Post General Synod

Our General Synod last week seemed to me to be significant for all sorts of reasons. But I haven’t altogether got my mind around what they are. I’ll have a think about it during the second part of this week in Blogstead na mara in Donegal.

Meanwhile, here is some material from Synod and before:

Sermon for the Eucharist at the start of the Mothers Union General Meeting in Edinburgh
Primus’ Charge from the Opening Service of the General Synod
Speech on the Anglican Covenant
The Primates Meeting
The Whole Church Mission and Ministry Policy


  1. I read with concern the reports regarding your remarks on the so-called “covenant” and the “World Wide Church” it attempts to force on the Anglican Communion.

    What is actually going on is absent serious leadership from the communion office and in the face of out-right dishonesty in the effort to force this lawyer’s full employment program onto the church, provinces are forming their own networks and a new, Canterbury free communion is emerging. It does not have to be this way, but the effort to force the “covenant” on us is having that effect.

    With all respect, I think your remarks and their evident endorsement of a very bad idea are not the way forward.

    J. Andrew Beyer
    Member: Anglican For Comprehensive Unity

    1. Evident?

      I tried to offer the church a balanced speech – so I would prefer a balanced comment. Less of the ‘so-called’ please.

  2. Bishop David, I’m right with you in emphasising the huge benefits of being wired into a global network. However, that doesn’t mean that the SEC has to concede its identity. I reckon there are huge benefits for the SEC in emphasising the fact of its Scottish roots and independence. Perhaps this could be a key issue in mission on the ground in Scotland? I’d be interested in comments, for example, on how the badge “Anglican” plays out in a Scottish mission context? I have no problem, and indeed rejoice in some of the influences that the Churches of England, Ireland and The Episcopal Church have had on us and also the many members of our congregations and clergy who have come to us from Anglican churches in other nations. However, the fact remains that we are an autonomous church with mission to do on the ground in Scotland and I’d support the suggestion you made in one of your speeches that the SEC needs to work out what its place is in the “new” landscape since the 2011 Scottish Parliament election. My own feeling on this is that the issue has been around for a long time, but recent political events have focused the mind a bit!

    1. Martin

      I think that the ‘brand recognition’ of ‘Anglican’ in terms of mission in Scotland is close to zero. I don’t shrink from using it but there are very few doors which it opens.

  3. Jonathan – as has been the case in other provinces, I think, the Scottish Episcopal Church was not presented with both sides of the argument last week at synod. Only a document from the Anglican Communion Office was presented in the synod papers, arguing strongly for the covenant.

    The point was made (by me) that when considering this, the church needs to have both sides of the argument and the Faith and Order Board Convener indicated that they would consider this before dioceses discuss the covenant.

    That said, you should be assured that there are many who share your views in Scotland. We did not take a vote in principle on the Covenant this year, that comes next year. However, had a vote been taken, it is hard to think that Scotland would have voted in favour of the Covenant. Indeed, there were very few arguing in favour of it at all, a fact which became particularly notable when synod broke into discussion groups. Many of these groups seemed to have no balance of opinion at all. Complete groups of folk from different theological traditions all arguing for different reasons against the Covenant were commonplace.

  4. The Anglican Covenant
    Thanks for offering this opportunity for comment. I am the General Secretary of Modern Church and a member of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. I live in England and do not have first hand experience about how the issue is playing out in Scotland.
    Firstly I do hope the Scottish church takes care to ensure that the decision-makers are given the opportunity to hear both sides of the argument. This is not happening in England.
    Secondly, you rightly observe that ‘bonds of affection’ no longer seem adequate to hold the Communion together. Before abandoning one of Anglicanism’s central features, we should look carefully at the reason for the change.
    Anglican theology, in the tradition of Richard Hooker and his successors, has distinguished itself with its commitment to a balance of Scripture, reason and tradition. What distinguishes its epistemology from confessional denominations is its willingness to admit that we need different authorities because none is infallible on its own. Accepting that our understanding of spiritual matters is neither complete nor certain, we expect our understanding to grow. This means we value open debate, allowing disagreements to be expressed until such time as consensus is reached. This is now considered best practice in all research institutions.
    The recent tensions in the Anglican Communion have been promoted by pressure groups who do not accept this theology and seek to replace it with a uniformitarian one. There is no secret about this: it is clearly expressed for example in Drexel Gomez’ To Mend the Net and on the websites of organisations like Anglican Mainstream and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which make clear their aim to limit diversity of opinion.
    Although groups such as these often complain that the proposed Covenant would not be sufficiently disciplinarian, it would take a major step in that direction. The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion would have authority to declare a ‘recommendation’ on matters of controversy, and provinces which refused to accept it would be threatened with exclusion from various functions. The ‘recommendation’, once declared, would thus become official Anglican teaching. One judgement at a time, Anglicanism would lose its diversity as freedom to engage in open debate would be curtailed by the establishment of an official Anglican answer. We would inevitably become a confessional church where members are expected to believe what they are told.

  5. Bishop David, I’m puzzled by your (and others’) references to the Anglican Communion as a “global church” and a “world church”. When did the Anglican Communion become the Anglican World Church? Or is it the wish of certain members of the communion to become a world church?

    Speaking for myself, I resist references to a world church or a global church. We are a communion of autonomous churches. World church smacks of a centralized authority on the order of the Roman Catholic Church, and I want no part of such a structure.

    Am I missing something?

    June Butler

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