Scottish Episcopal Church: A Faithful Remnant

Oct 12, 2018 by

from New Directions, courtesy of VOL:

[…]  The 20th century was different story. Especially from the 1960s there has been noting but decline, so that today there are nominally 30,909 members, with 22,073 the key active figure on the communicants’ roll and a monitored Sunday attendance of 12,149 Episcopalians in seven dioceses. All these figures are down from the previous year, and they compare unfavourably with the membership in the early 1970s of 81,750 with 46,288 on the communicants’ roll. England readers should note that the seven Society bishops have 32,000 on electoral rolls in their resolution parishes.

In fairness we should note that no denomination is doing well today, and Scotland is rapidly becoming the most secular society in Britain. However, during this decline the theological mindset of the bishops has been driven increasingly by the theological revolutions in the USA. This has eroded the traditional theology of the SEC. The problems began when a former principal of a liberal Cambridge theological college became an influential Bishop of Edinburgh.

By the 1990s a Scottish priest, who some will remember delivering a scintillating address at a Loughborough Conference, was now the Bishop of Edinburgh and elected Primus of the SEC. He forged a College of Bishops in his own liberal mindset, even influencing some who in previous roles had been opposed to such changes as the ordination of women. In retirement he has chosen to publish his own theological confusions, and now confesses himself to be a non-believer, even though he still goes to Mass at his former parish in Edinburgh!

Meanwhile other changes that would have a profound effect on Scottish Episcopalian life and witness wee taking place. The decision to withdraw from involvement with church schools has left them struggling to engage with the young. The closure of their historic theological college, to be replaced by a local learning institute, has robbed their trainee clergy of the values of deep biblical, spiritual and theological training and formation provided by residential courses.

There is virtually no hope of any “orthodox” candidates being accepted for training now. Orthodox clergy are equally harried by bishops and liberal leaning vestry (PCC) members. In worship many clergy now habitually use the formula: “In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier.” Some even press for such “non-sexist” language to be used in baptism, which would leave the candidates unbaptized. Chrismation at baptism has been normal for some time, so confirmation is rare. The legislation for the ordination of women was passed in 1994 along with what is called the “Angus Declaration” which dealt with our position saying that “those who hold such convictions for all time has come to have a valued and respected place within the Scottish Episcopal Church.” Never has a pledge been so dishonoured in the reality.

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