United Reformed Church

United Reformed Church

An unrelated American church of similar name is the United Reformed Churches in North America.
The United Reformed Church (URC) is a Christian denomination (church) in Great Britain. The URC is the result of a union between the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church in England and Wales in 1972 and subsequent unions with the Re-formed Association of Churches of Christ in 1981 and the Congregational Union of Scotland in 2000. The United Reformed Church has approximately 75,000 members and 1600 congregations. The United Reformed Church publishes Reform magazine.


The URC is a trinitarian church whose theological roots are Calvinist, and whose historical and organisational roots are in the Presbyterian (Reformed), Congregational, and Churches of Christ traditions. In its Basis of Union, there is a short document ‘A statement concerning the nature, faith and order of the United Reformed Church’, which succinctly puts forward the church’s belief:

With the whole Christian Church, the United Reformed Church believes in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: The living God, the only God, ever to be praised.

The life of faith to which we are called is the Spirit's gift continually received through the Word, the Sacraments and our Christian life together. We acknowledge the gift and answer the call, giving thanks for the means of grace.

The highest authority for what we believe and do is God's Word in the Bible, alive for his people today, through the help of the Spirit. We respond to this Word, whose servants we are with all God's people through the years.

We accept with thanksgiving to God the witness to the catholic faith in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. We acknowledge the declarations made in our own tradition by Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Churches of Christ in which they stated the faith and sought to make its implications clear – Faith alive and active: gift of an eternal source, renewed for every generation.

We conduct our life together according to the Basis of Union in which we give expression to our faith in forms which we believe contain the essential elements of the Church's life, both catholic and reformed; but we affirm our right and readiness, if the need arises, to change the Basis of Union and to make new statements of faith in ever new obedience to the Living Christ: Our crucified and risen Lord, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.

Held together in the Body of Christ through the freedom of the Spirit, we rejoice in the diversity of the Spirit's gifts and uphold the rights of personal conviction. For the sake of faith and fellowship it shall be for the church to decide where differences of conviction hurt our unity and peace. We commit ourselves to speak the truth in love and grow together in the peace of Christ.

We believe that Christ gives his Church a government distinct from the government of the state. In things that affect obedience to God the Church is not subordinate to the state, but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ, its only Ruler and Head. Civil authorities are called to serve God's will of justice and peace for all humankind, and to respect the rights of conscience and belief – while we ourselves are servants in the world as citizens of God's eternal kingdom.

We affirm our intention to go on praying and working, with all our fellow Christians, for the visible unity of the Church in the way Christ chooses so that people and nations may be led to love and serve God and praise him more and more for ever – Source, Guide, and Goal of all that is: to God be eternal glory. Amen.


The URC is governed by a combined form of presbyterian polity and congregationalist polity.


Each congregation (local church) within the URC is governed by a Church Meeting consisting of all the members, which is the ultimate decision-making body in a congregation. There is also an Elders' Meeting (similar to the presbyterian Kirk Session in the Church of Scotland), which advises the Church Meeting and shares with the Minister the spiritual and pastoral oversight of the church. Elders are normally elected to serve, often for a specific period of time.


At a regional level, representatives of the congregations assemble in a synod. There are 11 English synods, one for a "province" of England roughly the size of a region of England; and one each for Nations of Scotland and Wales. These 13 synods are served by a moderator and often a training officer and other staff. The synod and its committees offer oversight (the etymological sense of 'episcopate' or 'supervision') to the churches, giving pastoral care and making important decisions about where ministers serve and how churches share ministry. Through the synod, the URC relates to other regional denominational structures (Anglican diocese and Methodist districts, for example). Synods now usually hold the property in trust and many key financial decisions are made here. Synods also have committee structure and employ staff to encourage and serve local churches. (Before the reforms in 2007, several congregations organized at roughly the county level to form a district, each with a district council; or area council in Scotland. Since 2007, the functions of the district has been transferred to the synod.) The synods are these, with their numeric code; and in the case of English synods, with the approximate corresponding region in brackets:

  1. Northern Synod (the region of North East England)
  2. North Western Synod (the region of North West England except Merseyside)
  3. Mersey Synod (the Merseyside part of the region of North West England, plus the Isle of Man)
  4. Yorkshire Synod (the region of Yorkshire and the Humber)
  5. East Midlands Synod (the region of East Midlands)
  6. West Midlands Synod (the region of West Midlands)
  7. Eastern Synod (the region of East of England)
  8. South Western Synod (the region of South West England omitting Dorset)
  9. Wessex Synod (South East England central; similar to the South Central NHS Strategic Health Authority; also includes Dorset, part of Surrey, and the Channel Islands)
  10. Thames North Synod (Greater London north of the river Thames, Buckinghamshire, and much of Hertfordshire)
  11. Southern Synod (Greater London south of the Thames, Kent, East and West Sussex; similar to the South East Coast NHS Strategic Health Authority, omitting much of Surrey)
  12. National Synod of Wales
  13. National Synod of Scotland

General Assembly

The URC has a General Assembly (with its Moderator) which gathers representatives of the whole of the URC to meet biennially (starting from 2010; annually until 2008). Advised by the Mission Council, the General Assembly plans the activity of the URC across Great Britain. It makes key policy decisions about the direction of the life of the denomination. It also appoints central (that is, Britain-wide) staff, receives reports from national committees, and deals with large reports and initiatives such as the recent Catch the Vision exercise . The synods (and until 2007, the districts) are represented, along with the convenors of the Assembly's standing committees.

Reforms and revitalization

The United Reformed Church has embarked on a major programme of change and revitalization, known as Catch the Vision. Part of this involves some changes to the structure and governance of the church. In July 2007, the district councils were dissolved and their work carried out by the synods, working in a new way. From 2008, the General Assembly will only meet in every other year. In addition the central work of the Assembly has been reconfigured. The Executive body of the General Assembly is currently known as the Mission Council, although a change of name is under consideration now that a new standing committee is known as the Mission Committee. In 2007, a second phase of revitalization, "Vision4Life" was launched, focussing on Bible study, prayer, and evangelism, which will begin with a year focussing on the Bible on Advent Sunday 2008.


The URC is a member of the many ecumenical organizations, a fact which reflects the church's strong commitment to Christian unity. There are different ecumenical bodies in the component parts of the Britain. In the England, these include Churches Together in England, amongst others. In Wales, the URC is a member of Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales) and the Enfys covenant. In Scotland, the URC participates in Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS). Some work covering all the Isles is co-ordinated by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

A former Moderator of the URC General Assembly, the Reverend Dr Philip Morgan, himself a former General Secretary of the Association of Churches of Christ, was the last General Secretary of the British Council of Churches. During his ten year term of office at the BCC, he oversaw the Council's transformation into Churches Together in Britain and Ireland in 1990.

The URC is also a member of many international ecumenical organisations, including the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Council for World Mission. It has a partnership with Christian Aid and the World Development Movement, called Commitment for Life.

FURY: Fellowship of United Reformed Youth

FURY, standing for the Fellowship of United Reformed Youth, is an umbrella organisation of which all young people in the URC between the ages of 11 and 25 are automatically members. This includes young people who attend a United Reformed Church or are part of a group or organisation using United Reformed Church premises. Examples of such groups are Pilots, Scouts and Guides, Boys and Girls Brigade

The organisation's mission statement is as follows: "Our mission is to discover God, to help each other grow in the Christian faith and, through our lives, reflect God's love to all."

FURY's functions

Whilst the main focus of URC youth work is at the local Church, FURY performs a number of functions at the National level. FURY Advisory Board organises FURY Assembly and the FURY Forum. Assembly is an annual event at which FURY members meet and discuss issues that are important to them, with some issues going forward as motions which may even be taken to the URC General Assembly. The FURY Forum is a faith based event which is more spiritual that Assembly which is to be held every year, the first one was a great success and the second one will be held in late 2008.

FURY Advisory Board

FURY Advisory Board is a body elected by FURY Assembly. It is made up of the FURY Executive and FURY Task Group. The current 2008 FURY Moderator is James Wickens and the 2009 Moderator will be Josh Thomas.

The Executive is responsible for all the work of FURY and its officers are directly elected by FURY Assembly or appointed by a nominations committee. The posts on the body are as follows: Moderator, Moderator Elect, Treasurer, Secretary, National Synod Representative, Pilots Representative, Mission Council Representative, and British Youth Council Delegation Leader. FURY Executive devolves some of its functions to the other part of the Advisory Board and can, from time to time as it deems may be necessary create other working groups to perform specific functions.

There is one permanent Task Group, the Publications and Communications Task Group, and other temporary Task Groups. The Publications & Communications Task Group is responsible for the website and the quarterly magazine 'f2' which is an insert in the URC national journal 'Reform'. F2 is currently edited by Matt Stone. In addition the Communications Group will often handle publicity for FURY events and the creation of materials requested by the Executive. The temporary groups are responsible for ensuring that the work mandated by passed motions at FURY Assembly is carried out. The people on this body are those who brought the motion(s) to Assembly in the first place, or are taking the place of such people.

Until January 2007 the structures of FURY and its purpose were different, restructuring over a few years culminated in FURY Advisory Board replacing FURY Council at Assembly in 2007. FURY Advisory Board hopes to be able to make FURY more relevant and responsive to the young people of the URC.

See also

External links

Polity information

Organizations for young people

Internal groupings

Continuing churches that did not unite organically with the URC


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