More about Columba #pisky #columbadeclaration #anglican

The Columba Declaration was approved yesterday by the Church of England Synod.   I’ve been doing quite a bit of commenting in the media – and here is a comment which I wrote for our own Inspires:

People expect churches to work together. In the Scottish Episcopal Church, we are keen to work whole-heartedly with the Church of Scotland.  Our histories are intertwined with one another and with the history of Scotland.  Much of that history has been painful and difficult.  So it is important that the new chapters which we write together are positive and creative.

The tasks which we need to address together are very clear to me. We are living through a time of change in Scotland.  Nobody knows where Scotland’s journey will end – but Scotland is on a journey.  Faith communities need to focus on Scotland and the way in which faith is represented and shared in this changing context.  We also need to work together on new understandings of how we can share in local mission across the whole of Scotland.  We need to support one another and work together.  None of us can do this on our own.

I watched the debate in which the Columba Declaration was approved by the Church of England with a sense of unreality. The Scottish Episcopal Church was like a ghost at the party – often referred to and talked about but not present.  Concerns  which have been voiced within the Scottish Episcopal Church about the Columba Declaration focus significantly on the Church of England.  The Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church are partner-Provinces in the Anglican Communion.  We are the presence of the Anglican Communion in Scotland and we expect the Church of England to respect that.  The concerns are  that the Columba Declaration places the Church of England in a compromised position in relation to the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The Church of England approved the Columba Declaration. But it was clear that many people in the General Synod were uneasy – aware that something about this is not quite right but not quite sure what.  Ecumenical matters are usually carried through by churches without significant debate.  Yet here 50 people voted against and 49 abstained.

This tells us that we all have work to do. The desire of the two churches to get approval for the Columba Declaration has inhibited their ability to have real dialogue with us about its implications for our future relationships.  Now that it has been approved, the time for that has arrived. We welcome the opportunity for a real dialogue with both partners and pray that out that will come a healing and renewal  both of our relationships and of our shared mission.



  1. Dear +David
    I have to say I am appalled by the callous attitude of the Church of England (my own church) and the Church of Scotland towards TEC. To be invited into discussions after agreement has been reached is bizarre to say the least. If I were to accept a preaching engagement from the Kirk in Edinburgh (my home city) I would be highly uncomfortable if it were in another (unconsulted) Anglican province.
    These misjudgements make me very sad. It gives the impression that the ‘big beasts’ have a seat at the table, whilst the minority ‘smaller’ ones do not. Ecumenism by ‘dictat’ rarely works. It is never good to send any denomination home ‘nursing its wounds’ since these may simply fester and grow .

    1. Michael – it’s a bit more convoluted. The SEC was part of the talks but withdrew when it became clear that the Kirk wanted to make some kind of ‘Faith and Order’ agreement. We suggested alternative foci but without success. Our relationship with the C of E is already defined by the Anglican Communion relationship. The actual agreement in timing and content came as a surprise to us. The fourth section which was released on Christmas Eve appears far more sweeping than what they now say the Agreement actually represents. But essentially both the Kirk and the C of E are behaving as if National/Established Church status trumps other ecumenical etiquette

  2. As I watch from the other “Episcopal Church” (the “daughter church” of our Scottish brothers and sisters in Christ) I can’t help but see the word “Colonialism” writ large. The elitist paternalism of those within the Church of England that caused then-faithful Anglicans to seek solace and relationship with what is now the Scottish Episcopal Church – leading, on November 14, 1784 in Aberdeen, to the consecration of the first bishop of our province, Samuel Seabury – has never gone away. And based on the Columba Declaration, and on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s attitude toward the Episcopal Church after the January Primates’ Meeting, I don’t see much changing.

  3. Thank you David. I was one of the 50. I stood to speak against, having submitted a request to speak against, but was not called. Several others likewise. Discussion at the catholic group was mainly against the declaration.

    As a Scottish Episcopalian I am ashamed of the English general synod.

  4. Does it change the framing of the pain and distress in this, if we think, with John Zizioulas, of the church centred on the Eucharist? He argues in ‘Being as Communion’ that the Eucharist constitutes the church, not the reverse.
    Douglas Farrow picks this up, in Ascension and Ecclesia, in a chapter called ‘Thinking about the church’, remembering that ‘the church is established only by ‘the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”, expanding this to say, ‘that call is made concrete precisely in the Eucharistic liturgy. Sursum corda! Is the cry that heralds the possibility of ecclesial being.’
    The consequence, he suggests, is that the church centred on the Eucharist cannot remain focussed either on the past (where there may be hurt) or on the future (where there is uncertainty), but will be centred on the present, where in the Spirit it meets with the one it remembers and for whom it hopes, transformed and transforming.
    Secondly, the Eucharist reminds us, Farrow suggests, that there is something more than the church’s organisational structures and histories and worldly challenges: it is the encounter with the Christ who is both present and not-present, that event that is a movement from absence to presence, that recalls the shift from chaos to order, dark to light, death to life, that event connected with the Holy Spirit that points to the mystery of the kingdom of God, wherein lies the possibility of grace, of repentance, fellowship, common-mind.
    In the current situation, I wonder if this doxological ecclesiology offers a breathing space from which healing can grow?

  5. ++David, many thanks to your contribution on this issue, which has been reasoned and generous whilst still expressing what many of us in the Scottish Episcopal church feel. I found some of the comments in the debate at the CofE Synod to be slightly wide of the mark – for example the statement by the Bishop of Chester that the Scottish Episcopal Church was “perfectly happy with what is proposed”

    Further to what Graham says above, it’s fascinating that the Bishop of Chester also said (in a light-hearted way) that the Church of Scotland would probably be perfectly happy with Bishops, as long as they weren’t like Church of England Bishops.

    I suspect this also to be somewhat wide of the mark!

  6. History tells us that the General Assembly rejected closer contact with the SEC a few years ago as they wanted ‘no truck with Bishops.’ There is a difficulty with what is meant by ‘ordination’ and the holy Eucharist.

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