Aberdeen & Orkney letter questions new Bishop’s election

05 January 2018

SCOTTISH EPISCOPAL CHURCH

The Bishop-Elect of Aberdeen & Orkney, Canon Anne Dyer

The Bishop-Elect of Aberdeen & Orkney, Canon Anne Dyer

A PROTEST against the “divisive” and “disrespectful” election of Canon Anne Dyer as Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney (News, 11 November) has been published by priests and lay people in the diocese.

An open letter to Canon Dyer, the first woman to be elected bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the four bishops who elected her, was released on Friday, signed by seven priests. The date fixed for Canon Dyer’s consecration in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, is Thursday 1 March.

The open letter accuses the Bishops of having made an appointment “which directly goes against the established wishes of the Diocese on the views it would hope that our new Bishop would hold, and minister to us from the perspective of them”.

An accompanying press release says that the letter “should not be ‘spun’ in any way which makes it seem to be about women as Bishops or same sex-marriage”.

It says: “There are those signing the letter who would disagree with the new Bishop over her views on such matters while there are others signing who support her views. Our protest concerns the manner in which the appointment was carried out.”

In June, the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod voted to allow its clergy to solemnise marriages for same-sex couples in church (News, 8 June). Canon Dyer voted in favour of the change, and has officiated at same-sex weddings as Rector of Holy Trinity, Haddington.

The letter accuses the Bishops of choosing to “ignore the opinion of the Diocesan Synod. . . There has been a further failure by the Bishops to meet with the Standing Committee or Cathedral Chapter and give any explanation.” It says that the appointment has caused “disquiet and division”, and that a request by clergy and members of the diocesan standing committee for an “early meeting” was refused by Canon Dyer, who said that she was looking forward to meeting them after her arrival in the diocese. The letter repeats this “urgent request”.

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In addition to concerns about the appointment, and the process leading to it, the letter speaks of “disquiet” about the fact that Canon Dyer is reportedly not a car driver: “She may have a plan as to how she will travel around the Diocese but, if so, we do not know of anyone within the Diocese who has been informed of it. The Diocese is largely rural and, in addition to the City of Aberdeen, covers almost all of Aberdeenshire and parts of Moray as well as the many islands of Orkney and Shetland.”

The Preparatory Committee convened for the election of a bishop to the diocese was twice unable to produce the minimum number of three candidates, prompting the Bishops to exercise their right under canon law to elect one themselves. While the letter acknowledges this power, it argues that “it has long been our proud claim that a Scottish Diocese elects it’s own bishop,” and asks that consent be sought from the Electoral Synod of the diocese. “If this is not deemed to be a canonically possible action, then we would ask that Canon Anne consider withdrawing her acceptance.”

The letter refers to the withdrawal of Bishop Philip North from the see of Sheffield (News, 9 March) “because of concerns that his ministry would be divisive”.

Signatories include 11 priests, including seven of the diocese’s 14 stipendiary priests. Among them are the Rector of Westhill Community Church, Aberdeen, the Revd Ian Ferguson, and the Priest-in-Charge of St Drostane’s, Insch, and All Saints’, Fyvie, the Revd Alastair MacDonald, both of whom have expressed concern about the Church’s change of canon law to permit gay marriage (News, 16 June, News, 17 June, 2016).

The letter highlights the resignation of Mr Ferguson as a Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, and that of another signatory, the Very Revd Dr Alexander Emsley Nimmo, from the Chapter, and as Deanof the diocese. There are also four lay signatories, including two members of the diocesan standing committee.

When her election was announced, Canon Dyer said that she was “very aware in my own congregation and dioceses across our Province that there were some who were very disappointed by” the vote to enable same-sex marriage. “A bishop has to be very mindful of those who are finding this difficult, and our change requires us to pay particular attention to everybody’s personal conscience with patience and kindness.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Episcopal Church said on Friday: “We are aware that a letter has been sent to members of the College of Bishops and the Bishop-Elect. However, at this point we are unable to make any comment.”

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