“At Christmastime, Christians have a special reason to pray for those caught up in violence and driven from their homes by conflict. Our Saviour’s family were themselves refugees in Egypt, led by the Spirit to escape Herod’s persecution, cut off from their home and community, and no doubt travelling in great fear. As Presidents of Churches Together in England, we call to mind the suffering of the people of Ukraine this terrible winter as the unjust Russian invasion continues. "We urge Christians everywhere to continue to stand in prayerful solidarity with the people and churches of Ukraine and to support them in their hour of need. We also hold in prayer all those displaced and suffering the effects of war and oppression. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and his love, justice and peace, we wish the people of Ukraine – and all people – a chance to celebrate in peace the coming of our Lord into this world of need.” ENDS
The Churches Together in England Forum, the broadest ecumenical gathering in the country, ended on 16/3/22 with a renewed commitment that the church is ready to serve a ‘broken world’.
More than 300 delegates from CTE’s 52 national Member Churches, Bodies in Association and partner organisations met to discuss the theme ‘Reconciling Hope: A broken church for a broken world’ viewed through the lenses of racial justice and the climate emergency.
CTE President, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke on reconciliation in a post-Covid world. He urged the church to embrace its diversity and, “where we disagree, we must learn to disagree well…look outwards and respond to the crises that surround us, with the love of God that is within us, and with the unity that can be reached between us.”
Tearfund Global Advocacy and Influencing Director, Canon Dr Ruth Valerio, addressed the question of reconciliation with the earth. She said facing the climate emergency is an integral part of the Christian faith: “We need to get hold of God’s love for the world. In Genesis 1:31 ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’”
Professor Anthony Reddie and Rev Dr Tessa Henry-Robinson spoke on reconciling communities. Professor Reddie demanded that the church confront its collusion with the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. Dr Henry-Robinson challenged individuals to think where they found themselves - as oppressors or following Jesus’s way of justice, hope and peace.
Orthodox theologian Dr Ralph Lee reminded delegates that, “as we seek to understand one another better, deep listening helps us overcome the difference in our language and traditions.”
During the gathering the Forum attendees made two statements on Ukraine. The first, calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities and for churches everywhere to campaign for an end to the war in Ukraine. The second, appealing to the UK government to support the churches offering welcome and sanctuary to Ukrainian refugees.
As Forum drew to a close the new General Secretary of Churches Together in England, Bishop Mike Royal, was commissioned into his role. He addressed Forum with his vision for the Church across England: “We’ve got to build a bigger table to gather around and listen to the voices which are often not heard. We need to raise a new generation of ecumenists. And to be ready to respond practically and relevantly to the needs in the world that God has called us as church to serve.”
Bishop Mike Royal has been called as the next General Secretary of Churches Together in England (CTE).
He will take up his post in March 2022 when the current General Secretary, Rev Dr Paul Goodliff, retires.
Bishop Mike is the Co-Chief Executive of The Cinnamon Network, a charity helping churches across Britain and Ireland with community engagement and social action projects. He is a founding Trustee and former National Director of award-winning charity Transforming Lives for Good (TLG) which works with children and young people at risk of exclusion from school. He is also a part time Forensic Mental Health Chaplain with Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust.
Mike has a BA in Urban Planning from the University of Westminster and an MA in Black Theology from the University of Birmingham. He has been in ordained ministry since 1993 and was consecrated as a Bishop with the Apostolic Pastoral Congress in 2016.
Mike has a wealth of ecumenical experience at local, regional and national level. He led the Street Pastors’ team in Birmingham, the second to be launched in the UK, and worked with Telford Christians’ Together to launch their Cinnamon Faith Action Audit, one of 60 such local initiatives, which have been praised by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as showing ‘the breadth of commitment across the country, the depth of commitment, and above all the strength of experience and good practice.’
He has worked closely with Birmingham Churches Together on their “Standing in the Gap” initiative and is currently Co-Chair with the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 Churches Together Working Group, coordinating the churches’ work on Anti-Trafficking, Young People & Apprenticeships, Health & Well Being, Church Engagement and Social Cohesion and Chaplaincy. Mike represents the Apostolic Pastoral Congress on CTE’s Racial Justice Working Group.
Bishop Mike said “I am both honoured and humbled to accept the role of General Secretary of Churches Together in England, as the church journeys together to fulfil the mandate of Jesus - ‘that they all may be one, as we are one’ (John 17.22). I pray, as our country and the church navigate together through challenging and difficult issues, that we will all find a deeper commitment to God and to one another, as we travel together on this vital ecumenical journey”.
Bishop Mike will be the fifth General Secretary of CTE since the organisation was founded in 1990, following Canon Martin Reardon (1990-1997), Rev Bill Snelson (1997-2008), Rev David Cornick (2008-2018) and Rev Paul Goodliff (2018-2022).
The General Secretary of CTE leads the staff team and with the Board of Trustees develops and maintains the organisation's vision, promoting unity and mission among the churches in England.
The Chair of the CTE Trustees, Rowena Loverance, said “Everyone at Churches Together in England is delighted and excited by Mike Royal’s appointment as General Secretary. He brings us extensive experience in putting faith into action and we look forward to benefitting – along with all our Member Churches - from Mike’s strategic grasp, theological acumen and deep pastoral concern.”
The current General Secretary, Rev Dr Paul Goodliff, says, “The appointment of Bishop Mike as my successor is a brilliant next step for CTE, which will benefit from his experience of inspiring churches to serve their communities. It strengthens further the commitment of the ecumenical movement in England to the task of making Christ known in word and deed. I look forward so much to the opportunity of working with Mike through this transitional period, and I pray that he will be given much wisdom and grace as he starts in this role.”
Churches Together in England's incoming Orthodox and Pentecostal & Charismatic Presidents today signed the Presidents’ Covenant as they started their new roles.
Archbishop Nikitas of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Diocese of Thyateira and Great Britain) and Bishop Tedroy Powell, leader of the pentecostal Church of God of Prophecy, met with their fellow CTE Presidents at Lambeth Palace.
Archbishop Nikitas replaces Archbishop Angaelos (Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London). Archbishop Angaelos represents the Oriental Orthodox tradition and, following custom, his successor comes from the Eastern Orthodox group of churches.
Bishop Tedroy Powell was elected by members of CTE's Pentecostal and Charismatic Forum to take over from Pastor Agu Irukwu of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, who is lead pastor of Jesus House in Brent.
CTE is represented by six Presidents from the major traditions of our 51 National Member Churches. They meet regularly to discuss matters concerning the churches in England, and together seek to serve as a sign of our unity. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and Rev Dr Hugh Osgood the Moderator of the Free Churches Group also hold this role. The Fourth Presidency is currently not enacted. This follows a request by CTE’s Enabling Group in November 2019, reflecting the lack of agreement within the churches in England regarding aspects of theological and moral discernment.
Presidents of CTE expressed their deep gratitude for the service of Archbishop Angaelos and Pastor Agu during this extraordinary period in the life of the Presidency and of CTE more widely. Wider ecumenical engagement in Thy Kingdom Come, wisdom about responses to the Covid pandemic, and especially their leadership in response to the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement, were all priorities ‘on their watch.’
Prayers were offered for their successors Archbishop Nikitas and Bishop Tedroy.
Bishop Tedroy Powell said of his new role at CTE, “It is an honour, great privilege and a truly humbling experience to be selected to serve as one of the six presidents of Churches Together in England.
“It is my aspiration and prayer that I can contribute the gifts, leadership experience and collaborative graces that God has bestowed upon me to fruition, in this sphere, as we serve the ecclesia of God, and our country in these uncertain times and seasons. Although uncertainty abounds, locally, nationally and globally, we the ecclesia of God have great opportunities to become even more transformational, building strategic constructs under the canopy of God’s grace, as salt and light, bringing hope and reconciliation to our troubled seas of humanity.”
Archbishop Nikitas said of his new role at CTE, "I am delighted to inaugurate my presidential tenure of Churches Together in England. Throughout my clerical ministry, ecumenical engagement and inter-Christian cooperation were always a personal priority and a major part of my diakonia. Now more than ever before, our world is in need of faith in action, and only through our own example will society experience the power of the message of salvation. Our world desires a “culture of solidarity” among all people, and most especially, among Christian sisters and brothers.
“Representing our Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the entire Orthodox Family and the Eastern Churches, I am ready to engage on every level with the boldness of Christian love and truth to sustain, strengthen and increase our collaboration, cooperation, and Christian solidarity in England."
Followed by Communion, this was a meeting where consideration was also given to the place of the Fourth Presidency Group within the Presidency, and how best to enable the contribution of the churches in that Group to be offered in the wider Presidency, in the absence of their appointed President.
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