AN historic pact will be signed by the Churches of Scotland and England in the most significant link-up since their separate Reformations in the 16th century.

The two churches have drafted and consulted on a formal agreement called the Columba Declaration that will mean working and speaking together on national and international issues such as gay marriage and the European Referendum.

They are already linked in a credit union with a number of other churches, launched by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and former moderator Very Rev John Chalmers, but the new document is the first such agreement between the two.

HeraldScotland: Justin Welby

Above: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The Church of England has traditionally had closer relations with Episcopalian churches north and south of the Border and will continue to keep a close dialogue.

Former moderator of the Kirk's General Assembly Very Rev Dr Sheilagh Kesting - who was the first female minister in the role - is co-secretary on the group that put the report together.

HeraldScotland: BUILDING BRIDGES: The Rev Sheilagh Kesting steps up to be the new Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Picture: Gordon Terris

Above: Very Rev Dr Sheilagh Kesting. By Gordon Terris/The Herald

She said: “It is eminently sensible and it is also putting down a marker saying this is where we’ve got to.

“I think people find it odd that we’ve never had an agreement with the Church of England before.

“We recognise that we have similar responsibilities within our different contexts.”

It comes as a European Referendum and potentially another Scottish Referendum loom.

During the Scottish Referendum the Kirk provided a platform for political debate

She added: “There are times when we might be working together and speaking together whether it’s a UK Government or European issue.

“The conversation will be open, it will be similar to the one for the Scottish Referendum.

“We share the same territory and, fundamentally, Christianity is about crossing borders.”

Current moderator Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison will address the General Synod in February and the Church of England will address the General Assembly in May.


Above: Moderator Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison

Rev Dr John McPake, of the ecumenical group that examined the issue, said in the report: "Our common context is shaped by a common history.

"The history of Christianity in Britain is one in which border crossings between what are now Scotland and England have played a significant role for many centuries.

"Partnership and mutual exchange in mission are already evident in the time of Columba, for instance.

"Scotland and England experienced contrasting but intersecting responses to the European Reformations in the sixteenth century."

The group suggests "regular exchanges between the Kirk's Church and Society Council and the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs on matters of common interest and concern".

They will also be "drawing on one another’s resources, as for instance in the use of a recent report for the Church of Scotland General Assembly in the Church of England publication, Grace and Disagreement, as both churches have responded to the legislation enabling same-sex marriage".

Their earlier financial alliance to challenge payday loan companies was set up in February.

The two are part of a body of churches who set up their own free rival called the Churches Mutual Credit Union.

The CMCU, which also includes the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in Wales, offers a range of savings and loan products to least 60,000 people across the UK, mostly ordained ministers, elders, employees and trustees of churches and church charities are eligible to join, along with churches and Church of Scotland and Anglican charities.