THE Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), the Most Revd David Chillingworth, has written positively of the “renewed friendship” between the SEC and the Church of England, 18 months after the Columba Declaration caused “deep concern” for their relationship as Anglican Churches.
The Columba Declaration — named after the fifth-century Irish missionary St Columba, who is said to have introduced Christianity to Scotland — was an agreement between the C of E and the Church of Scotland, published in December 2015. It committed the two national Churches to “grow together in communion and to strengthen our partnership in mission”.
It was widely criticised for making no mention of shared mission with Scottish Episcopalians. Bishop Chillingworth said at the time that the Declaration would cause “real difficulty” in the relationship between the SEC and the C of E in the future (News, 1 January 2016).
The Declaration was approved by the C of E General Synod (News, 26 February 2016), and later by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, during which the Archbishop of Canterbury apologised for the pain that it had caused the SEC (News, 27 May 2016).
But, in a foreword to the 34th annual report of the SEC, published last Friday alongside the agenda and papers of its forthcoming General Synod, next month, Bishop Chillingworth writes that the Churches had improved their relations since the “unexpected” Declaration had been made.
“We are always positive about ecumenical agreement. But there were aspects of the Declaration which caused deep concern. During 2016, through discussion in a number of fora, we have been able to renew our relationship of friendship and mutual regard with the Church of England. We have also entered into significant dialogue with the Church of Scotland. ‘Our Common Calling’ will enable us to consider together our shared Christian witness in Scotland today.”
The Church Times understands that the Scottish Episcopal Church is due to participate in the first meeting of the Columba Declaration Group, later this year — the fruit of a joint study-group led by the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, and the Revd Dr John McPake, a minister in the Church of Scotland.
The Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness, the Rt Revd Mark Strange, a member of the SEC’s Interchurch Relations Committee (ICRC), said last Friday: “Since the unexpected publishing of the Columba Declaration in 2015, two areas of discussion and relationship building have developed. The first of these is ‘Our Common Calling’, a bilateral process between the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Scotland.
“The conversations, which have so far proved to be fruitful, have covered the areas of history and doctrine, and have looked at how to further develop relationships between our Churches.”
In his review of the year, Bishop Chillingworth also addresses human sexuality, pointing to the “highly significant” meeting of the Anglican Primates in January last year (News, 15 January 2016). A second reading of a revised Canon 31 on the solemnisation of holy matrimony, which would allow clerics to conduct marriages for same-sex couples in church, is due to be debated at the Synod on 8 June.