THE Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Scotland have formally signed the joint St Andrew Declaration, committing them to “a common calling to proclaim the reign of God to all the people of Scotland”.
The fruit of many years’ discussion, it declares the Churches as belonging to the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ”; sharing in the “common confession of the Apostolic faith”; “authentically preaching” the Word of God and “faithfully administering” the sacraments; and acknowledging each other’s ordained ministries.
It also acknowledges the embodiment and exercise of “personal, collegial, and communal oversight (episkope), exercised in the two churches in a variety of forms”. The Primus of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange, said at the conference preceding the service at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh: “We are both Scots Churches. Much of our history is shared, even when we were arguing, fighting, and punishing each other.
“There are differences, there are theological matters of doctrine that we do not share, but the welcome, the use of resources, the sharing of prayer . . . is something we can model together to the people we serve.”
The Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, referred to centuries of violent division, most notably, the 250 Covenanters drowned during transportation after the Battle of Bothwell Bridge and the Covenanters’ assassination of James Sharp, Archbishop of St Andrews, both in 1679.
It was by “acknowledging these past transgressions, seeking forgiveness, that we now move forward and can and do welcome the joint declaration to respond to our common calling to proclaim the reign of God to all people of Scotland”, Lord Wallace said.
There was recognition that work was still to be done and, in the words of the Declaration, “unity is yet imperfect.” But the Churches were resolved that “the past should no longer dictate the future”, the Primus told the congregation. “Standing together with friends, real friends, has to be better than in my past, simply nodding a greeting to distant cousins at the church across the street.”
Earlier, he had spoken of the number of places in rural Scotland where there was now only one church building: “It might be Episcopalian or it might be Presbyterian; yet there will be people of both Churches in that community. If this declaration gives people the confidence to share, and to allow the church to be open and present to each other, then what a wonderful place we have reached.”
The convener of the the Episcopal Church’s Inter-Church Committee, Canon Charlotte Methuen, reminded the conference that because they ministered in the same geographical areas, the ministry and histories of the two Churches had always been intertwined.
“We have lived together sometimes in mutual antagonism, but also in a relationship of mutual acceptance for much of the last five centuries,” Professor Methuen said. “Many in the past will have had some sort of multiple belonging.”