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Orders of Free C of E recognised

01 February 2013

THE Archbishops of Canterbury and York have recognised the orders of the Free Church of England, a Reformed Church formed in 1844. The Church was founded on the conviction that "only those doctrines which are contained in scripture are necessary for salvation", and that the Church must "constantly ensure that no innovations in doctrine or worship obscure this fundamental truth".

The recognition comes under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967, which gives the Archbishops authority to determine whether the Orders of any Church are "recognised and accepted" by the Church of England. It follows three years of contact between the bishops of the Free Church of England, and the C of E Council for Christian Unity and its Faith and Order Commission, which recommended that the Orders of the Free Church of England be recognised. That recommendation was subsequently endorsed by the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops.

The recognition means that, subject to a review of his suitability and the need for further training, a priest from the Free Church of England could be given permission to officiate in the Church of England without ordination by Anglican bishops.

The Free Church of England is already a Designated Church under the Ecumenical Relations Measure 1988. It has 18 churches and two dioceses, and is governed by a constitution, which states that it must "conform to the ancient laws and customs of the Church of England".

In 2003, in response to its becoming "more outward-looking" - it is a member of Churches Together in England - a number of congregations left, and five more remain "institutionally separate instruments". The Church argues that its ecumenical activities are "an opportunity to witness to others who profess to be Christians concerning the centrality of the cross and the supreme authority and sufficiency of Scripture as the word of God".

The Church's website states: "In conformity with Scripture and the historic Tradition of the Church, only men are admitted to three traditional Orders and to the office of Lay Reader."

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