Last minute boost to unity launch
by Joanna Moorhead
CHEERS and applause greeted the announcement, made at the inaugural meeting in Aberystwyth of Churches Together in Wales, that the Baptist Union of Wales had decided at the last moment to join the new ecumenical body. Many members of the union had been wary of joining an organisation which listed the Catholic church among its members.
The Revd Islwyn Davies, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales, said later that a last-minute meeting had decided that the group, which represents about 30,000 Baptist; in Wales, should join the new body for an initial three-year period.
But the Baptists stressed that doctrinal differences between themselves and other members of Churches Together in Wales (known by its Welsh initials of CYTUN) should not be glossed over. Some members of the Baptist Union are also known to be concerned about the clericalism of the Catholic church, and of the hierarchybased power structure, which is at odds with their congregationbased decision-making structure. Another Baptist organisation, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, has decided against joining CYTUN although it is represented on its English equivalent, Churches Together in England (CTE).
CTE was also launched last weekend, with a service at St George's Catholic cathedral in Southwark attended by Cardinal Basil J-JUIrile, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Robert Runcie, and other church leaders.
They heard the Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, say in his address that the new unity body was not just about the churches being nice to each other. It was an acknowledgement of a basis of unity which was already in existence, he said.
Dr Habgood warned against what he called "one of the dangers in all ecumenical work . , . the loss of a sense of perspective". Inevitable disappointments, unintended hurts, unexpected problems, failures in sensitivity, could loom too large and absorb massive amounts of energy, he said.
Tomorrow sees the launch in Liverpool of the new ecumenical body which will replace the British Council of Churches. The Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland, which is to include the Catholic church for the first time, will be launched at services at the Anglican and Metropolitan cathedrals in the city.