THE General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has agreed to endorse the St Margaret Declaration — an ecumenical statement of friendship with the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.
The declaration, which had already been approved by the RC Bishops’ Conference in Scotland, was welcomed by members of the Kirk General Assembly meeting in Edinburgh on Tuesday. A similar statement of unity between the Kirk and the Scottish Episcopal Church, the St Andrew’s Declaration, was signed last year (News, 3 December 2021).
The St Margaret Declaration recognises the joint ministry of the two Churches and the ecumenical work that has been done “to repair what was broken and to restore mutual respect and friendship”. It also celebrates the shared beliefs and faith of the two Churches, and their common heritage.
On past divisions, it says: “We repent and ask forgiveness of one other. We also recognise that, even in more recent times, much could have been said between us more kindly, written more magnanimously, and done more charitably, to promote pardon and healing and friendship among Christians in our land.”
While some disagreement remains, it promises “to commit ourselves to continuing our pilgrimage towards greater unity. . . We therefore pledge ourselves to live as sisters and brothers in Christ, in public and in private, in life and in mission; to pray with each other and for each other; to be good neighbours, both to each other and to all people among whom we live, of all faiths and none; and to work together for the common good of the nation, as it is given to us to see it.”
The Convener of the Ecumenical Relations Committee, the Revd Alexander Horsburgh, told the General Assembly: “We are declaring a friendship which already exists, which has existed for a long time, and we want everyone to know about it and understand it. By saying out loud that the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland are friends, we contribute to changing, not only the narrative of our Churches, but the narrative of our country too. There is no going back.”
The RC Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Leo Cushley, who named the Declaration after the 11th-century Scottish queen venerated for her missionary Christian faith, said: “Instead of listing our problems and points of friction or grievance, old or new, the Declaration chooses to focus on what we have in common, and to underline that we treasure and hold, together, so much that is inspiring, ancient, and profound.”
On Monday, the General Assembly voted to allow its ministers and deacons to marry same-sex couples in church.