Categories of LEP
The following six categories of LEP, have now been endorsed as useful working categories
for use by Sponsoring Bodies
when setting up new LEPs or recording existing ones. If a particular situation does not seem to fit neatly into any one category, this does not mean it cannot be a Partnership. If it fits the Partnership definition - it is one! Some Partnerships will fall into several of the categories at once.
Single Congregation Partnerships
Ministry is shared by an Ecumenical Ministry Team and congregations consist of members of several denominations. The buildings may be in a formal Sharing Agreement. There is a common purse and an Ecumenical Council which manages the life of the LEP.
Congregations in Covenanted Partnerships
There is a substantial sharing in worship, church life, mission and ministry between congregations of differing traditions. Some denominations within the LEP may share ministry and sacraments while others do not.
Shared Building Partnerships
The church building is shared by two or more denominations. Formal agreements come under the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969, but there are many instances of informal sharing.
The chaplains working in an institution commit themselves to work together as an ecumenical team e.g. in education (universities, joint schools), in prisons or in hospitals.
These include a variety of contexts e.g. industrial mission, social responsibility, broadcasting, overseas twinning and others.
These include Lay Training, Ministerial Training and joint or shared schools.
While there may be a variety of worship styles, there is basically one joint congregation with shared sacramental ministry, a common purse and an Ecumenical Church Council which as far as possible co-ordinates the life of the Local Ecumenical Partnership. There will usually be only one worship centre. Orthodox and Roman Catholics cannot fully embrace this type of partnership, if it involves shared sacramental ministry.
There may be a ministerial team, drawn from all or some of the partner denominations. Some of the ministers may have pastoral responsibility for other congregations (whether Partnerships or not), and others may serve full time in the LEP. In many cases, however, ordained ministry will be provided primarily by one of the partner denominations, often in an agreed alternating pattern.
The mix of denominational partners will have a major influence on the style of the Partnership. Aspects of the life and worship of each tradition should be reflected in the Constitution.
The Partnership must be able to be recognised as a local congregation by each of the partner Churches. Local decision-making will focus in an Ecumenical Church Council or Congregational Meeting. It is important to remember that the denominations are evolving all the time - so a mix of recognisable denominational worship and ecumenically inspired forms will be appropriate.
In a Single Congregation Partnership, the aim must be to offer a nourishing and varied diet of worship. Most worshippers embrace this readily. Many Free Church people appreciate the opportunity for more frequent eucharistic worship, while some Anglicans enjoy family services and informal worship which may have a key role in reaching out to those on the fringe of the church.
Single Congregation Partnerships may come into being by the formal coming together (usually into one building - though some retain two and use them for different purposes) of two or more congregations, where a pooling of resources is perceived as God's will.
Others may take the form of ecumenical church plants - where in a new housing development several denominations combine to ‘grow' a congregation. These will often begin in a house progressing to a school or community centre. In the early stages they may rely heavily on ministry (and some members of the congregation) from outside the immediate area.
In other areas - particularly villages - there may be only one place of worship (usually Church of England) which recognises that among its regular worshippers are many people from sister churches. The ecumenical nature of the congregation can now be recognised and welcomed by means of a 'Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome and Commitment
'. This does not imply the formal status of a Local Ecumenical Partnership.
Since a change in charity law required larger churches, including LEPs, to become registered charities rather than operate as unregistered charities under the Exception Order, the Churches and the Charity Commission have agreed a Model Governing Document
which should now be used for all single congregation LEPs. The Denominational Ecumenical Officers
and the County Ecumenical Officer
should be consulted and the documentation agreed by the participating denominations and by the Sponsoring Body.
Most such partnerships are a development of a local Churches Together group
, where a level of trust, commitment and inter-dependence has been reached which seems to warrant a formal covenant.
The local congregations involved in such Partnerships remain as distinct worshipping congregations, with their own government and finances, and usually with ordained ministry from their own denomination.
The category of Partnership is one in which many Roman Catholic parishes play a full part. It is important that every attempt is made to include the widest possible spectrum of churches present in the locality when forming the Partnership. No-one's understanding of the nature of the church need be threatened. There must, however, be a conviction that the deeper commitment to unity represented by a covenanted relationship is a response to Christ's call and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
A Local Covenant is a significant mutual commitment under God and between congregations, local churches and parishes in a particular locality for mutually discerned and agreed purposes. To use the language of covenant for anything less than this is to debase a powerful Biblical concept.
As already noted, Local Covenants are like marriage - not to be lightly entered into. A significant depth of relationship, commitment and activity is possible through a local Churches Together or Council of Churches, signifying a move from co-operation to commitment. Those thinking about forming a Covenanted Partnership must consider prayerfully if what they discern to be the purpose and the level of mutual commitment of the churches requires a covenant relationship.
A Local Covenant should state its purpose clearly - both in terms of a faithful response to God and of the specific ways in which the covenant relationship will become effective.
The business of developing a Local Covenant is the responsibility of all God's people in the churches involved and must not be the work of ministers and clergy only. This implies discussion, prayer and action within and between churches.
A Local Covenant is of such significance that it cannot be a matter of purely local concern. An informal local covenant
without wider endorsement may be inadequate to ensure continuity when there are clergy changes. In order that a Local Covenant may be given proper support by the denominations involved and that commitments are not entered into which go beyond the competence of a congregation, local church or parish, approval must be sought from the appropriate denominational authorities. The Denominational Ecumenical Officers and the County Ecumenical Officer should be consulted and the documentation agreed by the participating denominations and the Sponsoring Body.
Where there is at least one shared building, covered by a legal Sharing Agreement, the Partnership will fall within this category. Thus the Shared Building Partnership category embraces both those Partnerships where there is the minimum of integration of worship, congregational life and ministerial oversight and those Partnerships where integration is most highly developed.
In the first case the Partnership will only fall within Category 3: in the latter it will certainly fall within Category 1
In the case of a Category 3 only Partnership, there is no need for a Declaration of Intent or Constitution: the Sharing Agreement is sufficient.
The intention behind the Act was to enable one building to be used by two or more distinct Church traditions, following their own styles and practice. The fact that in many cases the sharing churches have decided to integrate much of their life and worship is a bonus. This may, however, mean that conflict is perceived between the terms of the Sharing Agreement and the Constitution of the Partnership.
The formation of Local Ecumenical Partnerships within these institutional settings is likely to be either at the initiative of the Intermediate Body, when seeking to provide appropriate chaplaincy, for example to a College of Further Education, or, most usually, arising from the strong desire of the chaplains themselves to work and be seen to work increasingly closely.
It will be necessary for there to be an agreed Declaration of Intent, solemnly attested at a service to inaugurate the Partnership. Not only the chaplains but also leaders of the church bodies which they represent and senior members of the institution in which they serve should be present, and should normally be signatories to the document. There may be two distinct but complementary documents, one signed by the chaplains themselves and the other by Church Leaders and usually also by representatives of the institution.
In major universities there are usually chaplains for the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church and the Free Churches, though not all may be full time. In many cases the chaplains desire to cement their relationship by forming a chaplaincy partnership.
A growing area of chaplaincy opportunity is the further education sector. Sometimes the initiative lies with a town-wide Churches Together grouping, or even a neighbourhood one in relation to a particular college or centre. It is up to the Intermediate Ecumenical body to decide what form of oversight is appropriate and whether or not the chaplaincy should be formally designated an LEP with a Declaration of Intent and Constitution.
Generally, the Prison Chaplaincy Service encourages the formation of chaplaincy partnerships, though circumstances vary widely from prison to prison. The Senior Chaplaincy Team comprising Church of England, Methodist and Roman Catholic clergy have themselves entered a chaplaincy partnership. There are at least ten Prison LEPs.
Further guidance can be sought from: Headquarters Team, Prison Service Chaplaincy, Room 709, Abell House, John Islip Street, London SW1P 4LH. (020 7217 5817)
A Health Care Chaplaincy partnership is a covenant between the Christian members of the chaplaincy team; approved and endorsed both by the employing NHS Trust and the churches nominating bodies; in consultation with the appropriate County Ecumenical Officer. (Nominating bodies are those which ensure that applicants for chaplaincy posts are people with appropriate accreditation who can exercise an authorised ministry.) The nominating bodies are the relevant Roman Catholic and Anglican dioceses, represented by the Bishop; and the Free Churches Group represented by the Free Churches Secretary for Health Care Chaplaincy. The parties endorsing the Covenant will be responsible, with the chaplains, for monitoring and reviewing its effectiveness.
Further information can be obtained from the Secretary, Churches Committee for Hospital Chaplaincy.
These Partnerships are usually initiated by the Intermediate Body in seeking to set up or strengthen ways of ecumenical involvement in particular areas of society. They may take a great variety of forms, but the commonest ones are indicated below.
Industrial Mission, from its beginnings, has been ecumenical in nature. Those appointed on a full time or part time basis represent ‘the church' rather than a single denomination and this has been experienced as a great strength. Industrial Mission in many places is now formally constituted as a Local Ecumenical Partnership. Again, both a Declaration of Intent and a Constitution will be needed. Careful attention should be given to the make-up of the management committee to ensure that the Partnership is ‘owned' by the Churches and that the industrial/commercial bodies are also well represented.
Advice can be sought from The Secretary, the Churches Co-ordinating Group for Mission in Industry and the Economy, 34 Chalvington Road, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, Hampshire SO53 3DX.
Local Broadcasting is another area where the churches have managed to act ecumenically from the first. This is a constantly changing field, and it is important that each intermediate body develops a way of relating to local radio stations. Consideration should be given to whether a Local Ecumenical Partnership structure is appropriate, especially for supporting a full or part time producer/presenter of religious material.
Advice can be sought from The Director, Churches’ Media Council, P.O. Box 6613, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, CM3 5DY.
Overseas Church Twinning. In some counties a ‘twinning' arrangement with an overseas church or churches has received full backing from the decision-making bodies of several denominations. This has then been registered as a form of Mission Partnership LEP. This seems particularly appropriate when a relationship is formed with a diocese or a unit of a United Church.
EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS, e.g. Lay Training, Ministerial Training, Joint Schools (category 6)
This type of partnership is appropriate where the nature of the institution is to be ecumenical and is to be acknowledged as a resource for at least two different church constituencies. The Queen's College, Birmingham, is the only formally ecumenical ministerial training college in England (Church of England/Methodist/United Reformed Church). In some respects this is like a Category 1 Partnership. Its relationship with the Roman Catholic Oscott College is more like a Category 2 Partnership. In Cambridge the Federation of Theological Colleges shares much of the nature of a Category 2 Partnership.