Union of Welsh Independents
The first congregational church in Wales was founded at Llanfaches in 1639. The early founders were largely the inheritors of the Puritan tradition. Over the centuries the Welsh Independents have developed into a diverse denomination which embraces a wide range of theological positions and holds a radical view on matters of Welsh and international social and political policy. An example is the pacifist emphasis. The churches of the Union are congregationalist because authority in all matters relating to the church is vested in the congregation which consists of the fully accredited members. They are called "Independent" because each congregation claims to be under the direct authority of Jesus Christ and is not controlled by any outside body. Individual churches cooperate with one another through associations, and through the Union, founded in 1872. The Union works through six departments: finance, mission and world church, churches and ministry, education and communication, youth, Christian citizenship. The Union's council and the assembly meet once a year. "The Union is a free and voluntary body. Its aim is to help, as far as possible, to make churches fellowships that are free to serve Jesus Christ."
The Union uses mainly the Welsh language, as do most churches, for worship and business. The churches have much in common with the other Free Church Welsh denominations. Ministers and preachers move freely between them, as does the membership. Different churches provide a rich variety of ethos. And yet, the denomination retains its own distinctive flavour. It can still be identified as "Dry Dissenters", valuing learning and understanding of the faith.
Currently the Union's work is focused on the AGAPE mission programme (2005-2007). It encourages the churches to ask basic questions of themselves. How can they develop worship which is exciting and deals with today's issues? What does it mean to be faithful to the Lord here and now? The churches of the Union uphold the great Protestant principle that the church must always be prepared to be reformed. They appreciate the growing opportunities to bear common witness with others, and to make significant contributions to united efforts both within Wales and beyond. It is also their privilege to receive what fellow Christians of differing traditions have to give, and to be enriched by their experiences. The greatest need surely is the humility to receive.