When people talk about Local Ecumenical Partnerships they sometimes think only of Single Congregation LEPs although in England there are other types too.
Forming a Single Congregation Local Ecumenical Partnership
A single congregation Local Ecumenical Partnership is formed either when two or more congregations of different denominations decide to merge or when two or more Churches (denominations) decide to plant a new congregation together.
It will have a common fund, administered by its Ecumenical Church Council (names for this vary), and it may have more than one place of worship, especially in what is designated an Ecumenical Parish, but is still regarded for this purpose as a single congregation.
To be recognised as a LEP by its partner Churches, the LEP must complete its Model Governing Document (MGD) – see below. If the whole of a Church of England parish participates in the LEP, it will need to continue to have a PCC. A Memorandum of Understanding between the LEP Trustees and the PCC may also need to be adopted.
When this has been approved, it may apply to the Charity Commission to become a registered charity if its normal annual income is over £100,000. Even if charity registration is not needed now, using the MGD means that the constitution will not need revision in future if its normal annual income increases or the £100,000 ceiling is lowered.
Most of the MGD is a standard text, approved by the Churches and the Charity Commission, which does not need any amendment and, indeed, must not be amended.
The uniqueness and creativity of each LEP should now be expressed in its Ecumenical Vision Statement (EVS), a short document which describes the reasons behind the partnership and the vision which drives it forward. The MGD and the EVS will need to be submitted to the partner Churches for their approval and then adopted at an Annual Congregational Meeting of the LEP at which the members of the Ecumenical Church Council, who will become its Trustees if it is also to be a registered charity, are elected.
Before completing the MGD, it will be helpful to assemble the following information:
- Who is the County Ecumenical Officer of the Sponsoring Body for your county? S/he should be kept fully informed of progress even though s/he should not be playing a key role in this process.
- Who are the Denominational Ecumenical Officers of the partner Churches? They will have a key rôle in gaining the approval of their Churches.
- What will the name of the LEP be? It is better to avoid names such as ‘…. United Church’ (as if the LEP was a union of all the Christian Churches as it won’t be) or ‘…Churches Together’ (which is something different). It is also wise to avoid the name of one of the existing congregations as this might imply a take-over rather than a partnership.
- What will be the Area of Benefit, the geographical area where the LEP will operate? For LEPs involving the Church of England, this will normally be a parish or a conventional district. For others, it may be the area from which most of the members are drawn or the area which it regards as its own neighbourhood.
- The size of a normal Congregational Meeting and of its Ecumenical Church Council will vary. Decide the quora for them: a number of people or a proportion of the whole which is large enough to be representative of the whole congregation but not too large to be normally achievable.
- For an existing LEP, it may be that the congregations merged some years ago. The Schedule, the second part of the MGD, should include their names, even if they are such as ‘the former Blogg Street Chapel’.
- Discuss how the ordained ministers serving the LEP will normally be chosen and appointed: will there be a rotation between the partner Churches, a free offering in a vacancy to a minister of any of the partner Churches (or wider), or will the appointed minister normally be from one of the partner Churches?
You are now ready to complete your MGD. Please download it from the first document listing block below. When you open the document, the tab key (->|) will take you to the next text to complete. Don’t worry for now about the second one, the date, as that can be completed when the Churches have given their approval and it will be the date of the Annual Congregational Meeting when the MGD is formally adopted. You will find that you cannot edit much of this document precisely because it has been agreed between the Charity Commission and the Churches. It allows you to do everything you are legally allowed to do so you should not need to change it. If the formatting goes wrong, consult Jenny Bond. If you have a query, use our LEP help e-mail address.
The final step is to apply for charity registration. This can be done on the Charity Commission website here. It will need one of the proposed Trustees to be willing to be the correspondent with the Charity Commission and have their e-mail address published for anyone who wishes to contact the LEP. The completed MGD, but not the EVS, will need to be submitted as an attachment in Portable Document Format (PDF). (You can do this from Word by clicking ‘save as’ and selecting pdf as the document type.) A guide to the charity registration process can be downloaded below.
Now the real work begins, the work of transforming the world into the Kingdom of God, especially in this locality, by showing that our deep differences of principle need not divide us if we affirm the work of God in our diversity. As a registered charity, the LEP will be required to send its annual report to the Charity Commission and this should include an indication of its public benefit. No church should be a private club only for the benefit of its members and an ecumenical partnership has a particular commitment to the whole community which it seeks to benefit and the whole of the Church which it seeks to embody.
Single Congregation Local Ecumenical Partnerships, the Model Governing Document and Charity Registration
The new Constitution (aka Model Governing Document)
The Charity Commission for England and Wales has approved a Model Governing Document for Local Ecumenical Partnerships where two or more Churches have formed a single congregation (see document listing block below). Existing SCLEPs need to change their constitution to the Model Governing Document if
- they have an annual income normally greater than £100,000
- they do not yet have an agreed constitution
- their constitution needs amendment.
The standard constitution permits a local church do whatever it needs to do and must not be amended except as indicated by the text in red. The creativity and experimentality of the LEP should be expressed in the Ecumenical Vision Statement and the life of the LEP itself and not in the constitution. All new Single Congregation LEPs, whether or not they need to register now with the Charity Commission, should use this new constitution. The LEP Constitution itself should contain a clause about how it may be amended and this should be followed when adopting this new constitution.
This standard constitution has been agreed by the Charity Commission and also with the following Churches: Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church of England, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the Moravian Church and the United Reformed Church. (This is why it must not be amended.) Other Churches may adopt the standard constitution in due course. If you are preparing a constitution for a Local Ecumenical Partnership that includes one or more Churches not in this list, please contact your Denominational Ecumenical Officer for advice.
The County Ecumenical Officer, or his/her delegate, has a key role in the approval process and should be kept fully informed at all times.
The Ecumenical Vision Statement takes the place of a Declaration of Intent in previous LEP constitutions but is now a self-standing document. LEPs which have a Declaration of Intent may use it as their Ecumenical Vision Statement, provided it still reflects their life together. We do not offer a model text for the Ecumenical Vision Statement as this will be distinct to each LEP but an agenda of questions to ask when framing one can be found here.
Model Governing Document downloads:
Nuts and bolts
Download the Model Governing Document, containing the Constitution and Schedule for a LEP (available in the document listing block directly above). Read the help document first! (For those who can’t be bothered: save the document with the name of your LEP and keep saving as you go along. Tab through the document for text to be changed and press F1 for help at each stage.)
If the whole of a Church of England parish participates in the LEP, it will need to continue to have a PCC. A Memorandum of Understanding between the LEP Trustees and the PCC (downloadable above) may also need to be adopted.
(If you have been working with the document dated 7.2.12 amended, please note that the only change between that and the current version (downloadable above) is that in the Schedule, section 5, there was a reference to ratification by the ‘Faith and Unity Department of the Baptist Union of Great Britain’. That department no longer exists so the text has been amended to the ‘Faith and Society Team’. If you have been working with any other version you MUST now use the version below as there have been some key changes.)
Registering as a charity
If you need to register as a charity, please consult the OLAR (On-Line Registration Application) document in the block below, as it will take you through the process. Due to staff changes we are struggling to find the document from which this pdf was produced, so please note:
- John Bradley no longer works for CTE and instead of consulting him, you should make a specific LEP query. Please do not contact CTE staff with LEP enquires but please do use that dedicated LEP enquiry route so that all NEOs are kept informed of queries.
- Methodist queries should not be sent to Jean Hayes but to the Methodist National Ecumenical Officer.
The new document below was updated on 5 March 2018. The only change is to #23c in the schedule. The previous version was dated 24 May 2013.