What's Ahead?

In the Church the consequences of the General Synod vote in 2017 to allow same sex marriages is being played out. The first such marriage is in Saint John's Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh on the day after it first becomes possible. However, some who disagree with the Synod decision leave and the Church receives sanctions  (called Consequences) from the Primates of the Anglican Communion    It all follows the Scottish Parliament's redefinition of marriage which means that same gender marriage is possible in Scotland from December 2014. At  the General Synod in June 2017 the Canonical Change is approved in all three Houses (Laity, Clergy and Bishops)  by the necessary two thirds majority, although only just in the House of Clergy.  At Diocesan Synods earlier in 2017 Aberdeen and Orkney is the sole Diocese to reject the proposed change. 

However, five months later the right to appoint a Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney lapses to the Bishops (just four as two other Dioceses are also vacant) and the four appoint Canon Anne Dyer as Scotland's first woman bishop.  It is an historic moment and marks the end of a long journey of women's ordination.  Canon Anne has, however, conducted same sex marriages and the Bishops' actions produce outrage in the Diocese. The Dean and a Chapter Canon resign and a Letter of Protest goes to the Bishops, not aimed at Canon Anne personally in any way, but signed by 50% of the stipendiary clergy, many non-stipendiary clergy and key lay people, claiming that undertakings to honour the Diocesan Synod's decision on same sex marriage have not been honoured. Some of those signing support Canon Anne's stance on same sex marriage but sign because of the way the Bishops conducted the process.  However, the date for Canon Anne's Episcopal Ordination is set for March 1st, 2018 - Saint Marnan's Day - and exactly 45 years since the then Dean, Ian Forbes Begg, was made Bishop of the Diocese. He is Canon Anne's predecessor but three.

In the wider world the United Kingdom ends its combat role in Afghanistan after 13 years, but is drawn into war in the Middle East - joining a United States led coalition in support for those opposing the militant group, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which, until the coalition offensive, controlled considerable areas of both Iraq and Syria.  The election of Donald Trump, son of a woman born in the Isle of Lewis, as the President of the United States seems to herald a more uncertain world as  North Korea begins to test nuclear devices and ballistic missiles and tensions grow in some countries in Africa, the Middle East and with suspicions in Western Europe and the United States  concerning Russian interference in several countries across the world.


The Referendum on Scottish Independence, with voting on September 18th 2014, results in a 55 to 45 percent decision to stay within the United Kingdom. Opinion polls ten days before  the vote put the "Yes to Independence" campaign ahead and these polls trigger urgent visits to Scotland and appeals from from the leaders of the Conservative,Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in the Westminster Parliament. Their vow of increased powers for the Scottish Parliament persuades suffficent voters for there to be a "No" majority. 

The Referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Union on June 23rd 2016 leads to a (unexpected) decision to leave and a subsequent change of Prime Minister.  However, of the four nations of the United Kingdom both Scotland and Northern Ireland vote to remain while England and Wales vote to leave.  Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, insists that Scotland should not be taken out of the European Union against its wishes and does not rule out a second Independence Referendum should this happen  The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union in March 2019.

Changing trends in religious belief will continue to affect all the Churches. The Scottish Episcopal Church remains relatively small with around 350 congregations, while the Presbyterian Church of Scotland has 1427 and, south of the border, the Church of England more than 16,000.  Financial constraints throughout the United Kingdom mean that maintaining the traditional parish system is becoming increasingly difficult, and advertisements seeking to fill parish vacancies frequently offer part time or "house for duty" posts. However, new ways of "being Church" are (perhaps all too) slowly developing alongside  the familiar patterns. Both new and old ways have the intention of enabling people to meet God, and such a union is what actually matters. When the people of God are faithful to Jesus' teaching to love God and to reach out in care to all whose lives touch ours then, in the end, all shall be well .
Click here for suggestions for further reading about the story of the Scottish Episcopal Church