URC Thames North Structure

A Conciliar Church

The United Reformed Church has a conciliar structure which means that authority is exercised by Councils of the Church. The Councils are the Church Meeting, the Elders Meeting, Synod, and General Assembly.

The Church Meeting

Each local church is constituted by holding regular Church Meetings. The Church Meeting has significant freedom to make decisions concerning the theological emphasis, leadership, membership, preferred pattern of worship and mission priorities relating to that Church. The church ordains and elects its own elders and is responsible for calling a Minister through the Church Meeting. Much of the day-to-day leadership of a local church is then undertaken by the Minister and Elders.

The Synod

The Synod is made up of 137 local churches. 2-3 times a year, the Ministers and other representatives of those local churches gather to make decisions concerning issues that are best dealt with at Synod level. Areas covered include: collaborative work carried out by the churches collectively, provision of training for a variety of types of ministry and property issues.

Much of the work of the Synod is undertaken through a structure of committees, each of which oversee specific areas of the Synod’s work, such as leadership development, mission, children’s and youth work, property and finance.

Within the United Reformed Church, local churches are responsible for the day-to-day management of church buildings, but the ownership of church property resides with the Synod Trust. When buildings are no longer required for local church ministry the funds received from the sale of the building are held by the Synod to be used to benefit the mission and ministry of the other 137 churches. These resources are invested and the income used to fund training for ministers and other church leaders, mission grants to local churches and staff posts to provide specialist training and support to the Synod’s churches. Thames North Synod is a registered charity and its trustees, known as the Synod Executive, are elected from within the Synod membership (the Ministers and other representatives from local churches).

The General Assembly

General Assembly meets once every two years and deals with matters affecting the entire United Reformed Church denomination (approximately 1500 churches across 13 Synods).

The United Reformed Church determines policy on a denomination-wide basis in areas such as the accreditation and training of ordained ministers, the movement of ministers between churches in different Synods, the development of relationships with other churches (both with other denominations in the UK and with partner churches around the world), and oversight of denomination-wide initiatives such as the Pilots children’s ministry, FURY (the Fellowship of United Reformed Youth), and multi-cultural ministry.

How the Three Councils Relate To Each Other

The three Councils generally operate in a bottom-up way (also known as the principle of subsidiarity). This means that the Church Meeting will handle the vast majority of issues relating to its mission and ministry, and only those issues that cannot be effectively addressed at this level will be dealt with by the Synod or General Assembly.

Pastoral Care of Churches

Thames North Synod has a team of specialist staff who support churches going through transition or experiencing difficulties. We are always happy to hear from Ministers, and take opportunities to explain what we are about!