‘For a time like this’ – Scottish Interfaith Week Lecture #pisky #anglican

I was honoured to be asked to deliver the annual Scottish Interfaith Week Lecture last night in Dunfermline.

The controversy about the Church of England’s video advert has given Interfaith Week some focus. But far more importantly, the events in Paris and the nature of Islamic jihadist terrorism which is now a significant threat all over the world demand a discussion about how it is that religious movements allow themselves to be used in the cause of violence and division.

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The Prayer for Everyone Video #pisky #anglican

We added this statement to the Scottish Episcopal Church website yesterday:

Prayer for Everyone
November 22, 2015

In commenting on the refusal by leading cinemas to show a short advert of the Lord’s Prayer, The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church says: “I watched the ‘Prayer is for Everyone’ video which will now not be shown in cinemas. I was personally moved by it. It shows a very diverse group of people. They connect their everyday life and work to the Lord’s Prayer. This is not an attempt to package or to ‘sell’ religion. Rather it seeks to help people to make connections between life and faith.

“We are living through a time of great sensitivity about faith issues. The terrible events in Paris last week demonstrate that religiously motivated violence is one of the great challenges of our age. This is Scottish Interfaith Week, which reminds us of the challenge and the richness of living in a multi-faith and multi-cultural context. It is not in the best interests of our society that we should cultivate excessive sensitivity about what can be expressed. We all need to be able to look at and appreciate the integrity of one another’s faith. Most of all we need to be able to distinguish good religion from bad and not make the mistake of assuming that all religion must be seen as potentially offensive.”

The Primus spoke about this on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Good Morning Scotland’ programme on Monday 23 November at 07.55 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06pcz84#play – his interview starts at 01:55:20
– See more at: http://www.scotland.anglican.org/prayer-for-everyone/#sthash.JFji0Msr.dpuf

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Bridge of Allan and Scottish Interfaith Week #pisky

It’s been an interesting day – and the juxtaposition of the marking of the Solemnity of Christ the King as a Patronal Festival at St Saviour’s, Bridge of Allan, with the launch of Scottish Interfaith Week has travelled with me all day.

Our congregation in Bridge of Allan is lively and interesting. They prepare their worship with great care – so I had an interesting morning with them. I’m always very aware of whether or not congregations are used to listening to sermons – this congregation seemed more than usually attentive. So I gave them this fairly forthright sermon about what Christ the King might look like in the very difficult context of our times.


During the Service I presented Sue Horne with an RSCM Long Service Medal in recognition of 40 years as Assistant Organist at St Saviour’s.  Sue began playing in the parish at Horspath, just outside Oxford, at the age of 15.  By remarkable coincidence that is the church in which I first climbed into a pulpit.  I still have the Sermon but won’t be publishing it here!


We then moved on to the launch of Scottish Interfaith Week in the Dynamic Earth Centre in Edinburgh – the venue marking the theme of this year’s Interfaith Week about Caring for our Environment. It’s difficult – but I felt that the theme had been overtaken by events in Paris which remind us that interfaith issues – and issues of multiculturalism – are among the most important issues of our times. I’ll be delivering a lecture in Dunfermline on Tuesday evening as part of Interfaith Week and I’ll take time to explore some of those issues further.

The picture is of Maureen Seir of Interfaith Scotland signing a Climate Change Declaration with Dr Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform in the Scottish Government

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Stepping out in Ministry. #pisky

Last Sunday we celebrated in the Cathedral the ordinations of Nerys Brown to the Diaconate and of Margaret Dineley to the Priesthood.   We are gradually growing ministry within the diocese.  It’s not that we seek to be Sinn Fein (ourselves alone) about it – more that vocation and ministry arising among us are signs of spiritual vitality.  Nerys will serve a Curacy at St John’s Perth and Margaret will continue to serve at St Finnians, Lockgelly

And on Thursday, Denis FitzSimons was licensed for ministry as a Lay Reader at St John’s, Alloa.  We have been trying to establish ministry support for the congregation st St John’s and a sort of patchwork has been developing.  Denis will join Revd Swarup Bar from our Companion Diocese of Calcutta who has been providing a Sunday ministry at St John’s alongside his PhD studies in Edinburgh.  Rev Nick Green, Rector of St Mary’s Dunblane has been chairing the Church Council.  It’s a sort of antidote to ‘ourselves alone’

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That they may be one #pisky

On Saturday, I took part in the 25th Anniversary Service for ACTS – Action for Churches Together in Scotland.  We gathered in the magnificently-restored Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow to tell the story of the journey so far and to pray for unity.

It has become fashionable to say that we are in something of an ecumenical winter.  I understand why people might say that.  But I don’t altogether agree with it.   When ACTS was established 25 years ago, churches were institutionally stronger – now things don’t feel quite so secure and there is an element of institutional exhaustion around.   I often think fondly of the remark which Archbishop Donald Caird suddenly dropped into a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Church of Ireland.  ‘Why are we institutionally tired?  Because we walk around on tip toe all the time trying to be bigger than we really are’

But we are gradually learning how to move in ways which are appropriate for today.  Not so much on tiptoe – but certainly more fleet of foot.  We learn to do a lot with very slender resources.  We are less denominational and less institutional. And we are learning to prioritise mission and to focus our resources to that end.

I’ve said before that I have always stayed away from formal ecumenical relations and the bodies which manage them.  I always got the feeling that people felt that they were dealing with the formal diplomatic relationships of nation states.

I came away from Saturday’s 25th Anniversary Service asking myself how a body like ACTS might be shaped for the future.   I suspect it needs to learn the same lessons as the churches.  That means for me a post-institutional ability to see convergences and possibilities – to identify where churches might benefit from working together and where resource-light churches might support one another.  

And what might be on my list?   Well it would be things which are about mission and growth and which are foundational for the churches in the next generation.  That means identifying areas of convergence in the training of clergy and lay ministers.  And education for discipleship.  And shared local mission – for we all struggle to achieve national coverage.  It’s  what the Church of Scotland calls its territoriality debate.  And there is the whole area of how faith communities handle the dialogue between themselves and wider society ….. And many more

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We have put this statement today on the Scottish Episcopal Church website:

The attacks in Paris are a callous and devastating assault on innocent people who were enjoying an evening out in a beautiful city. Our prayers are with all who have lost loved ones, with those who have been injured and with the many who will be traumatised by what they have seen and experienced. We also remember the courage and dedication of members of the emergency services. For every society – including our own – such attacks are a major challenge. Governments have a primary duty to do what is necessary to protect their people. But it is difficult, if not impossible, to protect a civilian population without diminishing the very freedoms – freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech – which are the hallmarks of the kind of free society which we wish to sustain in the face of terrorist threat. This is the time for mourning and for care of those who are suffering. The time will come for debate about how safety and freedom are to be held in balance. As Christians are called to do, we pray for those who have to take these difficult decisions.

Times like this call for the most skilful political leadership.  The mistakes are easily made – of which the most obvious is to act in such a way that moderate Islam is driven into the hands of the extremists.  Meanwhile I expect that we may begin to see some of the security precautions which were common in Northern Ireland for many years – though how practical they would be in big cities is open to question.  That means that you have to wait until they let you in to the restaurant – random searching – and all sorts of measures which simply aim to make it more difficult for the terrorist to strike unhindered.  Such measures often look almost pathetically inadequate – but they are a constant reminder to a community under threat that the community needs to be lucky all the time but the terrorist needs to be lucky only once.

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And finally – about the Dialogue #pisky

It was an interesting week. We met in India because the Church of South India spans the Anglican-Reformed spectrum in its own life – and we were glad to have observers from CSI with us.
This was a ‘first’ for me. Those who know me well know that I have always stayed away from formal ecumenical structures. I don’t have the temperament for the ‘patient inching forward’ which these processes demand. Yet strangely I quite enjoyed this one. Partly it was the pleasure of working with people who have theological minds much more supple and elegant than mine. Partly it was that there swam into view the possibility of saying something about Communion which might assist the Anglican Communion at the moment. I was left with the feeling that both Communions may have appropriated the word without fully exploring the meaning. So there are opportunities for growth all round.
On a more prosaic level, I have now had three trips to India without Delhi belly. Obviously even to say such a thing is to beg and plead for trouble.  Nemesis may arrive as soon as three weeks on Sunday when a group from our diocese travels to Kolkata for the celebrations to mark the end of the 200th Anniversary of the diocese.

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Anglican-Reformed Dialogue – Communique #pisky #Anglican


International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue Communiqué

31October 2015, Kochi, India



The International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue (IRAD) between the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the Anglican Communion met for its historic inaugural meeting in Kochi, in the State of Kerala, India, 26 to 31 October 2015. The Co-Chairs are The Revd Elizabeth Welch (Reformed) and The Most Revd David Chillingworth (Anglican).


This was the first time that the Anglican and Reformed Communions have met in a formal dialogue at the global level since 1984, when the dialogue finalized its agreement statement, God’s Reign and our Unity. Following an exploratory meeting in 2011, there has been fresh energy and enthusiasm for a new round of dialogue between the two Communions. The dialogue has been mandated to study to the nature of communion (koinonia), a wide range of missiological challenges facing the two Communions, and the sources wherein the work of the Spirit may be discerned, notably authority and governance, episcope and episcopacy.


The theme of this first meeting has been ‘The Nature of Communion’ drawing on the New Testament word koinonia, being invoked today to describe the nature of the interrelationships between churches.


As part of its preliminary reflection on the nature of communion, there were presentations and discussion on the topic from the perspectives of the Old and New Testaments, and Church history. Seventeenth century English Reformed theology was put in dialogue with contemporary Orthodox theology. The African concept of Ubuntu was placed in dialogue with New Testament understandings of communion. The perspectives on communion from recent WCC document The Church: Towards A Common Vision played an important role in the conversation. Communion in relation to understandings of the nature of community and of Holy Communion proved a helpful part of the discussion.


The dialogue began with a celebration of Holy Communion using a liturgy of the United Reformed Church at which the Anglican Co-Chair preached, and closed with a celebration of Holy Communion according to the Scottish Episcopal liturgy, at which the Reformed Co-Chair preached. The members of the dialogue prayed together each morning and evening.


This first meeting of the Commission was hosted by the WCRC and facilitated by the Church of South India (CSI), which is itself an organic union including Anglican and Reformed churches. The CSI contributed two local scholars as participants to this meeting of the dialogue; their many contributions and perspectives context, theological education and being a minority church greatly enriched the discussion. The contribution of the local participants was so vital to the meeting, that it gave rise to the hope that at each meeting of the dialogue, representatives of the local churches be invited to attend.


Members of the Commission were honoured to be welcomed by Bishop Thomas K. Oommen (Deputy Moderator of the CSI) and The Reverend Dr D. R. Sadananda (General Secretary of the CSI).


To enable understanding of the Christian culture of south-west India in its Portuguese, Dutch and English forms, the CSI arranged for a memorable visit to St Francis’ Church, Fort Kochi. The Commission also paid a moving visit to the fifteenth synagogue at Fort Kochi belonging to a now small Jewish community.


The Commission spent a day in intense discussion of its mandate, clarifying priorities, and critically reflecting on guiding themes for the way ahead. It will meet again in early September 2016.


Members of the Dialogue present at the meeting:






The Most Revd David Chillingworth

Scottish Episcopal Church


Dr Clint Le Bruyns

Anglican Church of Southern Africa


The Revd Prof Dr Renta Nishihara

Nippon Sei Ko Kai


The Revd Dr Amy E. Richter

The Episcopal Church


The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe (Consultant)

Church of Ceylon



The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut 


The Revd Neil Vigers



The Revd Elizabeth Welch Co-Chair

United Reformed Church


The Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance

The Church of Scotland


The Revd Dr Royce M Victor

Church of South India


The Revd Fundiswa Amanda Kobo (Consultant) Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa


The Revd Helené Van Tonder

Dutch Reformed Church




The Revd Dr Douwe Visser 




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A day off in India #pisky


 We had a day off today – after three days of Anglican-Reformed Dialogue. Two more to come before we come home on Sunday
This is a very attractive part of India – very green and full of rivers and backwaters. But of course it’s still India – crowded, more than a little untidy and with terrifying traffic

The pictures are:

Old-fashioned fans in St Francis’ Church. The punkhawallah stood outside the building and pulled them back and forth with ropes

A laundry – 24 rupees (about 24p) to have a shirt washed and ironed

Our boat on the Kerala backwaters

Fishing nets at Fort Kochi.  Dip it in – or cast it – for ten minutes and take it out again

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What am I doing in India?  #pisky #anglican

This is the view from my window in Kerala where I will be until next Sunday.  It’s 35C and 97% humidity so it’s quite a shock to the system.   Normal personal defence arrangements are in place – constant use of antiseptic hand gel, drink only bottled water, never touch salad, etc.  I’ve got through two previous visits unscathed and I’m ever-cautious.  The food in this part of India is beautiful.  It’s quite vegetarian and gentle.

I’m here for the opening of a dialogue between the World Communion of Reformed Church and the Anglican Communion.  Churches have these dialogues at international level – Anglicans are involved at present in significant dialogue with the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics.  I’m here as the Co-Chair for the Anglican Communion

I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.  One of the significant aspects of this is the presence of the Church of Scotland – represented by Professor Ian Torrance.   The Church of Scotland has been foundational in the establishment of the Reformed Communion – the HQ was formerly in Edinburgh.  So there is immediate and significant benefit for the SEC and for the Church of Scotland that we should meet in this way at this level.

People want to know the important details.  I was even shorter on sleep on the journey here because I was upgraded to Business Class on the leg from Dubai to Cochi.  I needed time to deal with that glass of champagne, etc.   And of course there is no alcohol here – only sold in the most expensive hotels.

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