I carried people’s generosity – literally – back with me from Cardiff
There two strands to this visit. The first was a meeting of the Anglican Primates of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. I think this is the first time such a meeting has taken place. So Archbishops Justin, Barry, Richard and I sat down together for a 24 hour meeting – joined for part of it by Archbishop Josiah, the new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. There was a lot to talk about. Most obviously there are the challenges of the Primates Meeting which is due in January. But there is no shortage of other things to talk about – poverty, migration, Europe, religiously-motivated violence, devolution ..
We also went as a group to a dinner hosted by the Muslim Council of Wales – hence the challenge of slipping a substantial cut-glass bowl into my carry-on bag. It was a fascinating and impressive evening. I got the feeling of a significant part of the community in Wales – increasingly self-confident – and generous too
We have much to learn
Unusually for me, I have a nice car at present. Since you are asking, it’s a reasonably new VW Golf Estate 1.6 TDI Bluemotion. Which of course puts me in the front rank of polluters and cheaters of the emissions regulations.
I happened to be addressing an Eco-Congregations Meeting in Edinburgh when the news had just broken. I told them that I felt somewhat cheated. And yet … In terms of its running costs, it does a remarkable 65 mpg rather than the claimed 88.9 mpg. But I suppose I thought that 65 mpg was pretty remarkable anyway. The really bad stuff of course is what I can’t see – the nitrous oxides and diesel particulates which are many times greater than claimed because of the cheating software hidden in the engine management system
I am completely astonished to find VW being caught cheating the regulations like this. Alison and I and our three children have no fewer than six VW Golfs among us. So there are significant trust issues
There was some pretty tough stuff in the Guardian last week which I thought had it about right – about the stubborn refusal of air quality in our cities to improve; about the grim reality that people die because of this, etc. And if I take to my Brompton folding bicycle, all that happens is that I inhale the bad stuff more deeply
It was Harvest at St James the Great in Dollar on Sunday. Decorations have been becoming more delicate in recent years – my eye was caught by this in the porch
Rev Richard Grosse was installed as our new Synod Clerk and as a Canon of our Cathedral on Sunday afternoon. The Synod Clerk looks after many things – particularly the diocesan statistics. Richard is Rector of our congregations in Aberfoyle and Callander. He was a lawyer in earlier life. He brings that accumulated experience to this new role
We gathered in St Margaret’s Leven for the licensing of Ian Scott as a Lay Reader. There is always a story – and as so often this one is about faithful membership which shades into vocation. Ian has made the sacrifices which go with the training. And it reached its fulfilment in his licensing as a Lay Reader
St Margaret’s is part of the Central Fife Group. Here as in many places in the SEC we are realising that it is important that each congregation, however small, has somebody in a defined ministry role within it. Many people share in ministry – but the sense of the congregation’s own security suggests that a person in authorised ministry should be part of their life.
Overnight on the island of Great Cumbrae with the College of Bishops this week. If you don’t know Scotland, Cumbrae is an island in the middle of the Clyde so you get that ‘away from it all’ feeling. We try to use and support our Retreat and Conference Centre there, the College of the Holy Spirit, which is linked to the Cathedral of the Isles – smallest cathedral in Britain. The College is beautiful – Butterfield – as if the Scottish Episcopal Church set in stone. We met the new Warden, Andrew Wright and his wife Amanda who have just taken up their post there. I brought the Brompton – hoping to do the 10 mile cycle round the island – but it failed to make the somewhat lengthy agenda.
Good news story from St Margaret’s, Leven, last night – the licensing of Ian Scott as a Lay Reader. Ian is another of our growing band of Lay Readers – people who have made big sacrifices to train, prepare and be formed for ministry. He is another example of what is a growing trend across the Scottish Episcopal Church. St Margaret’s now has within its life a person who arises from the congregation and who is in an authorised ministry. We are still exploring options for the ministry of the Central Fife Group of which it is part. However long that takes, there is a person in the life of the congregation who will help to sustain it. And we have achieved the same with the ministry of Revd Margaret Dineley in St Finnian’s Lochgelly and Revd Gerry Dillon in St Luke’s Glenrothes.
I’m glad that the Archbishop of Canterbury has decided that it is time to call a Primates Meeting. A growing number of voices – mine among them – have been suggesting that it is time for this. I look forward to being there and I hope that the other 37 will be there too.
Why is it time? Because the Anglican Communion is a body without centralised authority. It therefore is very important that its life is sustained by constant contact, dialogue and prayer. The Primates Meeting is one of four Instruments of Communion – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. As the Communique from the last Primates Meeting in Dublin in 2011 said, ‘By God’s grace we strive to express that unity in diversity which is the Spirit’s work among the Churches of the Communion and the community of Primates.’ Collegiality is what matters. Indeed in the Primates Meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury is to the Primates as I am to our College of Bishops in Scotland – a Primus inter Pares or First among Equals.
The Anglican Communion has, I believe, suffered from a lack of clarity about what Communion means for us. It’s not so long since people talked about the Communion as held together by ‘bonds of affection’. That was all very well in its time. But the massive missionary success of the Anglican Church means that we are now a church of the most extraordinary diversity and vitality. For a global body of this kind, it is hard to see how the view that Communion means uniformity of practice in every context can be attainable.
What the commentators today have mainly failed to see is that two things are happening at the same time. The invitation to Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church of North America is part of an attempt to make it possible for the full breadth of the Communion to be present at this meeting. It is a worthy attempt to encourage the attendance of those who might otherwise stay away and I hope it succeeds because I yearn to be part of a dialogue which involves the whole Communion. But there is another movement under way which makes it important that we try to shape our understanding of what communion means for us today. Many of the Provinces of what we often call the Global North – America, Canada, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, etc – are now moving on the issue of same-sex marriage. Massive and rapid social change coupled with legislative change – together with the passionate conviction of some – create a context to which those Provinces find themselves ‘on the move’. That movement creates tensions within Provinces – as in Scotland. It will also increase tension within the Anglican Communion.
This is the moment for the Primates Meeting – I look forward to it and pray for honest and respectful dialogue.
Revd Alasdair Coles was instituted last night as Rector of All Saints, St Andrews. All Saints began as a mission to the fishing community in St Andrews and it inhabits a wonderful miniature campus at the heart of St Andrews and the University – the legacy of Mrs Younger.
It’s also known in our diocese – and far beyond – as a place of beautifully-conducted worship in the Catholic tradition. Generations of students have ‘discovered’ the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Catholic tradition in All Saints and carried the memory – and a living faith – away with them. In our diocese, we see it as a place of prayer and spirituality – a resource for all of us. Alasdair and the congregation will be ensuring that that tradition lives creatively in the world of today – and that they rediscover their roots as a mission community.
Meanwhile we were ‘in the clouds’ last night – beautifully-presented worship and some clouds of incense. The preacher was Revd Lucy Winkett. These are the moments when I feel ‘a long way from Seagoe’. But they are moments which I really enjoy!
Sometimes the right moment just arrives. And this evening was the moment when Revd Nick Green, Rector of St Mary’s, Dunblane, received back his Commission as a Church Army Evangelist from Mark Russell, Chief Executive. Historically, Church Army has expected Officers who were ordained to hand back their Commissions. That policy caused deep hurt to many – and has now been put right. It’s a work of healing and reconciliation.
It’s a commonplace among ordained clergy – whether bishops, priests or deacons – to say ‘We are all deacons’. Whatever ministry we may be called to carry out, we do so with the heart of a deacon who is called to serve. I think this is the same. Wherever Nick’s ministry may lead in the future, he will carry into it the heart of an evangelist.
This is what I said