In the past year, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland have worked out an agreement known as the Columba Declaration that was recently approved at the General Synod of the CoE. One section of that agreement covers the mutuality of ordained ministry in each church.
We acknowledge that one another’s ordained ministries of word and sacraments are given by God as instruments of grace and we look forward to a time when growth in communion can be expressed in fuller unity that makes possible the interchangeability of ministers.
The Scottish Episcopal Church has raised some concerns about this agreement because it has the appearance of one Anglican Church (CoE) seeking to do ministry in the province of another (Scottish Episcopal Church). Though this type of border crossing has become commonplace in North America as several African Anglican churches have set up jurisdictions opposed to the progressive stances of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, such happenings have not been as commonplace elsewhere.
David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Primus of the Sottish Episcopal Church wrote at his blog that he “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 Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow wrote in his blog concerning the seeming duplicitousness of the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking “Can anyone explain what the Archbishop of Canterbury meant yesterday? I’m struggling to see the truth shining through his words – can anyone help me?”
“It is incomprehensible to me that the Church of England establishment, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, can have claimed in the English Synod yesterday that the Scottish Episcopal Church is “content” with the Columba Declaration and sees it as a positive move forward when the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church is describing it as “improper”, causing distress to the Scottish Episcopal Church, says it is not the way we do things in the Anglican Communion and talks of is as an example of the Church of England trying to exercise jurisdiction in Scotland.”
Justin Welby was heralded as a talented negotiator and consensus builder when he was selected for the role of Archbishop of Canterbury, but recently he seems to be coming off as flat-footed or tone deaf first in his evolving explanations of the Primates gathering and now in this clear misrepresentation of the position of the Scottish Episcopal Church. One wonders whether these are merely missteps, poor communications or signs of a an as yet unclear plan.
To see an interview with the Scottish Primus, go here