Comments: Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church comments on Columba Declaration

I hope they listen to David. His words are moderate, civil, restrained, but clear.

It seems strange that little consultation seems to have taken place with the Scottish Episcopal Church.

How would Canterbury feel if The Episcopal Church (US) unilaterally decided to form alliances with gay-friendly churches in the Church of England, to send priests to preside in Anglican churches where invited, and generally to transgress provincial boundaries?

No-one (and not David) is saying ecumenism isn't good. But common courtesy and consultation seems a minimal expectation that would have been appropriate here.

Who, specifically, authorised this recent announcement?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 12:53pm GMT

We must never forget that the so called Anglican Communion is the creature of the C. of E. and autonomous provinces are an anathema to them.
As far as Canterbury is concerned the S.E.C. does not even appear on its radar and is of no account whatsoever. The College of Bishops nothing more than a minor irritant, best ignored
Scots must always remember that Anglican means
"of England" in the past what England wants, England gets or takes.
Perhaps in Canterbury the effects of Sept.14 2014 has not yet percolated its hallowed walls!
The Scottish Episcopal Church has a long history, long before its post proscription Anglicisation,
perhaps it would do well to reflect on this.
The battle cry of Bonnie Dundee "For King and The Church of Scotland", he meant neither the Hanoverian monarchy nor the current C. of S. but the ancient and glorious Episcopal Church.
I wonder what the saints who walked away from the Council of Whitby and the bribery of Papal gold, would think of our church now.
The prospect of joint ministry will provide entertainment for a long time to come, can you imagine Anglo Catholics and hard line Presbyterians sharing the sacrament! The blood would not be in the cup but on the floor!

Posted by Robin MacDonald-Johnston at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 2:07pm GMT

Can't but think that this is all a hugely embarrassing 'cock up' on the part of someone in the C of E. As a member of the Church of England it makes me cringe. It's time for a wholehearted admission of unthinking ineptitude and an apology from Lambeth or Church House. In the political world resignations would be expected.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 4:11pm GMT

It's not a mistake; it appears to be a deliberate policy of respecting certain provincial boundaries (Global South) while disregarding others (TEC, Canada, now Scotland).

The Church of England cannot have it both ways for much longer.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 4:33pm GMT

More high-handedness from the leadership of the CoE, which reminds me of Abp. Welby's invitation to Abp. Foley Beach of the schismatic ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) to the primates meeting next month.

Posted by June Butler at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 6:47pm GMT

Inconsiderate seems the appropriate word, as in, failure to consider or take into consideration. And bound in its way to produce ill feeling, and work against the good it might accomplish (though I have to say I wonder what that good actually is, given the reality of the separation of jurisdictions.

Loath as I am to fall back on personal experience, I cannot help but say this reminds me of an experience in my parish ministry. A church-operated (but non-diocesan) social service agency began an effort to establish a group home for recovering addicts within a few blocks of my parish church, and within my parish bounds. Unfortunately, the first I heard of it was from a group organized to protest the establishment of such a facility for "that sort" and by this time it was too late for me to vouch for the good work of the founding agency, and the effort foundered. Had this Episcopal agency thought to contact the local Episcopal parish prior to the effort I might have paved the way in the community, and prepared those who might have been opposed.

Part of this must surely be a result of being the 800 lb gorilla or the elephant in the room, and the assumption that "everyone knows what we are doing." I don't imagine this dialogue between the two national churches was a secret, but no effort to communicate with the affected third party seems to have been made. As I say, inconsiderate...

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 6:55pm GMT

"It seems strange that little consultation seems to have taken place with the Scottish Episcopal Church."

It's bizarre; surely senior people at the SEC knew these negotiations were ongoing?

It could be that exclusion's a calculated snub for the vote in support of equal marriage, but I find institutional arrogance and incompetence from south of the border likelier explanations. Harder to explain is why the Kirk didn't insist that the Piskies be included.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 7:21pm GMT

Surely as dire a case of 'Border-Crossing' as that effected by GAFCON's 'ACNA' folly in North America! When will the Church of England come to realise that its Anglican colleagues around the world have their own ways of 'being Church' in their territory. They do not need cross-border interventions like this.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 30 December 2015 at 9:47pm GMT

Maybe it is time for the SEC to follow the example of St. Nicola and the SNP in seeking total independence from the C of E by declaring UDI?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 4:54am GMT

I suspect that minds in Lamberh Palace might be contemplating the impact of HRH the Prince of Wales becoming king given his statements some years ago about wanting to defend faiths rather than being Defender of the Faith. It's potentially a watershed moment for any established church. At the least, the next change in the monarchy is bound to spark calls for disestablishment.

Not consulting with the Scottish Episcopal Church was crass, a stupid mistake, but there are potential political reasons why Lambeth might see an imperative to establish some sort of concord with the Church of Scotland - and the stated reasons may bear vary little relation to the underlying political reasons.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 5:30am GMT

My two cents: Kate is on track.

I suspect this has to do with the Crown wanting some common mind re: LGBT issues in the UK.

I doubt it is a snub--inadvertent or calculated--of the tiny SEC. That seems too gratuitous.

I just don't think the whole story is presently known. The SEC should be careful about how it responds, therefore, and Chillingworth is striking the right tone. Firm but careful.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 7:50am GMT

I believe SEC was involved in these ecumenical conversations initially but withdrew, not sure why. Would someone who knows more than I do about this process be able to confirm whether that's correct?

Posted by Jane Charman at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 10:13am GMT

Posted on this site on 18th Dec the timetable for Synod.

Tue 16th February

2.30 pm Presentation from the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

Debate on the Report of the Church of England – Church of Scotland Joint Study Group

So it has all been open and transparent after all!!!

Posted by Paul Richardson at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 10:15am GMT

The working out of this proposed agreement might be really nasty. The proposal to accept priests to minister in C of S churches, for instance. Suppose a person barred from the priesthood in Scotland, but working in England returned to Scotland to a Church of Scotland church? (and yes, there are such) Can you imagine the hurt and upset?

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 10:24am GMT

Hah! The snake speaks - of course this is a snub. We in the other Episcopal Church (given life not by the Church of England but by the Scottish Episcopal Church) learned years ago that "moderate" doesn't work well when you're dealing with arrogant, insensitive, agenda-driven people.

My suggestion to our Scottish brethren is to push back more strongly - though if history is any guide I doubt anyone south of the border is listening.....

Posted by Nigel Taber-Hamilton at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 10:52am GMT

To be a fly on the wall of the January primates' chat!

Posted by DBD at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 11:56am GMT

I agree that Kate is probably on track, but not with cseitz's suggestion as to why she is on track. Why should the Crown (i.e., the state) care about the churches' attitudes to LGBT issues? The states have decided, and moved on. That their decisions have caused turmoil in the two established churches (less in Scotland than in England) is no skin off their nose (if states have noses).

So I agree that, on the evidence we have, this move is about protecting establishment. It is defensive. Now that that C of E (but not the C of S) is disciplining its members for their civil marriages, its established status is more and more difficult to defend. So why not ally with a state church whose establishment is not in doubt? (except, ironically, with some C of S leaders, who prefer to say that it is a 'national' rather than an 'established' church).

At whatever level in the C of E it was negotiated, its failure to let its partner church in Scotland even know what is going on is a stunning own-goal 10 days before the Primates' Conference. I agree with the comments above that in any secular organisation heads would roll.

Posted by Iain McLean at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 12:27pm GMT

Jane, our S.E.C. Bishop knew nothing of this agreement until it flowered in the press at Christmas.
The reality is this, the communion is now broken and hopefully now broken beyond repair!!

Posted by Robin MacDonald-Johnston at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 12:52pm GMT

Robin MacDonald-Johnston said, "The reality is this, the communion is now broken and hopefully now broken beyond repair!"

The less there is to the Communion (in terms of structure, authority, etc.), the better.

No matter what the so-called instruments of unity say, the Anglican Communion is showing every sign of turning into an Instrument of Oppression.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 3:41pm GMT

Of course, this has been an extraordinary mistake and (in addition to any apology) a work of repair is needed - as it is in the Communion as a whole and more widely, one dares to hope and pray, among all who claim descent from the ancient church communities of Scotland and England, Ireland and Wales. And this rather than celebrating a "breaking", or delighting in division as some seem to want. St Paul urges us all to seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Does God not offer us "sufficient" grace for that task ?

With regard to a comment made by Prince Charles long ago, others, and not only Anglicans, have seen the Church of England itself as a "defender of faiths" in England and the establishment of the Church of England as a means towards that. But the Prince has also emphasised the importance he sees in the title of "Defender of the Faith", relevant especially in England where the Sovereign is "Supreme Governor of the Church of England".

The Queen's recent Christmas Address which I hope has been widely heard or read - easily accessible online - has again exemplified the
amazing way in which personally she has been a Defender of the Faith. (The title also remains in e.g. New Zealand but with less real significance there). The monarch also defends the Faith in Scotland, where the national Church of Scotland is, in a somewhat different and more limited sense, the "established" Church but where the Queen is not "Supreme Governor"

One might note that the Queen is not a member of the Church of Scotland and does not "become a Presbyterian on crossing the border" as is often thought, although since the days of Queen Victoria the Royal Family have usually attended Presbyterian worship when in Scotland. The first time Queen Victoria decided to receive Communion at Crathie Church caused enormous and in those days understandable protest. As for Prince Charles' personal practice, he himself is a regular worshipping member of the Church of England and, for example, e.g. the Lay Patron and a keen supporter of the Prayer Book Society. He is also rightly concerned for good inter-faith relations, and involved in many other important causes - agricultural reform, conservation, good architecture, etc, and not least initiator of major charities in England - work of "the kingdom of heaven" I should think.

I write this as one (3/4 Sassenach, 1/4 Scot, a frequent visitor in recent years) with a high regard for the Church of Scotland and especially for its moderate and high church elements (the services at Paisley Abbey or St Magnus in Kirkwall fine examples) but with a high regard also for the Episcopal Church which, if "tiny" as someone has said, punches well above its weight. It is certainly prominent in Edinburgh (think of the ministries of St Mary's Cathedral, Old St Paul's, St John's in Princes Street, or a dozen other Episcopal churches there).

I write this seemingly never ending e-pistle also as a parishioner of St John the Baptist's Canberra (170 miles away, where I attend Matins whenever possible, my favourite service and, we are told, also the Queen's!) but also as an adherent of the formerly Presbyterian St Stephen's Uniting Church in the heart of Sydney, where sadly there is nothing in the city centre and little in a vast diocese generally for Anglicans who are neither Conservative Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic. Gardens with only one variety of flowers would be as dull as is a Church of only the like-minded.

Posted by Chaplain John Bunyan at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 8:19pm GMT

Working in ministry several hundred miles from the Scottish-English border and in churches with no direct connection to the Church of Scotland, I have had dealings with several Church of Scotland ministers - one a lecturer at an Anglican theological college, another the minister of a member church (not CoS) of the local Churches Together grouping and a third working for a secular organisation but worshipping (and preaching) within a local Anglican congregation. This may not of course be typical experience, but working in four English contexts I have had cause to work with CoS ordained ministers in three of them.
This may suggest that, though there may indeed have been issues with liaison with the SEC there are ground for legitimate conversations without it involving de facto 'border crossing'.
Also, the ongoing conversations between CofE and CofS have been mentioned in our parish (well over half way to the English Channel) and were from memory reported in the context of General Synod (where I think the Moderator of the CofS is an ecumenical representative?) - so don't seem to have been too secret.

Posted by NJW at Thursday, 31 December 2015 at 9:18pm GMT

In the 19th century there were C of E incursions into Scotland as the SEC emerged from the penal laws. Hmmm...

Posted by Ronald Young at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 12:49am GMT

No, Chaplain John Bunyan. No "work of repair" is needed.

What is needed is a wider understanding that the Anglican Communion is not a global church--and that the Anglican Communion is therefore in no position to demand or require, in any way, theological uniformity from its (entirely autonomous) member churches.

I doubt the Queen is relevant to all this. But if she were, would her influence in this area be positive or negative?

She is said to regard the most awful despots as her close friends. Does she feel the same way about retrograde Global South bishops?

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 2:59am GMT

After being disappointed when reading Rev John Bunyan's earlier denigration of Gay marriage, I am further shocked by his reference to nothing Anglican in the centre of Sydney. For a number of years I travelled for 2 hours each way to St James King Street. Yes Anglo-Catholic in comparison to the surrounding desert of evangelicalism, it would not be considered extreme in many Anglican dioceses. I was brought up evangelical when many Sydney parishes were still recognisably Anglican as well as evangelical but found welcome at St James. Even my sister, who does not know how to make the sign of the cross and dislikes incense (only used on High days) enjoys accompanying me to the wonderful choral Eucharist on Christmas day when I return to Sydney. I fled to where I could live 10 minutes from an inclusive Anglican parish in Dunedin. The Rector of St James has been willing to stick his neck out in public support of GLBTI in a diocese where such support attracts ungodly hatred from the majority of clergy.
St Stephens, which he mentions, is now Uniting, a denomination which is generally supportive of GLBTI unlike those churches which chose to remain Presbyterian and train their ministers at Sydney diocese Moore College.
More on topic, my plan is to visit the UK in August/September. I doubt I will worship at any CofE church, but am arranging my itinerary so as to be able to worship at St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow.

Posted by Brian Ralph at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 6:18am GMT

Is this about two declining 'established' churches ganging up in the hope that together they will have a greater influence than they have apart?

What ever lies behind it isn't very honourable anyway, and the slipping out of the announcement of the declaration at the festive season smacks of trying to bury it. Or perhaps it's just another cofe cock up.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 7:41pm GMT

I must reply and risk boring readers. (1) I disagree with "gay marriage" (not with civil unions) and support "traditional marriage" but am not guilty therefore of "denigration"! Again, I have theologically little in common with many clergy of my Diocese but attributing "ungodly hatred" to the "the majority" is another unsubstantiated and silly exaggeration. (2) The Uniting Church still allows for a diversity of views (though to my mind not sufficiently) and I guess there would be a diversity of views and a variety of sexual orientations in St Stephen's, a church of which I am an "Adherent" and which I regularly attend. But I have not heard this subject even mentioned in any sermon there. It is not a major concern for me as I think of the many patients I met on my New Year's Day hospital round, some with really terrible conditions to cope with, some in pain, some gravely disturbed in mind, some near death, or as I read news of those suffering at present from floods and bushfires, war, violence, and homelessness. (3) I did not say there was nothing "Anglican" in the centre of Sydney. All its churches there are Anglican including the Cathedral, some evangelical, some Anglo-Catholic. I have known St James' Church for about 65 years and indeed served there as an assistant for three years in the 1970s. Its services in the 70s were markedly simpler. However, for a time, in the 1950s, under Canon (later Bishop) Davidson and Dr Edwards, it was very moderate and "central church" in character. There is, as I noted originally, no church of that latter kind in the city now where moderate or middle of the road or "fringe" - i.e. "plain vanilla" - Anglicans (the great majority) would feel at home.

Posted by John Bunyan at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 8:50pm GMT

Where does any or all of this leave those of us ordained in the CofE and working in the Episcopal Church in Scotland?

Posted by Sheila Rosenthal at Friday, 1 January 2016 at 10:53pm GMT

To quote a retired professor, lay preacher at St James. "I have never seen such hatred in the eyes of people as those who came up almost spitting on me" after he had moved a LGBTI friendly motion in Synod which obviously did not get far. I was removed from the readers roster in several Sydney churches after I came out to the Rector (usually after a vitriolic sermon) but then no women ever read the lessons in those churches either, arranging the flowers and pouring the tea was their lot. I know a number of gay people who have been hounded out of Sydney "Anglican" churches and a number of gay friendly people who are unwilling to speak publicly for fear of being ostracised. And in the bad old days several friends and one admired priest committed suicide. Most today would just leave the church. As far as I am concerned "ungodly hatred" was mild. In my opinion St Andrews cathedral is Anglican in name only. The communion table is rolled out of the way until needed. I am glad you are helping in hospitals. In fact the main reason I now still attend church is because several elderly ladies rely on me to drive them there. In NZ it is only in the church that I am treated as a second class citizen. Society is now more advanced. However there are a number of gay priests, some quite open, others more circumspect. The situation seems to be better in the Episcopal church in Scotland as in TEC. These churches are beacons of hope.

Posted by Brian Ralph at Saturday, 2 January 2016 at 12:47am GMT

All of this could be seen as the death throes of two organisations who have dwindling personnel and increasing irrelevance to society. But
where does any or all of this leave those of us ordained in the CofE and working in the Episcopal Church in Scotland and, more importantly, those who worship and financially sustain any of the Churches involved? (I realize 'democracy' is not a concept recognized by feudal organizations.)

Posted by Sheila Rosenthal at Saturday, 2 January 2016 at 8:45am GMT

If this is 'crass' and a 'blunder' and a cause for umbrage, would this not then equally apply to the fact that the CofS and the CofE have been meeting regularly in order to produce such an outcome for several years now? None of this has been done in secret, but has been a part of discussions by both bodies for some time now.

Posted by cseitz at Sunday, 3 January 2016 at 8:17am GMT

Discussing things is different from announcing decisions that impact on others. It would be perfectly reasonable for the CofE and CofS to discuss any of these proposals, but then I would expect them to approach the SEC and URC and discuss the implications before making any announcements. Not even being able to get the SEC's name right smacks of careless disregard.

Posted by Jo at Monday, 4 January 2016 at 8:12am GMT

"Not even being able to get the SEC's name right smacks of careless disregard."

The whole thing smacks of an eagerness to engage with the dominant local church, whether it is Anglican or not.

Which makes one wonder what next week's gathering is all about.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 5 January 2016 at 12:42am GMT

I am very concerned to read Bishop David Chillingworth's words about his fear of the Church of England encroaching on the ecclesiastical life of Scotland and the following negative comments made by many contributors. Clergy from the Scottish Episcopal Church would be always be most welcome in England.

The Scottish Episcopal Church chose not to take a leading part in the proposals for the Columba Declaration. The decision was made to withdraw from the discussion with the Church of Scotland and the Church of England at an early stage and only an observer attended the negotiations. This led to the Scottish Episcopal Church being marginalised early on and their place as equal partners in the discussion was lost.

When the people of Israel built the golden calf Moses became angy and smashed the tablets of stone. He had to retrace his steps and return to the top of the mountain walking past the place of his mistake to receive another set of stone tablets.

I hope that any mistakes and misunderstandings of the past can be forgiven on both sides and the historic resentment of Scotland towards England in general and Canterbury in particular can be set aside after these many centuries. This resentment is not reciprocal. Conversely the English have great respect for Scotland as a great nation and are eternally grateful for the Scottish Saints who brought the gospel to them so many centuries ago. Hopefully new discussions can begin so that we can move forward in mutual endeavour to make Christ known in Scotland, the British Isles and to all nations and may the clergy work together in proclaiming the message of the gospel united in love and respect for one another regardless of whose pulpit they are speaking from. The world is much in need of this message of hope in such difficult times.

Posted by Heather Macdonald at Monday, 29 February 2016 at 2:28pm GMT

The heat is justified, but it burns. Light is so much more fruitful and constructive - thank you so very much, Heather MacDonald. May I take your contribution to Diocesan Synod next week?

Posted by PeterGeorge Dillistone at Wednesday, 2 March 2016 at 12:17am GMT
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