In a wide variety of different contexts, the ‘Lead Church model’ can be helpful. It may be one church being the location of a food bank, or a diocese taking a lead on inter faith matters. Whatever the context, a few principles have been formulated.

From Bishops Behaving Ecumenically, a CofE paper 

From Bishops Behaving Ecumenically, by David Hawtin (Bishop of Repton 1999-2006), written for the Church of England we read:

It is important to be clear what ‘working ecumenically’ actually means whenever the phrase is used.  There are a number of different models:

  • One church acts as the ‘lead church’ with the agreement of ecumenical partners.  The decision to act as a ‘lead church’ is not one made unilaterally!
  • Particular churches act together – with others supportive or distanced in a clearly understood way.
  • Churches arrange for their representatives to work jointly in a particular area or project.
  • Churches appoint representatives to a group led by one church.

In all cases:

  • the pattern needs to be agreed,
  • the arrangement for appointing representatives clear,
  • and the procedure for reporting back secure.

(Note, this document has the old address for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland).

From the 2008 Review of Churches Together in Lancashire

A further clue to the Lead Church model comes in the 2008 Lancashire review (and appendices here). It comes from Terry Garley, now retired, who served first as County Ecumenical Officer for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and then for Lancashire. A footnote in the Review reads:

Within the ‘lead church’ model of ecumenism three clear principles should be observed:

  1. the ‘lead church’ is not self-appointed, but ecumenically agreed;
  2. there is clear accessibility to the work involved by the other partner churches;
  3. there is clear accountability by the ‘lead church’ to the rest.

Note: In situations where the ‘Lead Church model’ has been agreed, and in terms of ‘accountability’, it may be helpful for the County Ecumenical Officer to be involved.

Photo credit: © Albin Hillert / WCC