The Most Revd David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, responded this morning to a communique from GAFCON announcing the consecration of a missionary bishop, “who will be tasked with providing episcopal leadership for those who are outside the structures of any Anglican province, especially in Europe.” The GAFCON announcement made clear that the context for this consecration is the likelihood that the Scottish Episcopal Church will at its General Synod approve the solemnization of same-gender marriages within the church.
The GAFCON communique, issued Saturday, also addresses those who might find such a move a “threat to their hopes for reform from within” their own provinces.
During our meeting, we considered how best to respond to the voice of faithful Anglicans in some parts of the Global North who are in need of biblically faithful episcopal leadership. Of immediate concern is the reality that on 8th June 2017 the Scottish Episcopal Church is likely to formalize their rejection of Jesus’ teaching on marriage. If this were to happen, faithful Anglicans in Scotland will need appropriate pastoral care. In addition, within England there are churches that have, for reasons of conscience, been planted outside of the Church of England by the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE). These churches are growing, and are in need of episcopal leadership. Therefore, we have decided to consecrate a missionary bishop who will be tasked with providing episcopal leadership for those who are outside the structures of any Anglican province, especially in Europe.
A Word of Encouragement to Faithful Anglicans within European Provinces
We wish to reassure all faithful Anglicans in European provinces that they also have our prayers and our support. We are aware that some Christians within these provinces who are contending for the faith may at first perceive the news of a missionary bishop as a threat to their hopes for reform from within.
We believe that the complexity of the current situation in Europe does not admit of a single solution. Faithful Christians may be called to different courses of action. We bless those whose context and conscience have led them to remain and contend for the faith within the current structures. If you are successful, you will not need a missionary bishop; if you are not successful, an alternative is at hand. The only true failure would be to waste time through inaction.
We also pray for those who are not yet clear about what faithfulness requires. May God give you the wisdom and courage of the Reformers to stand firm wherever the Lord calls you to stand.
In his response, Bishop Chillingworth was careful to observe that there are strong feelings on both sides of the marriage question within the Scottish church, and that the General Synod decision is not “a foregone conclusion.”
In response to a communique from the GAFCON Primates, The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church says:
“In June, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church will reach the final stage of consideration of changes which would make possible same-sex marriage in our churches. The news that GAFCON intends to send a missionary bishop to Britain is regrettable. The Anglican Communion functions as a global communion on the basis of respect for the territorial integrity of each province. This move is a breach of that understanding.
“The outcome of the synodical process which will take place in June is not a foregone conclusion. The voices of clergy and lay people from across Scotland will be heard both in debate and in the voting process. The Scottish Episcopal Church is working closely with those who find this proposal difficult to accept. Whatever the outcome may be, it is our intention to be and to remain a church which honours diversity.”
Chillingworth repeated that commitment to honoring diversity and difference in an interview with the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland program, in which he declared himself saddened, but not surprised, by the GAFCON announcement. He said that he hoped the appointment of a missionary bishop would not sharpen divisions within Scottish church.
The General Synod vote is expected on June 8th. Listen to the BBC Scotland interview with Bishop Chillingworth here, beginning at 55:20.