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Third time round for Argyll see

16 June 2010

by Margaret Duggan

AFTER two unsuccessful attempts to find a bishop for the diocese of Argyll & The Isles by the usual canonical processes, the appointment is now in the hands of the College of Bishops.

The see has been vacant since last September, when the Rt Revd Martin Shaw retired. The process of electing bishops in the Scottish Episcopal Church is an open one: the vacancy is advertised, and names are submitted.

Usually, a preparatory committee made up of the provincial panel for episcopal elections, with represent­atives from the diocesan synod, a lawyer, and the Primus as convener, draw up a shortlist of no fewer than three and no more than five names. The candidates must be willing to be considered, and must produce a curriculum vitae. If the College of Bishops agrees to the list of names, an election is then held by the diocesan synod.

In Argyll, this procedure was begun twice. On the first occasion, a shortlist of three names was drawn up, but two candidates subsequently withdrew. On the second occasion, it proved impossible to find three can­didates who were willing to stand. The decision was taken to allow the statutory time-limit of 210 days to run out, so that “the right of election to the bishopric shall lapse for that turn,” and become the responsibility of the Episcopal Synod.

The Primus, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, is optimistic about the outcome, which he hopes will be at the end of the summer.

Argyll & The Isles is a demanding diocese. About 1300 Episcopalians are spread across a sizeable portion of west Scotland and the Western Isles from Arran and the Kyle of Lochalsh to Skye and the Outer Hebrides. The Bishop is based in Oban.

The diocese is one of the cradles of Celtic Christianity, and includes places of pilgrimage such as Iona and Cum­brae. There is also a slowly grow­ing population of people retir­ing to the area and young families looking for an improved quality of life.

The Primus believes that these incomers, many of whom have no particular denominational allegi­ance, offer increasing hope for the viability of the diocese, but the new Bishop will need “a special sort of leadership, and a new and consistent pattern of ministry”, as well as financial support.

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