St Salvator’s in St Andrews

St Salvators

 

 

 

 

 

St Salvator’s is one of two University Chapels in St Andrews.  It’s a magnificent building – dating back to 15th Century.  Now and again I get the opportunity of preaching there – which I did last Sunday

And this is what I said

 

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Candlemas

We were in All Saints, St Andrews, last night for Candlemas.  Those who know All Saints will understand that we were immersed in – or illuminated by – the riches of liturgy.  If you haven’t explored this distinctive strand of the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church, All Saints is one of the places to find it.

My primary reason for going there last night was to mark the completion of the renovation and restoration of the Rectory.  It is an astonishing building – spread over three floors, it is dauntingly large.  But the attention of most clergy is drawn to the magnificent book-lined study just inside the front door.  Here at Blogstead, my facilities in that department are slightly less grand – indeed rather more cell-like.

Restoring the house has of course been a real challenge for the Vestry – but a challenge to which they and their Rector, Rev Alasdair Coles, have risen admirably.  The group of buildings at All Saints arise through the generosity and benefaction of Mrs Younger.  They express a holistic vision – church, Rectory, hall, library, gymnasium.  So to lose any part of that would diminish the whole.

And of course this is St Andrews ….    In St Andrews, St Andrews, our other congregation in the town, we came to a similar conclusion.  In a compact university town, the Rector and his family should be living at the ‘heart of things’   That means visible and accessible to a student population whose life is concentrated within a relatively small area.   In each case, a large Rectory is to be used not just for family – but as a focus for the building of wider community.

Like many churches, the Scottish Episcopal Church went through a difficult period in the last century – a sort of loss of confidence.  One of the signs of that was the failure or inability of Trustees to protect and safeguard buildings – assets and infrastructure which are now needed to resource mission in more confident times.   That of course has affected me personally as one of the losses was the Bishop’s House in Perth.

So it was good to see the real pleasure and pride of the people of All Saints in what has been achieved – good to know that since Christmas several hundred people have already passed through the Rectory.  A job well done.

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Holocaust  #pisky

  
I’ve been at the Scottish Holocaust Memorial Event in Falkirk tonight.

It’s always a deeply impressive event – strong on the involvement of local schools.  It’s about the need to imprint something of the horror on the minds of young people so that some part of them is aware always of the potential of humankind for the most unimaginable horrors,

As time moves on, Holocaust Memorial Day is increasingly aware that the systematic attempt to exterminate the Jews of Europe is only the most obvious of the many which have followed – the many genocides of history,

I think about these things because I have lived in a place where, at its worst, religious or political identity was sometimes regarded as sufficient justification for killing.  But what I really hope that those young people will understand is that genocide is the logical end point of any movement which beings by identifying an ‘out’ group – a group on whom everything can be blamed – a group whose difference alone is justification sufficient for mockery and exclusion.

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Looking back at the Primates Meeting #pisky #anglican

It’s time I began to think about the longer term implications of the Primates Meeting.  But I was asked to contribute an article to the Church Times this week – which reflects a more immediate response

Church Times – Primates Meeting

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After the Primates Meeting #pisky #primates2016 #anglican

It was a difficult week – very difficult.  I’m working on some material for the church press and I need a little time to think and digest.

I did some Radio material – Radio 4 Sunday Programme tomorrow – and we have a ‘holding statement’ on the SEC website which says this:

“In advance of the Primates Meeting, there were many predictions of breakdown and of fracture in the life of the Anglican Communion. It is therefore encouraging that the Primates have agreed to ‘walk together’ and that a Task Group will be established to work on our ongoing relationships. “However that unity has come at some cost to the ability of the Communion to express the diversity which has always been a valued characteristic of the Anglican Way. The consequences which follow the decision of The Episcopal Church (in the United States) to change its Canon on marriage are a sign of that change. The Scottish Episcopal Church sees itself as a diverse church in a diverse Communion. It is important to us that we seek to sustain our unity as we continue to address issues of human sexuality in our General Synod. “Further consideration will be given to these matters by our Faith and Order Board and by the College of Bishops.”

Curry-Michael-2015-06-27

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile I am still reflecting on the extraordinary grace shown by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in response to the ‘consequences’ which the meeting decided were an appropriate response to the actions of TEC.  I was greatly privileged to work closely with Bishop Michael all week.  From  the depths of his personal and family history of slavery, racism and exclusion, he drew this remarkable statement:

“I stand before you as your brother. I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society. And this conjures that up again, and brings pain. The pain for many will be real. But God is greater than anything. I love Jesus and I love the church. I am a Christian in the Anglican way. And like you, as we have said in this meeting, I am committed to ‘walking together’ with you as fellow Primates in the Anglican family.”

 

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What I hope for from the Primates Meeting #pisky #anglican

I have been reflecting on what the Primates Meeting next week means for me.  It’s the second one which I have attended.  It will clearly  not be an easy meeting – but it is important that all Primates will be present.  This is my thinking at present:

‘I am personally deeply committed to the Anglican Communion. Members of the Scottish Episcopal Church see the Communion as interwoven with the history of their church and as an important part of their creative and outward-facing engagement with the world church.

The Anglican Communion is a noble attempt to build and sustain a global church community without centralised authority or a single teaching magisterium. Such a community needs to be highly relational and collegial. It must embody humility. It must exercise a very high level of relational self-discipline if it is successfully to cohere. And of course our aspiration must be that it will do much more than cohere – that it will in that deliberate flexibility of organisational structure better express a visible unity in Christ, however great its contextual diversity.

I have been privileged to travel within the Communion in recent years. What is remarkable about that experience is to discover the extraordinary levels of commonality in the life of Provinces – commonality of worship, of commitment to justice and the needs of the poor, of culture, of belonging and of the balance between authority which is democratically-rooted and authority which comes through spiritual and ecclesiastical office. On many levels, the Anglican Communion is very much alive. Companionship Relationships between dioceses across the world strengthen our knowledge of one another and build unity in Christ. We are a world missional church. Our Anglican Networks enable us to address the greatest issues of our times. We attempt to live the gospel of reconciliation.

Yet our relationships and our unity are constantly stressed by the issues around human sexuality. Some see this primarily as an inter-provincial challenge. But these difficulties are experienced within our provinces as much as between our provinces. We in Scotland continue to explore what it means to be faithful to scripture and to live in a rapidly-changing society where attitudes to human sexuality have undergone a revolution in a generation or less. If we reach the point where we are unable to recognise one another as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, we are in great difficulty.

I hope that we as Primates will grow together in our meeting next week. I believe that we need more engagement with one another and not less. We must strive for a deeper relating in which we can explore together the future to which God calls us. We need also to find words in which we can discuss some painful realities which underlie the sharpness of our differences about human sexuality questions. I refer in particular to very different ways in which authority and leadership are exercised in different parts of the Communion. More painfully for all of us, I believe that we need to address the legacy of colonialism which, even if not explicit, is still a major factor in determining the way in which we relate to one another.

At our meeting in Dublin in 2011, we committed ourselves to ‘walking together’. As we approach this Primates Meeting, we pray for Archbishop Justin and all who will support us as we meet together. I pray not so much for immediate answers which will solve our problems. Rather I pray for a deepening of our life together as disciples – and for respect and relationship within which we can together seek the future to which God calls us.’

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What I hope for at the Primates Meeting

I have been reflecting on what the Primates Meeting next week means for me.  It’s the second one which I have attended.  It will clearly  not be an easy meeting – but it is important that all Primates will be present.  This is my thinking at present:

‘I am personally deeply committed to the Anglican Communion. Members of the Scottish Episcopal Church see the Communion as interwoven with the history of their church and as an important part of their creative and outward-facing engagement with the world church.

The Anglican Communion is a noble attempt to build and sustain a global church community without centralised authority or a single teaching magisterium. Such a community needs to be highly relational and collegial. It must embody humility. It must exercise a very high level of relational self-discipline if it is successfully to cohere. And of course our aspiration must be that it will do much more than cohere – that it will in that deliberate flexibility of organisational structure better express a visible unity in Christ, however great its contextual diversity.

I have been privileged to travel within the Communion in recent years. What is remarkable about that experience is to discover the extraordinary levels of commonality in the life of Provinces – commonality of worship, of commitment to justice and the needs of the poor, of culture, of belonging and of the balance between authority which is democratically-rooted and authority which comes through spiritual and ecclesiastical office. On many levels, the Anglican Communion is very much alive. Companionship Relationships between dioceses across the world strengthen our knowledge of one another and build unity in Christ. We are a world missional church. Our Anglican Networks enable us to address the greatest issues of our times. We attempt to live the gospel of reconciliation.

Yet our relationships and our unity are constantly stressed by the issues around human sexuality. Some see this primarily as an inter-provincial challenge. But these difficulties are experienced within our provinces as much as between our provinces. We in Scotland continue to explore what it means to be faithful to scripture and to live in a rapidly-changing society where attitudes to human sexuality have undergone a revolution in a generation or less. If we reach the point where we are unable to recognise one another as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, we are in great difficulty.

I hope that we as Primates will grow together in our meeting next week. I believe that we need more engagement with one another and not less. We must strive for a deeper relating in which we can explore together the future to which God calls us. We need also to find words in which we can discuss some painful realities which underlie the sharpness of our differences about human sexuality questions. I refer in particular to very different ways in which authority and leadership are exercised in different parts of the Communion. More painfully for all of us, I believe that we need to address the legacy of colonialism which, even if not explicit, is still a major factor in determining the way in which we relate to one another.

At our meeting in Dublin in 2011, we committed ourselves to ‘walking together’. As we approach this Primates Meeting, we pray for Archbishop Justin and all who will support us as we meet together. I pray not so much for immediate answers which will solve our problems. Rather I pray for a deepening of our life together as disciples – and for respect and relationship within which we can together seek the future to which God calls us.’

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Columba Declaration – time for a rethink #pisky #anglican

I ended my earlier blog post by suggesting that there are aspects of the agreement envisaged by the Columba Declaration which will cause real difficulty in the relationship between the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of England.   

Members of the Scottish Episcopal Church will have noted two provisions in particular.  

The first is the commitment that the Church of Scotland and the Church of England will ‘welcome one another’s members to each other’s worship as guests and receive one another’s members into the congregational life of each other’s churches where that is their desire’. People will of course make their own choices. But the fact that such a statement is made at all suggests that the Church of England will respond warmly to the idea that its members will worship in Church of Scotland Churches when they visit Scotland. Yet the Church of England’s Anglican Communion partner in Scotland is the Scottish Episcopal Church

The second – and far more serious – provision is that the partners will ‘enable ordained ministers from one of our churches to exercise ministry in the other church, in accordance with the discipline of each church.’ This is in the context of an earlier acknowledgement that the partners ‘look forward to a time when growth in communion can be expressed in fuller unity that makes possible the interchangeability of ministers’

 The question here is not whether the development of ecumenical relationships is desirable – for of course it is. The question is about whether that development can take place respectfully and in good order. The Scottish Episcopal Church now seems to be faced with the possibility that Church of England clergy will minister in Scotland under the authorisation of the Church of Scotland and without reference to the Scottish Episcopal Church. Yet the Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church are partner members of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion in Scotland is expressed in the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church.  

 The Church of Scotland and the Church of England seem to have decided that their commonality as National Churches justifies them in setting aside other ecumenical relationships and etiquette. What would really help this situation – mitigating the damage already done to long-established relationships and avoiding further damage – would be for the two churches to decide to delay publication of the full document to allow time for consultation.  

 I appeal to them to do so.

 Finally, I want to move back to the questions of context and strategic leadership which we all face in Scotland. I have expressed the deep hurt of the Scottish Episcopal Church at this time. People in leadership roles sometimes have to do that. But the deepest and most important question is about what best serves the development of faith in Scotland at this important moment in our history. I believe that members of the Scottish Episcopal Church and other churches in Scotland want to see the Church of Scotland turning towards a deep engagement with its ecumenical and interfaith partners in Scotland. We believe that the true value of the Church of Scotland’s role will be found in the way in which it can offer leadership – establishing faith as part of the discourse in the ‘public square’ in Scotland and exploring ways in which we can support one another in mission.

 

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The Columba Declaration – ecumenical relationships in Scotland #pisky #anglican

The Church of Scotland and the Church of England announced the Columba Declaration on the morning of Christmas Eve. Because the launch has been so public, this has stirred considerable feeling and concern in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Therefore I need to make an initial personal comment about potential feelings and concerns from a Scottish Episcopal Church perspective.

On Christmas Eve, the Scottish Episcopal Church issued the following statement. It recognises that the two national churches in Scotland and England will have questions of common interest and concern which they may wish to explore. But it also suggests that the Columba Declaration goes further than this – entering areas which are properly the concern of the Scottish Episcopal Church as the church which represents the Anglican Communion in Scotland.
Columba Declaration

 A spokesperson for the Scottish Episcopal Church says “We have noted the announcement today about the Columba Declaration agreed between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England.

 “We welcome the opportunity for the further ecumenical discussion referred to in today’s press statement and look forward to being able to consider the full text of the report when we receive this. We fully understand the desire of the Church of Scotland and the Church of England as national churches to discuss and explore matters of common concern. However certain aspects of the report which appear to go beyond the relationship of the two churches as national institutions cause us concern. The Scottish Episcopal Church, as a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, represents Anglicanism in Scotland, and we will therefore look forward to exploring the suggestions within the report more fully in due course.”

I think that the first surprise in the announcement of the Columba Declaration is how little it says about the shared concerns of two churches which have a particular status in the national life of England and Scotland. Clearly there are constitutional issues which are common to the Church if Scotland and the Church of England. But there is little mention of them. Nor is there any discussion of one further matter which concerns the Church of Scotland and its ecumenical partners in Scotland. That is the issue of territoriality – the question of how the Church of Scotland and its ecumenical partners will together sustain mission and ministry across the whole of Scotland.

The second area of interest is what it tells us about how the Church of Scotland appears to see ecumenical relationships within Scotland. That is part of how we read and understand the context in which we find ourselves in Scotland today. Scotland is changing rapidly. Whether or not it becomes independent at some stage in the future, Scotland is becoming a more distinct place – more sure of its own identity. The Scottish Episcopal Church is a church which prioritises ecumenical and interfaith relationships. My reading of our context in Scotland today leads me to the conclusion that the Scottish Episcopal Church should work to develop our relationship with other historic, Scottish-rooted churches – primarily the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church. Our history as Episcopalians in Scotland is interwoven with the history of Scottish Presbyterianism and of Scotland itself. The Columba Declaration turns the Church of Scotland towards the Church of England in a way which to me seems to be a misreading of our context. The ecumenical family of churches in Scotland needs the leadership and active involvement of the Church of Scotland at this critical time in our national life.

But the aspect of the Columba Declaration which will cause most concern to the Scottish Episcopal Church is the potential involvement of the Church of England in the ecclesiastical life of Scotland. The Church of England is not a Scottish Church nor does it have any jurisdiction in Scotland. The Anglican way is to recognise the territorial integrity of each province – they are autonomous but inter-dependent, The important question is whether, within that understanding of the relationship between provinces of the Anglican Communion, it is proper for the Church of England to enter into this agreement about ministry and ecclesiastical order in Scotland.. That is a matter which will have to be explored in future dialogue between the Scottish Episcopal Church and both the Church of Scotland and the Church of England.

I shall write more about latter aspect shortly.

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Preaching in the Cathedral in Kolkata #pisky #anglican

A visit to India is never particularly easy. It’s heat, noise, crowds and the time difference. Then there is the food that you are apprehensive about eating in case you get Delhi belly. And then there are the cross cultural differences

Last week was my third trip to the Diocese of Calcutta – my fourth to India. I have to confess that, before we went, I was beginning to wonder how much more life there was in our Companionship Relationship. But I have come back feeling that we have now moved it to a new level. Five clergy, a Lay Reader and Alison came with me. They all worked very hard at networking and building relationships. The fact that it was my third visit meant that I didn’t start from baseline.

This was the Sermon which I preached at the Service which marked the close of their Bicentennial Year. It was an extraordinary honour in itself to be asked to do this. The President of India came for a cultural programme which followed the service.

You’ll find in the Sermon some of the themes which developed as the week progressed – the state of the church today; the colonial and missionary past and its links to our diocese; the status and safety of women in India today; the place of the Christian community in a society which seems to be at risk of losing the aspiration to diversity in favour of Hindu nationalism.

I spent the week struggling with very flakey wifi – so I’ll be posting more material about the week as time allows over the next week.

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