Thinking Anglicans

Unrest in the Diocese of Aberdeen

Updated again Friday

Christian Today reports Scottish Episcopal Church clergy rebel after ‘divisive’ appointment of bishop to conservative diocese.

…A letter to bishops of the Anglican SEC on Friday accused them of fostering ‘disquiet and division’ by nominating Canon Anne Dyer, the first female bishop in the SEC who is also strongly in favour of gay marriage, to be bishop of the largely conservative Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney.

Dyer is now being urged to step down from her promotion with clergy protesting her appointment.

Two senior clergy have already quit over the issue and the letter threatens that ‘others are considering similar action’ in a diocese that is already struggling to fill a number of empty posts across its 41 churches…

To read the letter in full, and see the entire list of signatories, go to the original news article.

…The protest letter, seen by Christian Today, is signed by seven stipendiary priests, half the clergy in the struggling northern diocese, which was the only one of the SEC’s seven dioceses to reject the proposals to change its teaching on marriage, as well as several non-ordained senior churchgoers.

It accuses the bishops of being ‘divisive and also disrespectful’ by failing to appoint someone conservative clergy would agree with…

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has responded to this letter, which can now be more comfortably read from this copy.

Bishop Mark Strange’s reply can be read in full here.

…We have been greatly concerned to receive your letter. We regard it as particularly
regrettable that you have chosen to communicate with us by publicly releasing your
letter and press release without any prior indication to us of your intentions and we are
dismayed at the invidious position in which it places Canon Dyer as the Bishop elect of
the diocese. We deplore that you have sought to subvert the outcome of the canonical
process which led to Canon Dyer’s election. Members of the College are unanimous in
supporting Canon Dyer in her acceptance of election and will continue to support her
throughout her consecration and future episcopal ministry in the diocese…

Do read the whole response.

Update
The Church Times reports this as Scottish Primus accuses protesters against next Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney of ‘subversion’.

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Cynthia
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Cynthia

“in a diocese that is already struggling to fill a number of empty posts across its 41 churches…”

Something has not been working in that diocese, long before Bishop Anne was appointed. It was too dysfunctional to nominate their own candidates. But not too dysfunctional to protest.

Leon Clarke
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Leon Clarke

So a nominated bishop is being criticised and asked to stand aside because they strongly agree with their church’s teaching on an issue. Can people south of the border try that one on?

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Perhaps this is why the TEC process of each diocese electing its own bishop, with the approval of the other dioceses, is a better method.

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

I am very sad to read this. Anne Dyer is a marvellous person, and a fine Christian. Her depth of spirituality is something that will only bring a blessing to her new diocese.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Top down management of church = conflict and failure. We have seen it in Llandaff, Sheffield and now in Aberdeen and Orkney. London might be next. The circumstances in each are different, but the commonality is bishops trying to impose their will on lower orders of ministry and lay members. If British Anglican churches are going to survive, they are going to need to become much more democratic at a local level. But suppose Carole Anne Dyer steps aside in favour of a conservative candidate, why won’t the more liberal parishes and members then rise up? Whatever happens, we have… Read more »

Jo
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Jo

@Pat: they had the chance and twice failed to select candidates for election; they should be grateful the college of bishops found them such an excellent candidate.

NJW
Guest
NJW

“Perhaps this is why the TEC process of each diocese electing its own bishop, with the approval of the other dioceses, is a better method.
Posted by: Pat O’Neill on Friday, 5 January 2018 at 9:27pm GMT”

My understanding is that that is exactly what is supposed to happen in SEC. However, in this case the Diocese couldn’t agree on nominations to allow an election to take place, in which situations the remaining bishops make the appointment.

CRS
Guest
CRS

“they should be grateful” — nice use of the word ‘should.’

They obviously aren’t, across the board.

The diocese is down to very few parishes. This complicates things. Things are going to get like this in TEC. Dioceses with under 2000K ASA will struggle, and there are now quite a few of them. One can hope that clear heads will face into this challenge, but it is hard to know what the solution is.

David Runcorn
Guest

I am not comfortable with the assumption that because a community is unable to come to a mind on a shared decision it is ‘dysfunctional’. Nor is the protest of some about a decision made on their behalf a sign of dysfunction.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

Not only a woman, but a woman who doesn’t drive a car! The scandal!

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Ahhh…thanks for the clarifications. If they couldn’t agree on nominations, then perhaps the diocese as a whole is not quite as conservative as it is made out to be?

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

I am sad to read this report.
Leaving aside theological concerns, the argument about Canon Dyer not being a car driver is strange. I have visited Orkney and Shetland without a car. You fly, and then take a taxi. I don’t have experience of the smaller islands, but it would be odd if there wasn’t somebody who would meet you off the ferry. More generally, in rural parts of the north of Scotland, which I do know about, people are usually willing to offer lifts.

Laurie Roberts
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Laurie Roberts

It is not unheard of for diocesans to have a car and a driver, laid on by their diocese — and that be an understatement.

Jo
Guest
Jo

I too find the car driver comment odd, as I’m sure that Canon Anne has found ways of getting around the issue over the years. Some rural car owners seem to be under the impression that it’s an absolute necessity but that’s not the case.

Dr Daniel Lamont
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Dr Daniel Lamont

Provision of a car and driver presumes the availability of sufficient money to pay for it. The SEC is a poor church and I doubt it could afford that level of luxury. There is the, no doubt apocryphal, story of the English bishop who, on hearing geographical size of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, said to its Bishop ”That’s fortunate. You will be able to do a great deal of reading while your chauffeur drives you around’. That said, as Flora Alexander points out, there are other ways of getting about other than by car.

cseitz
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cseitz

I can’t pretend to know the churches in the diocese, though I have driven a bit in that area of Scotland when I lived in Fife for ten years. I suppose you can get a bus to take you down rural lanes to parishes in the countryside outside of Aberdeen. I once took a bus to Auchtermuchty from St Andrews. I had to wait 2 hours for the return bus. I wouldn’t have thought it ideal, but it sounds like the complaints were not chiefly about that.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Would a blind bishop-elect be criticised for not driving?

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

Quite, Jeremy. And perhaps as a refinement of that question, would a conservative, male, blind bishop-elect be criticised for not driving? Or would their conservatism and their gender be worth the taxi fare?

Clive Sweeting
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Clive Sweeting

Not dysfunctionality.

In Scotland clergy have had the courage to leave comfortable livings on issues of principle. With the Presbyterians this was the case with the Disruption,and more dramatically so in 1689, when episcopally-minded clergy went out into the cold with their bairns…Could this not be another example of this sort of courage?

William
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William

Good point Jeremy. Why was a blind person not considered for this role?

Kennedy Fraser
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Kennedy Fraser

>>In Scotland clergy have had the courage to leave comfortable livings on issues of principle. …Could this not be another example of this sort of courage?

But nobody has, so far. resigned from their charge, they have just stepped down from the Cathedral chapter, or a ‘promoted’ post.

CRS
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CRS

“would a conservative, male, blind bishop-elect be criticised for not driving” — at the risk of appearing unkind, have you begun to lose the plot altogether?

CRS
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CRS

Leaving blindness and conservatives out of it for the moment. The very small SEC counts seven dioceses. Furthermore, at present two have episcopal vacancies (Brechin and St Andrews). This means that four Bishops outside Aberdeen are basically appointing a Bishop for the Diocese and saying that’s that, for which they claim a canonical warrant almost never used. The letter from the Presiding Bishop sounds like doubling down: take it and like it. We appointed her and so there it is. One can well imagine that “blind liberals” in the diocese might well object, given the usual way bishops are chosen… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Re: Dysfunction The diocese had two failed attempts to elect their bishop. When some members of the diocese weren’t happy with the results of the canonical process, they express their anger in public first. Not last. Meanwhile, the response from the primus states “there are many in the Diocese who have expressed their delight at the prospect of Canon Dyer becoming their bishop”. He clearly doesn’t believe that the protestors are speaking for the whole diocese. It’s likely that the two failed elections indicate that it is a diocese that is not in unity. It is described as “struggling to… Read more »

Jo
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Jo

That’s a charitable thought, Clive. I’m afraid, however (and I’m happy to be corrected), that the resignations concerned involve little practical sacrifice as neither is in itself stipendiary, and I’ve heard nothing to indicate that either gentleman is resigning their substantive post as rector of their respective charge. This is more akin to the “letter of the week” in the sidebar of Archdruid Eileen’s inestimable website.

rjb
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rjb

I’m sure everyone will agree that – as the case of the Sheffield diocese proved to everybody’s satisfaction – you can’t possibly have a bishop that some members of the local clergy might possibly have a few reservations about. Sorry, Canon Anne Dyer, you fail the Philip North test. No doubt everyone is sincerely very sad about public criticisms of the nominee in the media and “the invidious position in which it places Canon Dyer as the Bishop elect of the diocese,” but it would seem that is how things are these days. And what’s sauce for goose is undoubtedly… Read more »

RevDave
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RevDave

Was this open letter really the first the Bishops heard of the upset caused by their choosing a liberal to be the Bishop of the only non-liberal SEC diocese? And did they really hear nothing from the two cathedral clergy before they resigned?!

Marian Birch
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Marian Birch

In response to RevDave – as I have read it the ‘discontented’ did ask for a meeting with Anne Dyer before they went public. And that the public letter was partly because this request for a meeting was effectively refused …. it is implied that she said ‘I will meet with you AFTER I have been consecrated and installed as your bishop’.(Was that her idea, or was she told to say that by the bishops?) I can understand their frustration at that response – which I think was a bit cackhanded. if we continue the Philip North parallel, Bp Philip… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re: rjb, “Canon Anne Dyer, you fail the Philip North test.” Are you suggesting that Canon Dyer thinks that some of the priests she will oversee in the Diocese of Aberdeen simply cannot be priests?

Kennedy Fraser
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Kennedy Fraser

>>as I have read it the ‘discontented’ did ask for a meeting with Anne Dyer before they went public. And that the public letter was partly because this request for a meeting was effectively refused The letter states: ‘senior clergy and members of the Diocesan Standing Committee requested an early meeting with the Bishop Elect – both to make her acquaintance and also to address this and other concerns’ So they wanted a meeting with Canon Dyer to discuss the concerns about the process – something that she had no influence over (as they acknowledge). I think she was quite… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

If the diocese was unable to agree internally on a new bishop, then the selection by other bishops was bound to create discontent in one or more quarters.

But think about it. If the groups within the diocese cannot compromise or agree, then what chances would external leaders have?

I begin to suspect that the clergy who signed this open letter are being pickled in a brine of their own making.

Daniel Lamont
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Daniel Lamont

I agree with Kennedy Fraser that Canon Dyer was absolutely right to decline to meet the complaints if they wished to discuss process. There is no indication anywhere that they sought a meeting with the Primus which would have been an appropriate course of action. Indeed, it is clear from his letter in response that they did not seek a meeting before going public. Did the diocese make representations to the Episcopal College when the nomination of a new bishop reverted to it? It is my experience that when a nominating/selection committee cannot agree on a candidate, it is often… Read more »

Jim
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Jim

Exactly, Daniel. The Diocesan Synod had two chances to elect a bishop from a shortlist agreed by them. They failed. So the Episcopal Synod had to do their job for them. They elected , with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the best possible person to take this incredibly difficult and onerous job on. But instead of being thankful, a bunch of virtually all male clergy and a handful of influential people lay folk chose to throw the toys out of the pram in an attempt to bully Bishop-Elect Anne.This has been nothing other than a cynical and despicable attempt… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Dear Daniel, you will obviously know the canons of the SEC better than I do. An outcome where four diocesans impose a Bishop whose views are in line with their own and not with a diocese that voted against the LGBT provisions just seems like a less than satisfactory outcome and one that will resolve things by driving out opposition.

T Pott
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T Pott

The diocesan synod has not had two chances to elect a bishop. It has been totally bypassed. The diocese only get to vote if the Preparatory Committee put forward 3 to 5 candidates. Two Preparatory Committees were formed and failed on both occasions to put any candidates forward for the diocese to vote on. A Preparatory Committee comprises two bishops, five members of a Provincial Panel and four persons chosen by the Diocesan Synod. Any potential candidate must also be approved by the College of Bishops. So it is not the diocese which failed to find three candidates, but the… Read more »

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

I may be mistaken, but I thought that the provision for same sex marriage in the SEC was accompanied by safeguards, so that no priest is obliged to conduct such a marriage unless they are happy to do so. If, as it seems, it is the case that a candidate who appears to have a very good reputation (I know nothing about Canon Dyer) is considered unacceptable because she holds an inclusive position, it looks as if something is badly wrong.

Daniel Lamont
Guest
Daniel Lamont

I take T.Pott’s point that it is the Preparatory Committee’s failure to find three candidates and not the Diocese. We do not have answers to the questions he raises at the end of his post and nor do I expect to receive any. Appointments are always done in confidence and that should be true here. All that we know is what is contained in the two public letters. Moreover, we have only heard from a section, albeit a large one, of the diocese. My point is simple: whether or not the process of appointing a Bishop is flawed, once one… Read more »

Jo
Guest
Jo

Surely if the college of Bishops were in the habit of vetoing all candidates put forward for espiscopal posts we’d have heard about it, not least from the authors of the open letter. I would be very surprised if none of them were on the committees and it’s clear they have no compunction about airing their grievances publicly when it suits them.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Mr Potts, thank you for your excellent and helpful post. You have clarified the matter/procedures greatly and one must wonder what has been going on behind the scenes. Esp with a reduced College of Bishops of 4. I agree this has hurt the reputation of the SEC but for reasons other than the Diocese of Aberdeen.

Daniel Lamont
Guest
Daniel Lamont

Surely if the Bishops were determined to manipulate the system in order to install their own candidate, as implied above, they would not have authorized a second Preparatory Committee?

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

Canon 4.29 requires that a second Preparatory Committee be convened if the first one fails, or if it succeeds in finding candidates but none of them gets a majority in the subsequent election (after several votes). Only if the process fails a second time, whether at Preparatory Committee stage or at the electoral stage, does the appointment lapse to the College of Bishops.

So following the failure of the first Preparatory Committee there had to be a second. No inference can be drawn from this as to the bishops motives or intentions.

Daniel Lamont
Guest
Daniel Lamont

Thank you, Mr Pott, for that clarification. I’m away from base and could not check.I’m grateful for the disclaimer in your final sentence.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

It may be worth noting that there are two other episcopal vacancies in Scotland, in the diocese of Brechin, and the diocese of St Andrews, Dunblane and Dunkeld. In both these dioceses the first Preparatory Committees have failed to nominate any candidates. Whether the second Preparatory Committees fare any better, or the bishops end up making these appointments too remains to be seen.

There is at least primae facie grounds to question whether all at provincial or episcopal level are acting in good faith, and this may explain some of the concern in Aberdeen and Orkney.

Jo
Guest
Jo

No, T Pott, there are no such grounds. All that exists is your idle speculation insinuating duplicity on the part of the college of bishops. Do you not think that members of the two preparatory committees might have broken ranks had the sort of deliberate sabotage you’re alleging taken place? Is it not more likely that both committees were deadlocked over choices of liberal and conservative nominees, or that there is a dearth of candidates who would make good bishops willing to take on a small diocese in a small, non-established church when all the funds, power and perks of… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Thanks again T Pott. I had wondered what the state of affairs was in Brechin and in St As, having noted their being (still) vacant.

CRS
Guest
CRS

“…when all the funds, power and perks of a CofE bishopric might be awaiting many of those potential candidates?”

Now there is a nice piece of idle speculation.

Jo
Guest
Jo

Indeed, CRS, but one more plausible than T Potts’ scurrilous assertions (remember that “primae facie” means, effectively, there is sufficient evidence to assume guilt unless innocence is proven). It’s not hard to believe that many people who might be considered for a calling to the Episcopate might see more scope for the exercise of their ministry as a suffragan in an English diocese where there will be at least some funds to try new things, an existing framework of staff to support your ministry and so on. Compare with the profile of the Diocese of Brechin, for example, that reads… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

I am trying to think of just one SEC potential Bishop who ended up in the CofE for the reasons you indicate.

Jo
Guest
Jo

I don’t mean from within SEC – recall that the recently retired Primus was recruited as Bishop from the Church of Ireland. The SEC is at a disadvantage in recruiting from the pool of candidates south of the border because of the resource constraints it is under, and it has a comparatively small pool of candidates of its own because of the relatively high ratio of bishops to clergy, particularly stipendiary clergy. We all know that large churches with lots of money have little trouble finding priests. Is anyone seriously doubting that the same applies to dioceses?

CRS
Guest
CRS

I confess this is the first I have heard of the SEC’s recruiting for Bishops ‘south of the border.’ I recall when Chillingworth was elected but I don’t remember his being recruited (from N Ireland).