United Reformed Church

By Alex Barnfather


Origins - History

In October 1997 the United Reformed Church celebrated its 25th anniversary. Formed in 1972 by the union of the Congregational Church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England, the United Reformed Church has continued to express its deep commitment to the visible unity of the whole Church. In 1981 it entered into union with the Re-formed Churches of Christ and in the year 2000 with the Congregational Union of Scotland. The United Reformed Church is in frequent dialogue on unity with other traditions and has more than 400 local churches united with other denominations.

The churches with Presbyterian traditions in the United Kingdom have the Westminster Confession of Faith as one of their important confessional documents.

  • United Reformed Church (URC) in the United Kingdom is the result of the union, in 1972, of Presbyterian and Congregational churches.
    • Some 125 Congregational churches opted to remain outside the union, forming the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches.
  • The Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including:
    • The Church of Scotland, the established, national church in Scotland
    • Smaller denominations such as the Free Church of Scotland and the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
  • The Presbyterian Church in Ireland serves the whole of the island.

In addition to these, there are also other churches with smaller flocks, notably in Northern Ireland.

  • A group of churches called New Frontiers began in England and also exists elsewhere in the world. This group tends to hold to Reformed theology, but is also Charismatic in its experience

Organization - Structure of the Church

The United Reformed Church comprises 150,000 adults and 100,000 children and young people in 1750 congregations spread throughout England, Scotland and Wales, served by some 1100 ministers, both women and men.

Though one of the smaller of Britainís Ďmainstreamí denominations, the United Reformed Church stands in the historic Reformed tradition, whose member denominations make up the largest single strand of Protestantism with more than 70 million members world-wide. Along with other Reformed churches the United Reformed Church holds to the Trinitarian faith expressed in the historic Christian creeds and finds its supreme authority for faith and conduct in the Word of God in the Bible, discerned under guidance of the Holy Spirit. The United Reformed Churchís structure also expresses its faith in the ministry of all Godís people through the structure of democratic Councils by which the Church is governed.

There are about 700 representatives, mainly appointed by District Councils. Half the members are lay persons, mostly elders, and half are ministers. Decisions are taken about the general policy of the church, and committees appointed to carry it out. Each year a Moderator of Assembly is elected, either lay or ordained, who then becomes the national representative of the URC.

The URC is a Union of the Congregational Church
in England and Wales; (united in 1972)
the Presbyterian Church of England; (united in 1972)
the Re-formed Association of Churches of Christ. (joined in 1981)
the Congregational Union of Scotland (joined in April 2000)

The URC is composed of about 1800 local congregations;
150,000 adults and 100,000 children and young people;
with 1,000 serving ministers, women and men.Over 400 local churches are united with other denominations, e.g. Methodist, Baptist, Anglican and Moravian. There are centres for training in Cambridge, Windermere and Yardley Hastings. Local URCs share together in 81 District Councils, which are gathered into 13 Synods.

Central Beliefs - Worship

The URC stands in the Reformed tradition of Christian faith, believes in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; finds the supreme authority for faith and conduct by the guidance of the Spirit in the Word of God in the Bible; looks to be continually renewed and reformed so as to fulfill its mission of witness and service in the name of Jesus Christ;practises both infant and believer's baptism and celebrates the Lord's Supper;recognises the ministry of God's people: all the members serving in the world and through the church, in particular: ministers of Word and Sacrament, elders, lay preachers, church related community workers (CRCWs), and workers from partner churches.