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.



  1. As a retired C of E cleric who spent a happy and formative 2years as a layman in SEC in the sixties I am disgusted by this turn of events. It should be a matter of shame, on the part of the Cof E, that something was published on Christmas Eve which must inevitably distress many in SEC. Moreover, it is a curious use of time and money to convene a primates’ meeting and preface the event with such a blow to an adjacent province. Finally, this seems as ungracious to the URC as it is to the SEC. Michael Thompson

  2. I do not know about the Protestant aspects of the churches in Wales or Scotland but I
    do know that here in the USA some protestants have tried to “untie” with the Episcopal
    church here and it is “easy” as long as you overlook differences regarding Word and
    Sacrament. Priest and Pastors are not the same and ordination differs. For example
    the Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church in America attempted
    to “share” by sending a pastor to and Episcopal church and a priest to a Lutheran.
    When it comes to Communion both believe in real presence, however the Lutherans
    do not believe that God’s presence exist after the administration, nor do they accept
    “Holy orders” as Luther eliminated that and deacons are not ordained, etc, etc. Few
    people seem to know this and both churches are hesitant to make either known.
    I question is just what are both willing to concede to the other?

  3. Having ministered some years ago in a Border parish in the CofS, I had much more to do with CofE counterparts across the Border than with SEC congregations (which were further away). From that perspective alone I would wish to be very positive about the discussions that have led to the Columba Declaration and to encourage the SEC to get involved again as was the original intention. One encouraging outcome has been the formal inclusion in 2014 of the CofS on the list of churches recognised by the CofE. (Not that I was losing any sleep over our not having been recognised before!)
    It must be noted that people moving from England to Scotland and vice versa may choose to become part of a local church on the basis that it is the parish church (rather than that it is part of the Anglican Communion or of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches). We have Anglicans worshipping with us in a CofS parish church because the congregational ethos is more akin to what they were used to in the CofE from which they came than they would find in the local Episcopal Church. My sister lives in England and worships in the local parish church there rather than travelling to be part of the URC. For others, styles of liturgy and theological emphases will also play a part.
    Can we see the Columba Declaration for what it is, and not for what it was never intended to be – an attack on or dismissal of the place of the SEC.

    1. Also who is representing the SEC at the CofS General Assembly this year? And what feedback is ever given by representatives?

  4. Let it be known that the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) is NOT the English Church in Scotland. It has Scottish origins and has existed unified and undivided since 1690. The Columba Declaration forgets this fact and mistakenly (all be it with best intentions) are promoting this wrong thought. Thank you Bishop David for your sensitivity and leadership in reminding us all that we are the Scottish Episcopal Church.

    1. Amen.
      Just so the Church in Wales (though part of the CofE for 350 years) still declares itself “the ancient Church of this land, Catholic and Reformed.”

      Is it time for Anglicans to redress the disaster of the Synod of Whitby? Wilfrid was a thug, concerned with power for the English. Hilda was pressurized, abused, as so many women have been, into acquiescence in order to keep the peace, though her heart was not in it. She was a Celtic (yes, I know it’s a dodgy word!) Christian. Only in the last century have we begun to recover those roots. But we need to preach the truth of original blessing (creation is GOOD!) against the neoplatonism of much of “evangelical” teaching. Oh dear, I’m ranting again.

  5. To be even-handed, it should be pointed out that the SEC was invited to be part of these discussions but decided not to be involved. Reports to the General Assembly of the CofS 2014 record: “Since the reception of ‘Our Faith in the Gospel’ in 2010, the faith and order discussions with the Church of England broadened out to include the Scottish Episcopal Church. It was with sadness that we accepted the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church not to continue in the talks which had developed in a direction they had not anticipated, accepting instead the position of observer.”

    1. This I suppose is the crux of the matter. Who knew what and when, what was the unanticipated direction the talks took and could the vocal objection not have been made then rather than now? Who was our observer?

  6. I am very concerned to learn that this has all come as a surprise to the Scottish Episcopal Church. I will take this up at the General Synod of the Church of England, of which I am a member.

    1. Many thanks from an ordinary church member who feels amazed this has happened.

  7. I agree that there has been thoughtless discourtesy at the very least if this matter was not known previously to the SEC. But on the matter of mutual recognition of ministry I wonder if the SEC should have made moves on this some years ago. The Church of Scotland and the Baptist Union of Scotland agreed on mutual recognition of each other’s ministers over twenty years ago.

    1. There were moves years ago but the General Assembly blocked it. Maybe it’s time to try again. There are ad hoc arrangements such as at Kinloch Rannock where the diocesan gave permission for the parish minister to administer HC to the Piskie congregation , and at Clarkston a few years ago where the diocesan laid hands on a minister to assist her Episcopal husband in the Administration of HC. Ministers are of course only ordained Deacon, so we would need to compromise in some way regarding the Presbyterian notion of ordination. Again, that is not impossible. I suspect that more objection will come from Presbyterians though.

      1. Here’s the rub. I’m an Anglican who believes in episcopal ordination. In other Churches I will receive Communion, when invited, because I put the emphasis on God’s grace. When it comes to my own responsibilities it has to be episcopal ordination, or there’s no Eucharist. That’s me.
        So here’s the thing….. placed against the Green Report seeing Bishops simply as senior leaders and placing the idea of interchange with non- episcopally ordained ministers then I fear an erosion of the threefold ministry which is one of the clear virtues of Anglicanism. Episcopacy locally adapted, yes (a la Chicago-Lambeth Quad) but replacing a person with a convocation of elders (presbyters) – no.

        Of course there’s no conspiracy to get rid of Episcopacy. Conspiracies need huge intellects clearly absent from the HoB & Lambeth! But there is an unthinking drift driven by the poor theology of South West Central London. Let the Reader understand!

  8. Thank you David for this helpful response.

    My experience of being ecumenical “On the ground” as it were, rather than structurally (both are important) is that the piscys tend to make a lot of effort to strive for better ecumenical links, and I think it’s a role that we naturally find ourselves in, straddling the divide between catholicism and presbyterianism, to put it rather too basically.

    What really troubles me about this is that idea that the Church of England can essentially make it possible for CofE clergy to operate without any acknowledgement or reference to the diocese, and the Bishop, in which they function. It feels as though this declaration of partnership is at the expence of a pre-existing one.

    More than anything else, however, it feels just rude.

  9. As the details emerge, it seems there has certainly been a breach of etiquette, which will need to be addressed at some level. Others have described that better above. It is, at best, blatantly naive. But on the other hand, why should there be any objection to any church making arrangements with another, not to be taken over or homogenised, or made to do things the way other churches do, but rather that on occasion, ministers from one church may act, as they often do in UK LEPs ” in accordance with the discipline of each church.”? If an ordained minister is prepared to be a liturgical chameleon, isn’t that a cause for rejoicing, and shouldn’t there be more of it, as it can usefully fill a gap here and there? On more than one occasion, my (ordained) wife and I have been asked by worshippers, when their celebrant was ill or indisposed, why there was no provision for her to step in, that worship might proceed in an orderly fashion, according to the churchmanship expected by that local church. I really can’t see that this accord will lead to any sort of ‘monstrous regiment’ of ministers from one denomination swamping another, and the interchangeability is raised as an aspiration, rather than an achievement or aim. We know from EMU what a very different thing it is to make a statement of intent, from making any such thing into a blessed reality.

  10. As an humble English CofE layperson I am very unhappy to hear of lack of respect for – and consultation with – SEC, in what we are told were ecumenical discussions. I post here in solidarity with SEC, recognising your church’s hurt at the undermining of Anglican Episcopal principles that seems to have taken place.

  11. The Kirk would have nothing to do with the Scottish Episcopal Church when it was mooted that we have some commonalities together. I know of ministers locally who get quite hostile about ecumenical contacts. At the Induction of a local Rector by the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway the Kirk ministers all marched out of the service when the Bishop stood up to continue the service. I asked one minister why and he replied that they will have no truck with Bishop’s again. Well, in fairness they, like the C of E are Protestant and still protesting Churches. The Kirk is shrinking speedily and they wonder about their future on their own, so why wouldn’t they want to join with a neighbouring Church run by the uk government? The C of E is ambivalent historically about the SEC, so I’m not surprised at their move.

    1. The CofE is only “protestant” when it comes to the Coronation of the Monarch, interestingly enough! The Monarch is the connection between England and Scotland. I’m a Welsh Anglican and the Welsh Catechism describes us as “Catholic and Reformed”. Church in Wales would have baulked and being called Protestant once – I wonder if it would today (I’ve been gone 25 years!) Don’t know about CofE /SEC relations but the CofE simply chucked Wales out at the end of the First World War as a sop to Welsh Nationalism and trying to avoid another Ireland! Big sister is a bit of bruiser!

      1. The relations between the SEC and the C of E is rooted in history. The very severe Penal Laws against us by the English Establishment destroyed much, but also led to a sense of continuing to be Episcopal and in the Catholic reformed tradition. The term Protestant was dropped by our General Synod in the 1800’s. Many ‘Piskies’ today see Anglicans therefore as English. However, we started off the Anglican Communion so whilst we differentiate from the Anglicans of England we are linked through the AC. Relations with the present day English Church are good and we have many clergy who are English. How this new move will effect working relations will be seen.

        1. Thanks, that’s helpful and interesting – and the SEC also started the AC off in another way – Seabury and the ECUSA!
          My daughter was confirmed by the Bishop of St Andrews’ in Perth Cathedral when she worked there about 12years ago. So I feel a Scottish affinity with my CinW birth! I feel aggrieved on SEC’s behalf, and a bit embarrassed too. I feel more +ve towards the Celtic Pisky churches and the Porvoo church too than to many parts of the newer AC! Sadly. But then I’m very pro gay inclusion.

        2. I often think we Scots Piskies have more in common with our neighbouring. European Churches of the Porvoo Agreement and the Orthodox Churches than the Churches of the AC.
          It’s highly unlikely that the English Church will blink an eyelid at the SEC’s objections, given our mutual history, and does it matter anyway in the long run?

        3. Not to you in Scotland, or in Wales. But to me, yes. At my hustings for General Synod I found myself blurting out, “I want my Church back!”. I grew up in a broad Anglicanism with annoying evangelicals snipping at our heels. But they had their space. Now they have the power and they’ll suffer no one to sharing it. They have bitten the hand that fed them and feel no remorse. And all because we were too polite to stop them in time.

  12. Obviously I can’t answer the first of your questions – but the second set of questions begs the point. The CofE should have worked through the SEC in the first place. Bad manners, I feel, as a CofE cleric.

  13. Thank you for this +David

    Some questions:

    Why is this statement being published on your personal blog rather than on the provincial web site? Surely this would carry more weight being said on behalf of the College of Bishops?

    Have the CofE or the CofS responded to the SEC’s expressions of concern? Have you discussed this with the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Moderator since the publication of the press release?

  14. Dear Bishop David,
    I was ordained in Llandaff, Wales but ministered for the past 27 years in the Church of England. My daughter was Confirmed in Perth by one of your predecessors. I value greatly the fraternity of the GB&I Anglican sister Churches.
    Therefore I wish to expressed my deep shame that the CofE should undertake this work without insisting on the full and clear inclusion of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. I’m newly on General Synod. I will make sure that my views are known the Archbishops’ Council. They will have no effect, I fear!
    The Episcopal Church has every right to feel hurt. It seems you have to sign up to Gafcon to be smiled on by the ABsC these days.
    with sadness,
    Wyn Beynon (Revd)
    General Synod, Worcester
    Priest in Charge of Feckenham, Stock & Bradley Green, Stoke Prior, Wychbold and Upton Warren in the Diocese of Worcester

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