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Synod of Scottish Episcopal Church to consider Brexit resolution calling for a second referendum

21 May 2018


Under discussion: the Scottish Brexit Minister, Michael Russell, with the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (background), during a debate on legislative consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill, at the Scottish Parliament, in Edinburgh, earlier this month

Under discussion: the Scottish Brexit Minister, Michael Russell, with the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (background), during a debate on legislative...

THE General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) will have before it a resolution calling for a second Brexit referendum or general election in the UK, when it meets next month.

The Synod is to meet over three days from Thursday 7 June.

The agenda, sent out on Thursday of last week, includes a resolution, passed by the Church in Society Committee, which expresses “deep concern” about the present state of Brexit negotiations.

It was drawn up in the light of concerns raised at meetings with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland before the referendum in June 2016, the convener, David Atkinson, explains in his report.

The resolution reads: “This meeting of the Church in Society Committee of the SEC expresses its deep concern at the present state of Brexit negotiations between the UK Government and the European Union about Brexit.

“It considers that the British people should be enabled to revisit the decision to leave the European Union once final terms are known. This could be by the means of a further referendum, a General Election, or otherwise.

“It considers that any agreement should ensure that the Scottish economy is supported, that employment rights in Scotland are protected, and that the environment is safeguarded.”

This should include, it says, safeguarding the rights of UK citizens abroad and EU citizens at home, considering especially children and families; devolving to Holyrood EU powers in areas such as fishing and agriculture which are already devolved; keeping the Irish border open; and ensuring that the UK take its “fair share” of refugees.

The resolution is included in the report, which the Synod will be asked to receive on the final afternoon of sessions.

Other agenda items include changes to clerical terms of service, covering parental leave, housing, retirement, and expenses; clergy training; a shift in focus from ethical issues of climate change to human trafficking; child poverty; the United Nations treaty on nuclear weapons; and the annual report.

It has certainly been an “interesting” year, the new Primus, the Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness, the Most Revd Mark Strange, writes in his foreword to the report — his first since the retirement of his predecessor, the Most Revd David Chillingworth (News, 16 June 2017).

“The changes to Canon 31 [which now permits marriage between couples of the same sex] have also created opportunities for conversations and developments in our relationships across the Anglican Communion.

“Many of the conversations have been robust, but I am very aware that we are still, very much, a valued part of the Communion.”

At least six same-sex marriages have been solemnised in Episcopal churches in at least two of the six dioceses, a spokeswoman said, but up-to-date figures were still being collated.

The convener of the Select Committee, Robert Gordon, in his review, also acknowledges the “substantive decision” to amend Canon 31, which has, “as was expected, produced reactions in other places: some supportive, others perplexed.

“As was expected, our understanding is that the SEC will be restricted for a period of three years from participating in certain elements of the structures of the Anglican Communion. These are the same steps taken by the Primates in 2016 regarding the Episcopal Church [in the United States].”

“Consequences” were set out for the Episcopal Church in the US by the Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury two years ago, because of its change in marriage discipline (News, 22 January 2016).

Financially, the Church has once again exceeded its budgets for both income and expenditure, Mr Gordon says. He promises more accurate projections in future.

Income totalled more than £2.44 million in 2017, covering a total expenditure of about £2.3 million — leaving a surplus of about £141,000 (about £84,600 more than budgeted).

The spending budget for this year has, therefore, been increased by some £47,000, to include the surplus from last year. The Church has budgeted for a surplus of £9471 in 2019, and a deficit of £102,789 in 2020, however, partly owing to an expected increase in the costs of grants to assistant curates, to account for ordinands who last year chose to defer the start of their initial curacy.

Church reserves totalled £36.7 million in 2017, which generated an annual income of £1.1 million through investments and liquid funds.

Bishop Strange said: “We are delighted by the development of mixed-mode training and a continued growth in those offering for ministry, both lay and ordained. I still hear people talk as if we have a crisis in vocations. We don’t.”

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