of the charity are simple: ‘to advance the Christian religion for the benefit of the public in accordance with the doctrines, principles and usages and the Basis of Union of the United Reformed Church’. This is the test that has to be applied to every request for assistance. Both Church and State demand that Directors of the Trust are rigorous in fulfilling that criteria. We live in uncertain times when demands upon the financial and human resources of congregations are stretched close to breaking point. The Trust has resources but they must be used in ways that are effective in pursuing the Objectives of the charity. In a bid for further insight and transparency the Trust has begun a conversation with the Synod Executive which seeks to identify priorities for where our assets should be deployed.

 

The Trust is there to support Synod and congregations and where possible to advise on the legal responsibilities that fall upon Elders and Church meetings. Compromise with the State cannot be avoided but that should not stop us being effective witnesses to a radical gospel.

 

For further information contact:

David Grosch-Miller the Convener of the Trust:
david.grosch-miller@urc.org.uk
david.grosch-miller@urc.org.uk

or Andrew Atkinson the Trust Officer: andrew.atkinson@urc-northernsynod.org

 

[1] Extract from the statement of the Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church read aloud at the ordination and induction of Elders and Ministers of Word and Sacraments.

[2] The term ‘Trust’ in this article refers to The United Reformed Church (Northern Province) Trust Limited.

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