Scottish Episcopal Church History
The one in which Scotland's first woman bishop is appointed; same-sex marriage is agreed and, because of it, some congregations and individuals leave the Church
A Moment in the Century: The end of a journey
On March 1st 2018 a journey ended. The ending had been long anticipated and it came in Saint Andrew's Cathedral in Aberdeen on a very snowy morning , on what most of the world thought of as Saint David's Day and the North-East of Scotland as Saint Marnan of Aberchirder's Day. An historic day for the episcopal ordination and consecration of the first woman bishop in the Scottish Church. Women were ordained as deacons from 1986, as priests from 1984, and the General Synod in 2003 agreed that they could be bishops. Fifteen years later Canon Anne Dyer is consecrated as Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney .
The Electors of the Diocese, strangely, had no say in this, as its Preparatory Committee twice failed to agree on a minimum of three candidates to be put before the Electoral Synod, and thus the right of appointment moved to the College of Bishops, who nominated Canon Anne. For reasons set out under November 2017 and January 2021 in The Chronological Account of the 21st Century (which appears further down this page), the appointment caused upset and disquiet within the Diocese, but none of this was evident in the very happy service at which Canon Anne became Bishop Anne.
The new Bishop was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, in February 1957 and was educated at Bradford Girls' Grammar School and Saint Anne's College, Oxford, where she studied chemistry. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree (and, as is customary at Oxford, later also received a Master of Arts degree). Following her initial graduation she was employed by Unilever as a business and systems analyst.
She began her training for ordination at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, in 1984 and after her ordination continued theological studies at King's College, London, where she was awarded a Master of Theology degree in 1989. Anne was ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Rochester in 1987 and a priest in 1994. Her first roles in ministry were in parishes as a non-stipendiary. From 1998 to 2004 she was Ministry Development Officer for the Diocese of Rochester and in 2000 became an Honorary Canon of Rochester Cathedral.
In 2004 Canon Anne was appointed Warden of Cranmer Hall, a theological college which is part of Saint John's College in the University of Durham. She became an Honorary Canon of Durham Cathedral in 2008. In 2011 she returned to parish ministry as Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Haddington in the Diocese of Edinburgh. She also continued her work in theological education with the Scottish Episcopal Institute and later became a member of its Council. In 2017 she was invited by the College of Bishops to become Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney. She is married to Roger and the couple have a daughter, Millie, who sadly died in November 2021 aged 30.
Bishop Anne describes herself as being within the Open Evangelical tradition of Anglicanism. In December 2014 she was a signatory of an open letter to the College of Bishops, which was supportive of same sex marriage and concluded with the words - We wish to make clear our continuing commitment to affirm and support all people in our church, and to recognise and rejoice in all marriages, of whatever sexual orientation, as true signs of the love of God in Christ.
A decision of the Scottish General Synod later in 2017 allowed same sex marriage within the Church and Canon Anne conducted her first such marriage in October of that year, shortly before her appointment to Aberdeen and Orkney Diocese was announced.
In her report to the Diocesan Synod on February 29th 2020 (the day before the second anniversary of her consecration) Bishop Anne said - The United Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney is both a delight and a challenge to lead. In the second year of my episcopate I have been able to deepen relationships with clergy and laity across the diocese, and come to know how encouraging it is to serve with you. Travelling from place to place across the diocese, the variety of contexts is striking. Communities and their settings vary greatly, as do the challenges that they bring. The most significant internal challenge that we face is a deficit of clergy and lay leaders, particularly those who are trained and confident in leading worship. Nevertheless, in many small churches the faithfulness of church members in preparing for and facilitating Sunday or mid-week worship is admirable. In my first year as bishop, I instituted a good number of clergy into new Charges. It has been encouraging to see new life emerging.
Photo courtesy of the Diocesan Archive
The Chronological Story of the 21st Century
Until a period of time has passed it is difficult to know which events in history are important and which are merely interesting (or even were just so regarded at the time). It is thus too early to know what the far-reaching effects of some of the happenings chronicled here will be.
2000 Richard Holloway retires as Primus and Bishop of Edinburgh. He has been Bishop for fourteen years and Primus for eight. In his retirement he lives in Edinburgh and has chaired the Scottish Arts Council. He continues to write books as well as reviews and articles for several newspapers. From time to time he also presents radio and television programmes.
The new Primus is Bruce Cameron, who is fifty-nine and has been Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney since 1992. He was born in Glasgow and came to the Episcopal Church through the Choir of Saint Margaret’s, Newlands, becoming one of eighteen candidates for ordination from that congregation. He studied at Edinburgh Theological College and served two curacies – Helenburgh in Glasgow diocese and Davidson’s Mains in Edinburgh. He became a chaplain at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, and youth officer for both the diocese and the Scottish Church. There followed a period as Rector of Saint Mary’s, Dalmahoy, and chaplain to Anglican students at Heriot Watt University before joining the pioneering ecumenical team ministry in Livingston. His final ministry before becoming Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney was at Saint John’s, Perth.
2000 Further changes to Canon 4 removes the Office of Lay Elector (created in 1863) and transfers the role to each congregation's Lay Representative at the Diocesan Synod. Elections will now take place at a specially convened Electoral Synod, made up of the Lay Representatives and clergy who are instituted, licensed or hold a Commission. Clergy with a Warrant or Permission to Officiate cannot attend the Electoral Synod.
2001 At the Westminster General Election the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Labour Party win a large majority. In Scotland Labour holds 56 seats, Liberal Democrats 10, the Scottish National Party five and Conservatives one.
2001 Cardinal Thomas Winning dies in office as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. He is succeeded, in 2002, by the Bishop of Aberdeen, Mario Conti.
2003 The election for the second Scottish Parliament results in a continuation of the Labour-Liberal Democrat government with the Labour party holding 50 seats, the Scottish National Party 27, the Conservatives 18, the Liberal Democrats 17, the Green Party seven, the Scottish Socialist Party six and the Senior Citizens Unity Party one. Three Independent members are also elected.
2003 A further change is made to the Scottish Episcopal Church's Canon 4 as the General Synod agrees that women priests can be candidates for election as Bishops. (The first woman to appear on the published short-leets is Canon Alison Peden, Rector of Holy Trinity, Stirling, nominated in both the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway and the Diocese of Brechin. However Scotland's first woman bishop is Canon Anne Dyer, appointed by the bishops to the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, a decade later).
2003 The General Synod accepts two reports - Journey of the Baptised, which affirms that the basic context for mission is the local congregation, helped by the wider church, and New Century, New Directions, which presents a vision and strategy for ministry development.
2003 The Church of Scotland withdraws from the multi-lateral talks with other Scottish churches. The Episcopal, Methodist and United Reformed Churches continue the conversations and in 2008 enter a Covenant Relationship, with a commitment to working together more closely.
2003 Keith O’ Brien, Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, is appointed a Cardinal.
2003 The Diocese of New Hampshire in the United States elects a bishop who is openly in a same gender relationship and the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada agrees a service of blessing for same sex relationships.
2004 Alison Elliot becomes Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for the year 2004-2005. She is the first lay person to hold the office since George Buchanan four hundred years earlier and the first woman to do so.
2004 An International Commission is established in the Anglican Communion to consider the decisions in New Hampshire and New Westminster and also where authority in the Church should reside. The Commission’s report to the Primates, the Windsor Report, leads to a “Listening Process” in each Province and Diocese of the Anglican Communion, leading up to the Lambeth Conference of 2008. Moratoria are requested on the ordination of clergy in same gender relationship as a bishop, the blessing of same gender relationships and the incursion of bishops from any Province into another.
2005 The Labour Party wins it third consecutive Westminster General Election and Tony Blair continues as Prime Minister. In Scotland the number of seats is reduced from 79 to 56 to reflect the existence of the Scottish Parliament. Labour win 41 of them, Liberal Democrats eleven, the Scottish National Party six and Conservatives one.
2005 The Scottish bishops say that homosexual orientation has never been a bar to ordination in Scotland (as the General Synod has not made a decision about it), but later - following meetings of the Primates of the Anglican Communion - the Scottish bishops accept the three moratoria.
2006 Bruce Cameron retires as Primus and Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney. He has been Bishop for fourteen years and Primus for six. In his retirement he lives in Perthshire, and has twice been Resident Scholar at Bruton Church, Williamsburg, Virginia, in the United States. His wife, Elaine, and he acted as Interim Wardens of Scottish Churches House in the months before its closure.
He is succeeded as Primus by Idris Jones, who is sixty-two and has been Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway since 1998. His election as Primus is unusual in that it is decided not by a vote of the bishops but by the drawing of lots. Idris Jones and Brian Smith, Bishop of Edinburgh, each receive three votes in the Episcopal Synod and the deadlock cannot be broken in any other way. The new Primus was born in the English Midlands. He studied at the University of Wales at Lampeter and at Edinburgh Theological College and has worked in the Episcopal Church since 1980. During his time as Primus he becomes a patron of Inclusive Church, an organisation advocating a church open to all - regardless of race, gender or sexuality.
2007 The election for the third Scottish Parliament results in a minority Scottish National Party government, replacing a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition. The SNP wins 47 seats, Labour 46, Conservative 17, Liberal Democrat 16, and the Green party two. One Independent member is elected.
2007 Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdgom, replacing Tony Blair.
2007 Sheilagh Kesting is the first woman minister to be appointed Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
2009 Idris Jones retires as Primus and Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. He has been a bishop since 1998 and Primus since 2006. In his retirement he lives in Ayrshire.
The new Primus is David Chillingworth. He is fifty-eight and has been Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane since 2005. He is the first Scottish bishop to be elected while serving in the Church of Ireland. He was born in Dublin and studied at Oriel College, Oxford and Ripon College, Cuddesdon. His entire ordained ministry was in Northern Ireland before his election as Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane. He is the first Primus to write a blog on the internet.
2009 The sexuality debate is also taking place within the Church of Scotland. In May 2009 the General Assembly ratifies the appointment of the Reverend Scott Rennie, a gay man, as Minister of Queen’s Cross Church, Aberdeen. The Assembly later agrees a moratorium on further such appointments, while homosexual ministers, ordained before 2009, may continue in office.
2010 The General Election for the Westminster Parliament results in a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government replacing the Labour government. In Scotland the Labour party wins 41 of the 59 seats, the Liberal Democrat party eleven, the Scottish National Party six and the Conservative party one.
2010 Pope Benedict XVl visits Scotland, twenty-eight years after his predecessor, John Paul II, became the first Pope to do so. Later in the year the Pope announces the intention to create an Ordinariate in which Anglicans (in effect mostly those unhappy with developments concerning women’s ministry and same gender marriage) can be welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church, whilst preserving parts of Anglicanism.
2011 The Dean of Edinburgh, Kevin Pearson, is consecrated as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. The process of appointment is unusual as the Diocesan Electoral Synod is unable to reach a decision and so the appointment is made by the College of Bishops.
2011 The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is created for the United Kingdom. Thus far two Scottish Episcopal priests - one from Inverness and the other from Stornoway - have been re-ordained within it as Roman Catholic priests. Ordinariate Masses are celebrated in Fortrose, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Stirling.
2011 The election for the Scottish Parliament results in a majority Scottish National Party government in place of the previous minority SNP government. It is the first time that a single party has been able to form a majority government since the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The Scottish National Party has 69 seats, Labour 37,Conservatives 15, Liberal Democrats five, and the Green party two. One Independent member is elected.
2011 The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland establishes a theological commission to report to the 2013 General Assembly on sexuality issues. Several ministers and congregations decide to leave the Church of Scotland.
2011 The General Synod accepts the Whole Church Mission and Ministry Policy as a pattern to be followed over the next years. Each diocese and its bishop will take a central place and be seen as a source of new energy while General Synod boards and committees are to be enablers and supporters and will target their financial resources towards “missional endeavours”.
2012 The General Synod rejects by 112 votes to 6 the request that the Scottish Episcopal Church sign the Anglican Covenant. The concept of a Covenant for the Anglican Communion arises from the Windsor Report and has been years in the planning. The Covenant’s aim is to address the deep divisions across the thirty-eight Provinces of the Communion, triggered by the actions in the United States and Canada. The Covenant seeks to replace the “bonds of affection”, which traditionally holds the Anglican Communion together, with a more formal structure. The intention being that no Province makes a contentious decision without consulting the rest of the Communion. Having rejected the request to sign the Covenant, the Synod agrees to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury “to encourage the development of bonds of shared mission, respect and mutual support”.
2012 Mario Conti retires as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. He is succeeded by the Bishop of Paisley, PhilipTartaglia.
2012 In September The Scottish Government says that the Parliament’s legislation programme for 2012-2013 will include a Bill permitting same gender marriage in Scotland. Most main-line churches currently oppose it. The Episcopal Church in a statement in December 2011, coinciding with its response to the Government’s draft Bill, says - In submitting its response, the Scottish Episcopal Church has stated that its General Synod expresses the mind of the Church through its Canons. The Canon on Marriage currently states that marriage is a ‘physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and as a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God’.
2013 The Scottish Independence Referundum Bill, setting out the arrangements for the September 18th 2014 Referundum, is presented to the Scottish Parliament in March, following agreement between the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments. and passes into law in November. The question to be asked in the referundum will be "Should Scotland be an independent country?".]
2013 In April the Succession to the Crown Act, which, in effect, amends the 1701 and 1707 Act of Succession, receives Royal Assent after passing all its stages in both Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Among the Act's provisions is one which says “ A person is not disqualified from succeeding to the Crown or from possessing it as a result of marrying a person of the Roman Catholic faith”. Under the provisions of the Act the monarch remains the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and therefore he or she cannot be a Roman Catholic. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, just before he leaves office in December 2012 to become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, says that there needs to be “a clear understanding that a future heir should be brought up in an Anglican environment”.
Following the birth of Prince George on July 22nd 2013 he is named by Buckingham Palace as third in succession to the throne (following his grandfather and father). However, for the first time in more than 300 years, two Roman Catholics are also listed in the line of succession. The two children of Lord Nicholas Windsor (who converted to the Roman Church) and his Croatian wife Paola. The children - Albert, aged five, and Leopold aged three - are placed 39th and 40th in line to the throne.
2013 Saint John's Church in Aberdeen offers space for prayer in the church building to members of the neighbouring Mosque, which is too small for all its adherants to find a place inside. Those praying outside, in the cold of a northern winter, touch the heart of the Rector, Canon Isaac Poobalan, and leads to the offer, which is accepted as graciously as it was made.
2013 Three days before Pope Benedict XVl becomes the first Pope in 600 years to retire (rather than die in office) Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, resigns as Archbishop amid allegations of improper conduct. He chooses not to be part of the conclave electing the new Pope. The conclave lasts just over twenty-four hours and elects the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He is the first Pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit to be elected, and the first Pope to take the name Francis.
His installation is three days before that of Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. The two send each other messages of goodwill.
2013 The theological commission appointed by the Church of Scotland in 2011 presents its report on sexuality to the General Assembly in May. The Assembly accepts a motion, tabled at the 11th hour, by the immediate past moderator, the Very Reverend Albert Bogle, which is intended to provide a compromise to avoid a split within the Church. Under it the Church maintains its traditional position of opposition to actively homosexual clergy , while providing an opt-out clause to allow liberal-minded congregations freedom to appoint gay men and women as ministers. The resolution will be drafted into the language of church law during the next year and presented to the Assembly of 2014. If it is approved, it will be sent to each Presbytery for discussion. For the new ruling to come into effect it has to be agreed by a majority of Presbyteries. The result of the Presbyteries' voting will be reported to the General Assembly of 2015.
2013 In June the General Synod of the Episcopal Church is presented with a “design process” for Church wide discussions on same sex relationships. The first step is the establishment of a design group, convened by the Bishop of Brechin, Nigel Peyton, to facilitate discussion.
The Synod hears that membership of the Church has fallen by fifteen percent over the past five years. However, the Primus, David Chillingworth, says that such statistics do not measure the missional life of the Church, its aspiration, and its faith.
The Synod also hears that the age at which stipendiary clergy can draw a pension will be raised from sixty-five to sixty-seven with effect from January 1st 2014.
2013 In June The Scottish Government introduces a Bill in the Scottish Parliament which will allow same gender marriage in Scotland. Debate on the Bill begins in the Parliament on November 20th and the Bill is expected to become law "sooner rather than later".
2013 In Westminster the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill receives Royal Assent on Wednesday, July 17th, after passing all its stages in the House of Commons and House of Lords. It applies only in England and Wales. There will now be a period of preparation to administer the new Act and a timetable is expected to be announced in the autumn. The first marriages under the Act can take place from March 29th 2014. However, the Act specifically forbids Church of England and Church in Wales clerics from conducting such weddings.
2013 On September 19th the Reverend Pat Storey, Rector of Saint Augustine's, Londonderry, becomes the first women bishop in the Churches of Britain and Ireland when she is appointed by the Church of Ireland's House of Bishops as Bishop of Meath and Kildare in the Republic of Ireland. The new bishop is fifty three and is originally from Belfast. She is married to the Reverend Earl Storey and they have two children. Two months later, on November 20th, the Church of England's General Synod agrees to a process which may allow women to be bishops in England by 2015-16. It will now be considered by each diocesan synod and return to the General Synod in 2015.
2013 Monsignor Leo Cushley, a Vatican diplomat, is consecrated in Edinburgh as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh on September 21st 2013. He is fifty-two and was born in Airdrie, Lanarkshire. He succeeds Cardinal Keith O'Brien as archbishop.
2013 Data released from the 2011 Nationl Census reveals that over half of the population of Scotland (54%) think of themselves as Christian - down 11% from the previous Census in 2001 - and that those who say they have no religion has risen by nine percentage points to 37%. The figures also show considerable confusion over the Episcopal Church's identity - with 4490 people claiming to be Anglican; 21,289 Episcopalian; and 8048 saying they are members of the Scottish Episcopal Church. In addition the Census returns show that 66,717 people living in Scotland think of themselves as members of the Church of England; 2020 of the Church of Ireland and 453 of the Church in Wales.
2013 Following its first meeting in September, the Scottish Episcopal Church's "Design Group for Discussion of Same Sex Relationships" is now working on a "Cascade Conversation" and a gathering to be held in 2014. The aim is to provide a process which will "cascade" to dioceses and congregations, enabling people across Scotland, and beyond, to contribute to the conversation. The Convenor of the group, Bishop Nigel Peyton, says “The design group is meeting each month to consider a range of processes to facilitate respectful dialogue, to offer resources and opportunities for individuals, congregations and dioceses to enable such dialogue and to create a model for discussion of challenging questions in the life of the Church. We believe that the Cascade Conversation will provide such a model.”
2013 In November the College of Bishops issues a new statement concerning the blessing of civil partnerships. The statement says - The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 2012 agreed not to adopt the Anglican Covenant. Since then, and within our own context, the College of Bishops has, on a number of occasions, considered how our church should best engage with those underlying questions of human sexuality which had given rise to the original idea of a Covenant. The College looks forward to the Church undertaking discussion of such matters as part of the process currently being designed by a group set up for that purpose by the Provincial Mission and Ministry Board. The College in no way intends to pre-empt the outcome of those discussions. At the same time it recognises that the entering into of civil partnerships is a regular occurrence in Scottish society today. In a previous statement the College indicated that it was the practice of the individual Bishops at that time neither to give official sanction to blessings of civil partnerships, nor to attend them personally. The Church does not give official sanction to informal blessings but each Bishop would nevertheless expect to be consulted by clergy prior to the carrying out of any informal blessing of a civil partnership in his diocese. The College is of the view that a decision as to whether or not to attend such an informal blessing should be a personal decision of the individual Bishop in question.
2014 In January Canon Joseph Morrow, Chancellor of the Diocese of Brechin, Honorary Canon of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee, and Chaplain of Glamis Castle, is appointed by the Queen, on the recommendation of the First Minister, as Lord Lyon King of Arms. The office dates from the 14th century and its duties include the granting of armorial bearings and judicial rulings on who has the right to bear existing coats of arms.
2014 A service in Saint Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeen, on January 25th celebrates the 100th anniversary of the church in King Street becoming the cathedral for the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney. At the Revolution in 1689 the surviving ancient cathedrals of Scotland all became Presbyterian churches and it was not until 1914, 225 years later, that Aberdeen and Orkney, the last of the dioceses without a cathedral, creates one.
2014 In February The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill is accepted by the Scottish Parliament (by 105 votes to eighteen). It means that same gender marriage is now possible in Scotland. The Primus, David Chillingworth, says the Parliament's decision produces an interesting situation for churches and faith groups who, like the Scottish Episcopal Church, have a historic position expressed in our Canons – or church law – that marriage is between one man and one woman for life. That is our position. We expect our clergy and our members to acknowledge and respect it – even if in some cases they do not agree with it and aspire to change it. To change it would need a significant process over two years in our General Synod and would require two thirds majorities.
2014 In February the Church of England's General Synod opens the way for women to become bishops in England. The measure is later approved by Diocesan Synods and at the July session of the English General Synod. It is likely that the first women bishops in England will be named in the early winter and be consecrated early in 2015.
2014 Same gender marriage becomes legal in England and Wales, under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, from midnight on Saturday, March 29th, and the first such marriages take place immediately after midnight. However, the English bishops' "guide-lines" prohibit all clergy in England from contracting such a marriage. The Act itself already prohibits them from conducting same gender weddings.The guidance from the English House of Bishops says it "considers it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives". (The Scottish Parliament's equivalent Act comes into effect in December 2014).
In early April Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a National Health Service chaplain, becomes the first cleric in England to enter into a same gender marriage. In June the bishops of the diocese in which he lives and the one in which he works respond differently. The Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, where he lives, withdraws his permission to officiate while the Bishop of Lincoln, where he works as a a Chaplain in the Health Service, issues an informal rebuke but does not withdraw his general preacher's licence.
A further twist to the story emerges when the priest is appointed to a new senior chaplaincy role in a National Health Service Trust within Southwell and Nottingham diocese. The acting bishop declines to give him a licence on the grounds that he has defied the House of Bishops' pastoral guidance by marrying his same-sex partner and the Trust then withdraws its offer of appointment. The priest says "I am not accepting this, and I am not going to go away quietly. This needs to be looked at in a formal context and tested". An employment tribunal claim, alleging, among other matters, discrimination under the Equality Act, is subsequently made against the Archbishop of York and the Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. In November 2015 the Tribunal rejects Canon Pemberton's claims as the Acting Bishop did not discriminate against Canon Pemberton on grounds of sexual orientation as the Equality Act provides a defence against discrimination if the employment is for the purposes of an organised religion. Canon Pemberton says he is "disappointed" and in early 2016 he is given permission to appeal the ruling.
2014 In April, as part of the process for discussing same sex relationships throughout the Scottish Episcopal Church, a Cascade Conversation – Listening across the Spectrum – takes place in Pitlochry. Sixty people, including the bishops and seven people from each diocese (chosen by the diocesan bishop), attend the two day meeting and, towards the end, participants meet in diocesan groups to consider how the experience of the meeting might be "cascaded" more widely.
2014 In May the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland votes in favour of a proposal which could lead to individual congregations being permitted to opt out of the Church's official stance and welcome ministers in a civil partnership. Following a debate, which includes the legal and theological implications of the proposal, 369 members vote in favour of the plan and 189 against it. The result means that the proposal will be sent to each of the 46 Presbyteries of the Church and their decisions will be reported to the Assembly of 2015. If a majority of Presbyteries are in favour, a final vote will be taken at next year's Assembly.
2014 In June campaigning officially begins for the September 18th Referundum in Scotland, which will decide whether Scotland becomes an independent country or remains part of the United Kingdom. Opinion polls indicate that around 40% of voters say "Yes" to independence and 47% "No", with 13% undecided.
2014 In June the Scottish General Synod meets in small groups, each with a facilitator, to discuss same gender relationships, but no opportunity is given for any decision to be reached. The "Cascade" process will continue in dioceses until the end of 2014 when the Mission and Ministry and Faith and Order Boards will "discern what can be seen of the mind of the Church" before "a substantial discussion" at the General Synod of 2015.
A motion, discussed by the entire Synod as a single group, asks the Bishops to prepare a new form of statistical return which better reflects the total activity of the Church, the claim being that the current method consistently shows a downward trend and does not properly take into account newer ways of being a Church.
The Synod also hears that the Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church is re-named the Scottish Episcopal Institute and Canon Anne Tomlinson, Mission Development Officer for the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway, is its Principal.
2014 August 1st is the 300th anniversary of the death of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch to reign in Britain, and the accession of George I. The Westminster Parliament's 1701 Act of Settlement by-passed fifty Roman Catholic heirs before establishing Sophia, Electress of Hanover - and her non-Roman Catholic successors - as heirs apparent. The English Parliament sought to persuade the Scots Parliament to pass a similar Act, which it eventually and reluctantly did in 1707, and which led to the Union of the Parliaments in 1707. Sophia died two months before Queen Anne's death and was succeeded in both Hanover and the United Kingdom by her son George. The Hanoverian link lasted in Britain through the reign of five kings and ended with the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, as Hanoverian law did not allow a woman to become monarch of the Kingdom of Hanover (as it had become in 1814). That crown passed to Victoria's uncle, the Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, but the kingdom disappeared when Hanover was annexed by Prussia in 1866. The last King of Hanover, George V, died in 1878 and is buried at Saint George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
2014 September 18th is the day of historic importance with the national referendum on independence. Three hundred and seven years after the Union of the Scottish and English Parliaments, the question asked of all voters in Scotland is Should Scotland be an independent country? By the following morning it is clear that almost 85 percent of those registered to vote had done so (the highest percentage of any election in the United Kingdom for almost 100 years) and the answer is No. Fifty-five percent of those voting say No while 45 percent say Yes, so Scotland remains - for the immediate future at least - part of the United Kingdom. The First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party, the Right Honourable Alex Salmond, announces his intention to resign as party leader and First Minister in November. A Consitutional Commission is established with Lord Smith of Kelvin as its chairperson. Representatives of the Scottish National, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Green parties are to seek consensus on which extra powers should come to the Scottish Parliament and to make recommendations by Saint Andrew's Day.
The Bishops issue a statement which says -
Speaking on behalf of the College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Primus, the Most Reverend David Chillingworth, says “The people of Scotland have decided that Scotland will continue to be part of the grouping of nations which make up the United Kingdom.
"The Scottish Episcopal Church is an historic Scottish Church. Our story is interwoven with the story of Scotland. We commit ourselves to work with all the people of Scotland as our relationships with our neighbours continue to evolve.
“We hold particularly in our hearts and in our prayers today those for whom this decision brings a feeling of hopes dashed and vision lost. With our partner churches and all in the faith communities, we pledge ourselves to work for reconciliation and pray for healing in our community.”
2014 On October 13th The Scottish Government announces that, following the vote in the Scottish Parliament in February, same gender marriage in Scotland will become possible and legal from December 31st 2014. Those already in Civil Partnerships may, if they so wish, convert the partnership to marriage from December 16th.
2014 On November 18th the General Synod of the Church of England gives final approval for the ordination of women as bishops in England. At the same time it emerges that some senior women priests have received training to prepare them for possible selection as English bishops. The first appointments may be made within a few weeks.
2014 The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, makes a two day visit to the Scottish Episcopal Church on November 24th and 25th - the last of his visits to all 37 Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion.The Archbishop and Mrs Welby stay with the Primus and Mrs Chillingworth in Perthshire and during his two days in Scotland he meets Scotland's newly elected First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, church and faith group leaders, the bishops of the Episcopal Church and the clergy of the Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane. He visits a Church Army project at Saint Luke’s Church, Dundee, and the congregation at Saint Columba's Church, Aberdour.
2014 On November 26th the Smith Commission (established after the September Referundum on Scottish independence) publishes its recommendations on extra powers for the Scottish Parliament. The compromise reached is welcomed by the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties in Scotland as more than meeting their pre-Referendum promises, while the Scottish National and Green parties say that, as 70% of Scottish tax revenues are still to be controlled by the Westminster Parliament, much of the governance of Scotland continues, as before, from London.
The Primus, David Chillingworth, who was invited to the launch of the Recommendations, says "Most impressive was the way the Scottish politicians spoke – warm tributes to Lord Smith of Kelvin and strong endorsement of the agreement reached. Yet they were not afraid also to say what they would have liked to see in the agreement and didn’t get. That’s mature politics and to be celebrated".
Over the coming months legislation will be drafted at Westminster to put the recommendations into effect, although no vote on them in the London Parliament will take place until after the May 2015 General Election - and meanwhile Westminster attention also turns to proposals for "English votes for English laws".
2014 In December, shortly before same gender marriage becomes possible in Scotland, the Bishops issue a statement affirming that the General Synod of the Episcopal Church has not (as yet anyway) altered its Canon Law and has thus not opted into the new legislation. It is therefore not legal for any cleric of the Episcopal Church to conduct a same sex marriage, and the Bishops further expect clergy and ordinands to abide by the General Synod's view and not themselves enter into such a marriage.
2014 On December 17th the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in the Scottish Episcopal Church is celebrated at a Eucharist in Saint Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeen. The preacher is the Right Reverend Bruce Cameron, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney at the time, and the celebrants of the Eucharist include the present Bishop and four of the nine women ordained in Aberdeen in 1994.
On the same day the Church of England announces that the Reverend Libby Lane, Vicar of Hale and Ashley in the Diocese of Chester, is to be its first woman bishop. She will become the Bishop of Stockport, a Suffragan Bishopric within the Diocese of Chester.
2014 On December 31st Scotland becomes the 17th country in the world in which it is legal for same sex couples to be married. Seventeen couples are married on the first day, and it is also revealed that 250 civil partnerships in Scotland have been converted to marriage since this became possible on December 16th.
2015 On January 7th The Church of Scotland publishes the voting figures from its Presbyteries on allowing Kirk Sessions the possibility of appointing candidates in same-gender civil partnerships as parish ministers. As a majority of Presbyteries voted in favour a final decision can be taken at the General Assembly in May of this year. Thirty-two Presbyteries (71.1%) voted "Yes" with thirteen (28.9%) saying "No". However, the individual voting figures for members of the Presbyteries show a closer result - 1391 people (54.6%) voting in favour and 1153 (45.4%) against .
2015 On January 22nd the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, reveals the draft legislation for additional powers for the Scottish Parliament, promised if Scotland voted against independence in the September 2014 Referendum. The forty-four clauses, if enacted by the Westminster Parliament, will, among other things, give the Scottish Parliament control over income tax rates and bands in Scotland, borrowing powers, control of some areas of welfare and employment matters and the ability to lower the voting age to sixteen. However Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, says that some of the draft Clauses still require the Scottish Parliament to ask for approval from a Westminster Secretary of State and the overall powers are less than promised.
2015 On March 26th the result of a survey of voting in the Independence Referendum, conducted by the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Essex among a representative sample of over 4500 people in Scotland, is released and reveals that a majority of native born Scots (52.7%) voted for independence while nearly three-quarters (72.1%) of those born elsewhere voted against.
2015 On successive days at the end of March the Church of England announces its second and third woman bishops. Canon Alison White, priest-in-charge of Riding Mill, Northumberland, and wife of the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, is appointed Bishop of Hull, a suffragan see in the Archdiocese of York, and the Venerable Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney in the Diocese of London, as Bishop of Gloucester - the first woman diocesan bishop.
2015 On May 2nd Princess Charlotte is born - a second child for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the fourth person in line of succession to the throne.
2015 On May 7th a General election for the Westminster Parliament results in a majority Conservative government, replacing the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. In Scotland the Scottish National Party wins 56 of the 59 seats with one seat each going to the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties. In England the Liberal Democra party leader, and former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is defeated in his Sheffield constituency
2015 In May the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland votes to allow congregations who so wish to appoint a minister or deacon who is in a civil partnership. The voting was 309 in favour and 182 against. The decision follows a consultation following the 2014 Assembly in which 31 Presbyteries voted in favour and 13 against. The decision maintains the traditional view of marriage as being between a man and a woman, with individual congregations having to "opt out" if they wish to appoint a minister or deacon who is in a civil partnership. The Assembly also decides to remit to Presbyteries for discussion a proposal to go a step further and allow people in same sex marriages to be appointed as ministers or deacons, deferrng a final decision on this for at least a year.
2015 The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church meets in Edinburgh and decides to begin the process of changing Canon Law to permit clergy to conduct the marriages of people of the same gender. The Synod agrees by 103 votes to 17, with three abstentions, to proceed, essentially by removing the opening section of Canon 31, which describes marriage as "the physical, spiritual and mystical union between a man and a woman". A conscience clause is likely to be added to the Canon to ensure that no bishop, priest or deacon is obliged to conduct a marriage which is against his or her conscience. As with all proposed Canonical changes approval needs to be sought at further meetings of the Synod.
2015 The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States makes Canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality for Episcopalians - the first member church of the Anglican Communion to do so. The decision follows that of the United States Supreme Court five days earlier to legalize same sex marriage in the United States.
2015 - Figures released in July show that only 30% of marriages in Britain take place in Church. The statistics, which are for 2012, show the lowest percentage of church weddings since records began. In the same month "Church Growth Modelling", a research project which uses mathematical sociology to understand the growth and decline of the Church, predicts that the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church in Wales and the the Episcopal Church in the USA are firmly under the extiction threshold. In Scotland and Wales the predicted extiction date is calculated as 2043, in the United States as 2055 and for the Church of England 2082. Commenting on the figures the Primus, David Chillingworth, says The statistics make sobering reading....I don't believe that the Church will be extinct by 2043. But it will almost certainly look very different.
2015 September 6th is the 300th anniversary of the Raising of the Standard by the Earl of Mar at Braemar, the beginning of the Jacobite Rising of 1715. The Rising had initial success and James VIII and III landed at Peterhead in December but, as hopes of success faded, he returned to France from Montrose on February 5th 1716. The Jacobite Army, numbering almost 20,000 at its peak, was largely Episcopalian and after the failure of the Rising this had repercussions for the Church (For a fuller account click here to go to the 18th century page and scroll down to 1715 in the chronological story. For more detailed background of the Rising click here for the 17th century page and scroll down to the entry for 1687 and read to the end of that century's entries in the chronological story.)
2015 In September the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, invites all 37 Primates of the Anglican Communion to a meeting in Canterbury in January 2016 "to consider recent developments, but also look afresh at our ways of working as a Communion". Newspaper reports suggest that the Archbishop is concerned about the stress caused in parts of the world by the decision of the bishops in the United States of America to allow the celebration of same sex marriages in churches. The Archbishop is said to think that the present structure of the Anglican Communion is unsustainable and would prefer one in which Provinces could be in communion with Canterbury, but not necessarily with one another.
2015 In November the three-week long Synod of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome decides (by a single vote over the two-thirds majority necessary) that those who have been divorced may make their communion (from which they have been banned) after consideration on a case by case basis. The decision follows a call from Pope Francis for the Church to be more merciful.
2015 On Christmas Eve the Columba Declaration signifies the intent of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, as the two "national" churches of the United Kingdom, to work together more closely. The suggested agreement, reached after years of discussion, will be put before the governing bodies of each church during 2016. Among specific commitments are welcoming into membership those who move across the Border; the leadership speaking jointly on social and political issues; and a working towards "inter-changeability" of clergy.
The announcement is made in response to a newspaper enquiry and it takes the Scottish Episcopal Church by surprise. A spokesperson for the Scottish Episcopal Church, commenting on the Church's website, says - We have noted the announcement today about the Columba Declaration agreed between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England. We welcome the opportunity for the further ecumenical discussion referred to in today’s press statement and look forward to being able to consider the full text of the report when we receive this. We fully understand the desire of the Church of Scotland and the Church of England as national churches to discuss and explore matters of common concern. However certain aspects of the report, which appear to go beyond the relationship of the two churches as national institutions, cause us concern. The Scottish Episcopal Church, as a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, represents Anglicanism in Scotland, and we will therefore look forward to exploring the suggestions within the report more fully in due course.
In mid-January 2016 the Church of England's General Synod approves the Declaration, although almost 100 of its members either vote against or abstain - a sign of unease within the Synod about the hurt felt within the Episcopal Church. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland also approves the Declararation, without any dissent, at its meeting in May 2016. The Archbishop of Canterbury travels to Edinburgh to address the Assembly (the first Archbishop of Canterbury in office to do so) and apologises to the Scottish Episcopal Church for the way in which the announcement of the Declaration had taken place and says he takes personal responsibility (which is typically generous of him as it is suggested, from other sources, that the Archbishop had not been involved). The Archbishop tells the Assembly that the Episcopal Church is both the Church of Scotland's partner in Scotland and also one of the Church of England's closest Anglican neighbours, and as such must be able to play a full part in the continuing ecumenical talks.
2016 The meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, called by tihe Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, takes place in private in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, between January 11th and 15th. The view, trailed in December, that the Archbishop favoured a relationship in which the different Provinces of the Communion might be in communion with Canterbury but not necessarily with each other is not - at least yet - the outcome. Nor does the total split - predicted by many - happen, although the Archbishop of Uganda leaves the meeting at the end of the second day in protest after the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Anglican Church in Canada decline his request voluntarily to withdraw from the meeting Until they repent of their decisions (on same sex marriages) which have torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level. In a statement to the Bishops, Clergy and Lay Leaders of the Church of Uganda, the Archbishop says I have left the meeting in Canterbury, but I want to make it clear that we are not leaving the Anglican Communion. Together with our fellow GAFCON Provinces and others in the Global South, we are the Anglican Communion. The future is bright.
At the Press Conference at the end of the meeting the Communique issued states that the Primates agreed To walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences as a deep expression of our unity in the Body of Christ. However, the Episcopal Church of the USA, for a period of three years, will No longer represent the Communion on ecumenical and inter-faith bodies, will not participate in the Standing Committee and not take part in decision making on issues of doctrine or polity. At the Press Conference the Archbishop of Canterbury makes a personal apology for the hurt caused to gay and lesbian members of the Church.
The Anglican Church in Canada is not included in the exclusion with the United States as a decision on whether to change its marriage doctrine to be non-gender specific will not be be discussed until its General Synod in July (where the change is agreed with the necessary two thirds majority in each "house" of Bishops, Clergy and Laity). A second vote will take place at the Canadian General Synod of 2019 and, if approved then, the change will come into effect in 2020. However, several Canadian bishops announce the intention to give their clergy immediate permission to conduct such marriages.
Commenting on the meeting the Primus of Scotland, David Chillingworth, says In advance of the Primates' Meeting, there were many predictions of breakdown and of fracture in the life of the Anglican Communion. It is therefore encouraging that the Primates have agreed to ‘walk together’ and that a Task Group will be established to work on our ongoing relationships. However that unity has come at some cost to the ability of the Communion to express the diversity which has always been a valued characteristic of the Anglican Way. The consequences which follow the decision of The Episcopal Church (in the United States) to change its Canon on marriage are a sign of that change. The Scottish Episcopal Church sees itself as a diverse church in a diverse Communion. It is important to us that we seek to sustain our unity as we continue to address issues of human sexuality in our General Synod. Further consideration will be given to these matters by our Faith and Order Board and by the College of Bishops.
2016 The election for the fifth Scottish Parliament (since the end of the long recess in 1999, which began with the creation of the Westminster Parliament for the United Kingdom in 1707) results in the Scottish National Party falling two votes short of continuing to have an overall majority. The Party forms (as in the third Parliament) a minority Government with Nicola Sturgeon continuing as First Minister. The Conseratives replace Labour as the second largest party and for the first time since the Parliament was re-established in 1999 no independent members are elected.
The composition of the 2016 Parliament is Scottish National Party 63; Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party 31; Scottish Labour 23; Scottish Green Party 6; Scottish Liberal Democrats 5; No Party Affiliation (The Presiding Officer).
2016 In May the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland General Assembly agrees by 339 votes to 215 to change church law so that ministers and deacons who are in same-gender marriages can be called to serve congregations. However the theological position of the Church on marriage remains unchanged and no same gender marriages can take place within Church of Scotland congregations. The Principal Clerk to the Assembly, the Very Reverend John Chalmers, tells a Press Conference that same-sex weddings in Church and allowing clergy in same-sex marriages to minister are two different discussions.
2016 Three weeks later in June, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, meeting in Edinburgh, makes the first step in agreeing to same gender marriage. A first reading of a motion to remove the doctrinal clause which states that marriage is between a man and a woman and which adds a conscience clause for those who would not want to conduct a same-sex marriage is approved by 97 votes to 33 with three abstentions.
Commenting on the vote, the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway and Acting Convener of the Church’s Faith and Order Board, Gregor Duncan, says "The current process will enable the Church come to a formal decision on the matter. The passing of the first reading will bring great joy to some; for others it will be matter of great difficulty. The wording of the proposed change recognises that there are differing views of marriage within our Church and we have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to sustain our unity in the midst of our diversity.”
The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, Bob Gillies, who opposed the change, comments “As one of the two bishops who voted against this motion I feel comfortable with the fact that we have arrived at the position in our Church where those of us who did vote against the motion can nonetheless live with the outcome. Along with others, I suspect, who voted the way I did, there was no way in conscience or with integrity that I could have supported this motion. However we have demonstrated how potentially divisive and destructive issues can be sensitively and carefully, and with due process, come to both a good and indeed the best possible outcome for all.”
The Primus, David Chillingworth, describes the vote as an important moment for the church -“Today's debate was notable for two things - the atmosphere of the debate was warm and accepting and there was a notable lack of tension. It was also encouraging to hear members of the evangelical community, many of whom hold a traditionalist view on the nature of marriage, affirming the outcome of discussions which have taken place during the year between them and members of the College of Bishops and the Faith and Order Board. Those discussions led to agreement on a number of provisions both Canonical and pastoral. The intention is to sustain the diversity of our Church and to make it possible for those who cannot support the motion to continue to be part of and to minister faithfully within the Scottish Episcopal Church.”
Further debate will take place at a meeting of the General Synod in 2017, when a two-thirds majority in each house of Bishops, Clergy and Laity will be required if the change to Canon Law is to be made. Discussions in the seven Dioceses of Scotland will continue before the General Synod vote in June 2017. However, if final approval for the change is given, the Scottish Church may face sanctions within the Anglican Communion, as did the Episcopal Church of the United States in January 2016.
2016 The Referendum on June 23rd on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union or leave it results in a narrow decision to leave. However, the four nations of the United Kingdom are divided with England and Wales voting to leave and Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain. Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, insists that Scotland should not be taken out of the European Union against its wishes. On June 24th David Cameron says that he will resign as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom when a new leader of the Conservative Party is chosen. Within a fortnight Theresa May, the former Home Secretary, becomes Prime Minister.
2017 The year begins with the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States and a row, the first of many, when Washington National Cathedral agrees to hold a prayer service following his inauguration.
2017 In January Wales acquires its first woman bishop when Canon Joanna Penberthy is consecrated as Bishop of St Davids.
2017 In February the General Synod of the Church of England decides not to "take note" of the House of Bishops report on marriage and same sex relationships. In March the dates for the next Lambeth Conference of Bishops from across the world is announced - the last week of July 2020 in Canterbury.
2017 In March the Aberdeen and Orkney Diocesan Synod becomes the only one of the seven Scottish Diocesan Synods to vote against the proposed change to the Marriage Canon which would allow same sex marriages in Episcopal Churches.
2017 In May a meeting of GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) Primates in Lagos agrees to provide a missionary bishop for the United Kingdom, ahead of the Scottish Episcopal Church's expected decision to approve same sex marriage. Soon afterwards the Reverend Jonathan Pryke, Assistant Curate at Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle is consecrated as a bishop by the Bishops of the Reformed Evangelical Church of South Africa, a breakaway group from the Anglican Church of South Africa.
2017 In June at an early election the Conservatives, although ahead in opinion polls, lose their Parliamentary majority. The Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist's ten MPs agree to support the Consrvatives on key issues. In Scotland the Scottish National Party remains the largest party with 35 Westminster seats (down 21 from the 2015 election); The Conservatives have 13 (up 12); Labour 7 (up 6) and the Liberal Democrats 4 (up 3).
2017 Also in June the Scottish General Synod votes to allow clergy to marry same sex couples in Church. The voting is Bishops in favour four and against one; Clergy in favour 42 and against 20; laity 50 in favour and 12 against. The two thirds majority to make the change is achieved in all three Houses of the Synod, although only just in the Clergy with 67.7% in favour and 32.3% against. If one of the clergy members who voted in favour had instead voted against, the decision would not have gone through.
Immediately following the vote Canon Andy Lines, Chairman of the Anglican Mission in England (a GAFCON linked organisation) and since the Scottish vote a member of the Anglican Church in North America (an ecclesiastical province which is technically not part of the Anglican Communion), his Holy Orders having been transferred from the Anglican Province of South America, is consecrated as the Missionary Bishop to Europe of the Anglican Church of North America. In November the congregation of Christ Church on the Isle of Harris in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles decides that it will no longer remain under the oversight of Kevin Pearson, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, because of his support for same sex marriage and will instead receive episcopal ministry from Bishop Lines.
2017 In July the Primus, David Chillingworth, retires. He has been Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane since 2005 and Primus since 2009. In retirement he will live near Edinburgh. The new Primus is Mark Strange. He is fifty-six and has been Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness since 2007. Previously he had been Rector of Holy Trinity, Elgin, and priest-in-charge of Saint Margaret's, Lossiemouth, since 1998, a Canon of Saint Andrew's Cathedral, Inverness, from 2000 and Synod Clerk of the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness from 2003.
2017 In August the Bishop of Gippsland in Australia, Kay Goldsworthy, is elected Archbishop of Perth - Australia's first woman Archbishop.
2017 In October at the Primates' Meeting in Canterbury the new Primus is told that, because of its approval of same sex marriage, the Scottish Episcopal Church must expect the same "consequences" as The Episcopal Church of the United States received after making the same decision.
2017 In November the Scottish Bishops announce that Scotland will have a woman Bishop, fourteen years after it first became possible. Because of a second failure by the Preparatory Committee for the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney to find the minimum number of three candidates it is willing to present to the Diocesan Electoral Synod, the Bishops have the right of appointment and chose Canon Anne Dyer, Rector of Haddington, as Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney.
There is, however, considerable concern within the Diocese as the Bishops have ignored the decision against same sex marriage made by the Diocesan Synod in March, Canon Dyer having already carried out such a marriage. There is also a belief among senior members of the Diocese that a commitment or promise made to them by, or on behalf of, the Bishops to respect the Diocesan view has not been honoured. The Dean of the Diocese and a Cathedral Chapter Canon both immediately resign because of the Bishops' action, and in January 2018 a Letter of Protest (the first for centuries), signed by 50% of the Diocese's stipendiary clergy, is sent to the Bishops. The letter is also signed by a number of non-stipendiary clergy and key lay members of the Diocese. The Protest is against the way in which the Bishops acted and is not intended to be critical of Canon Dyer personally - she simply accepted the Bishops' invitation. However, the consecration of the new Bishop goes ahead on Thursday, March 1st 2018, in Saint Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeen.
2017 In December the Archbishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, calls for peace amid "turmoil and confusion" after President Trump recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. East Jerusalem is territory occupied by the Israelis since the 1967 June War and the Palestinians have long insisted that Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian State.
2018 In January a book, Fire and Fury - Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff is published, chronicling the President's first year in office, and includes the assertion that he is not sufficiently mentally stable to hold office. The President replies on Twitter saying he is a genius.
2018 In June the General Synod meets in Edinburgh. It is a much quieter meeting than those of the previous two years (at which same sex marriage in Church was discussed and finally agreed).
2018 In July Saint Thomas', a large congregation in the affluent Edinburgh district of Corstorphine- - votes to leave the Episcopal Church over the General Synod's decision in 2017 to allow same sex marriages in the Church's congregations.
2018 In October eleven Evangelical bishops in England - four of them Diocesan bishops - warn that future decisions on sexuality in England may have consequences for the Anglican Communion and the Church of England.
2018 Also in October the United Nations warns that nearly 13 million people in Yemen are at risk of starvation due to the on-going fighting and that six million in South Sudan face crisis levels of hunger.
2018 In November the Prime Minister, Theresa May, makes a Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union, which she says will honour the result of the Referendum in 2016 to leave the Union after 40 years of membership. However, she delays an attempt to have it approved by Parliament for several weeks and a debate in the House of Commons is scheduled for January 2019.
2018 In December the Prince Charles, speaking in Westminster Abbey, pays tribute to the inspiring faith and courage of Christians in the Middle East facing oppression and persecution or who have fled to escape it.
2018 Cardinal George Pell, Secretary of the Economy at the Vatican, is convicted in Australia of historic child abuse while Archbishop of Melbourne. In March 2019 he is sentenced to six years imprisonment. and later loses his first appeal against the judgment. The result of his second appeal to the High Court in 2020 results in a unanimous decision by the Judges to cancel the conviction. Cardinal Pell is thus immediately released from prison.
2019 In January Westhill Community Church, the largest congregation in the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, votes by 87% to 13% to leave the Scottish Episcopal Church over the same sex marriage issue. Westhill is a prosperous and expanding new town in Aberdeenshire, very close to the City of Aberdeen, and the same priest - Ian Ferguson - has ministered there since 1982. Discussions will begin with the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney on how the congregations decision will be implemented.
2019 Also in January the Prime Minister Theresa May brings the Brexit withdrawal agreement with the European Union for approval in the House of Commons. Its is rejected by 432 votes to 202, a majority of 230. However, a few days later a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister is also rejected by 325 votes to 306.
2019 In February at Westings on the Atlantic coast of the Isle of Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands, new hermitages for the Community of Our Lady and the Isles are blessed by the by the former Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, Dr Robert Gillies, and the Chapel of Jesus the Good Shepherd consecrated by him. In 2015 the resident members of the Community moved from the neighbouring Isle of Fetlar as greater medical and social care is available on Unst. One Sister now lives in sheltered housing with care and one Companion Oblate has died there. Until the move into the new houses and Chapel in February 2017 the Sunday Mass was celebrated in Haroldswick Methodist Church, the most northerly church in the United Kingdom, which was kindly loaned. The story of the Community's early years on the Isle of Fetlar is told in Another Moment of the Century at the end of the 20th century pages.
2019 Tens of thousands of school pupils in 60 towns and cities across the United Kingdom join a February climate strike, inspired by Greta Thurnberg, a Swedish teenager, who began the movement as a sole striker outside the Swedish Parliament.
2019 The English General Synod in February rejects a call for the Crown Nominations Commission (which selects the names of candidates for vacant bishoprics) to end its practice of voting by secret ballot. Motions on evangelism are carried, including one calling for a worshiping community on every sizable social-housing estate in England.
2019 Also in February it is announced that same-sex spouses will not be invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference of Bishops but, for the first time, married gay bishops are being invited.
2019 The Prime Minister, Theresa May, brings the Brexit agreement back to the Commons for a second time on March 12th and it is again rejected. The voting this time is 391 to 242. The European Union's heads of government give the the United Kingdom a delay until April 12th before it leaves the Euopean Union. However on March 29th, the day the United Kingdom was originally due to leave, Mrs May tries a third time for approval from the House of Commons, but the agreement is rejected by 344 votes to 286. A sizable group of Conservative Members of Parliament have consistently voted again their own Government on this matter.
2019 Fifty-one people are murdered at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, with the gunman, Brenton Tarrant, pleading guilty in March 2020 to all charges. He will be sentenced when New Zealand Courts resume their usual sittings after the end of the coronavirus pandemic. The Archbishop of Canterbury calls the attack "monstrous" and says that those who attack Muslims attack every human being.
2019 A cyclone in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe is described by charities working in the countries as "disaster upon disaster". Six months later it is revealed that a million people (including 200,00 children) are suffering a a food crisis in Mozambique.
2019 In April the European Union gives the United Kingdom a longer delay for Brexit, this time until October 31st.
2019 In April the Bishop of Chester steps away from the supervision of safe-guarding in his Diocese after a complaint about how way he had dealt with an offender. The Dean of Lincoln is also temporarily leaves her duties while a safe-guarding complaint is investigated. (She resumes them in March 2020). The following month the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse publishes its report on the former (and now dead) Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, and says that the Church of England failed to recognise the seriousness of his conduct, which eventually led to a prison term. Also in May the Bishop of Lincoln is suspended over a safe-guarding issue. The Archbishop of Canterbury says that there is no suggestion that the Bishop has carried out any abuse but he may have not adequately have safe-guarded children and vulnerable people.
2019 In April many Christians joined Extinction Rebellion protests in London concerning the global and United Kingdom apparent lack of action on climate change issues. The protests brought traffic in parts of central London to a standstill.
2019 On Easter Day in Sri Lanka there are attacks on churches and also hotels frequented by tourists, including from the United Kingdom. Hundreds of people are killed in the attacks.
2019 In May aid agencies report that thousands of people are fleeing their homes as the Syrian Government launches an offensive to retake the Province of Idlib, the last rebel held area of the country. (In March 2020 a cease fire is brokered by the Presidents of Turkey and Russia as the attack reaches the city of Idlib itself, the last redoubt of several thousand rebels).
2019 An attempt to bar those holding traditionalist views from ordination in the Church in Wales is defeated at a meeting of the Church's Governing Body.
2019 Six people, including a priest, are shot dead during a celebration of the Eucharist in rural Burkina Faso.
2019 The United Kingdom is obliged to participate, against the Government's hopes, in the May election for the new European Parliament, which will begin sitting on November 1st. The Brexit Party, newly formed by Nigel Farage, a former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, tops the poll, with the Liberal Democrats in second place and the Conservatives pushed into fifth.
2019 In June Mrs May announces that she will resign as Prime Minister when a new leader of the Conservative Party is elected. The electors are, first the Conservative Members off Parliament, who reduce the number of candidates to two in a succession of ballots. The names of Boris Johnson, former Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary of State, and Jeremy Hunt, his successor as Secretary of State, are then put to all the members of the Conservative and Unionist Party in a postal vote. On July 24th Mrs May resigns and Mr Johnson becomes Prime Minister.
2019 In June a United Nations report says that the United Kingdom's Government's approach to social security is condemning the poorest to lives which are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". The allegation is denied but later in June a Church of England report, All Kids Count, calls "the two child limit" calculation for those on benefit fundamentally unjust and says that it places 300,000 children into poverty.
2019 Also in June the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse says the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham had in the past been obsessed with defending its own reputation and this had allowed priest child abusers to carry on offending.
2019 The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church meets in Edinburgh in June. On its first day the Synod votes down a motion proposed by the Investment Committee to update its ethical investment policy "to reflect the use of pooled funds" and "to transfer all or part of the current segregated ethically screened fund to pooled funds". A pooled fund is a portfolio of different investments managed by a third party. Instead the Synod votes for a motion proposed by the Reverend Diana Hall of Edinburgh Diocese. The motions states that "the ethical investment policy be updated to reflect the moral imperative to divest fully from fossil fuels".
Also on Thursday, Jan Whiteside, Convener of the Personnel Committee, tells the Synod that a clergy well-being survey reveals a shocking result. Thirty-nine per cent of those responding have experienced bullying or harassment during the previous 12 months and only twenty-five per cent feel supported by their Diocese or Bishop. The Bishop of Brechin, Andrew Swift, tells the Synod "The survey is the start of a process. We are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to address the issues raised."
On Friday the Safeguarding Audit Report is presented by Chris Townsend, Convener of the Safeguarding Committee. During the year there have been 43 phone calls about safe-guarding but few needed further inquiries. The Church, however, cannot be complacent and must be pro-active in its approach to safeguarding.
Also on Friday, the Convener of the Standing Committee, Robert Gordon, tells the Synod that the Church is now budgeting for deficits in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The loss of income from two large congregations who have indicated that they will leave the Episcopal Church has not been included in the budget. The Quota to be raised from congregations stands at £751,527. Jim Gibson from Glasgow and Galloway Diocese says that this is the third year in a row that the Quota has been frozen and stewardship must be a priority for congregations.
In Friday's discussion on ecumenism and inter-faith relations the Convener of the Inter-Church Relations Committee, Canon John McLuckie, presents a new ecumenical policy for approval, which is overwhelmingly carried. Canon McLuckie tells the Synod that the Episcopal Church is committed to unity across denominations. The Church's vision is global and this is needed more than ever as the planet is in a fragile state.
Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi tells the Synod that the love the Scottish people have for one another is unique and he has not seen another country like it. While, at the moment, there are tensions and confusion politically, people of faith can take the lead in helping defuse the situation.
2019 In July the Methodist Conference agrees the principle of same-sex couples being married in Methodist Churches by Methodist Ministers. A final decision will be made at the Conference in July 2020.
2019 Also in July the Bishop of Truro publishes a report on persecuted Christians and urges the Westminster Government to be a global leader in the cause of religious freedom and belief.
2019 In August 31 people are killed in two separate shooting incidents in the United States. The Bishop of Rio Grande, in whose Diocese 21 people die, says that the United States needs to find a middle way "between everybody having a gun and nobody having a gun".
2019 Also in August the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Reverend Dr Martyn Percy,returns to his duties after a Tribunal dismisses a complaint made against him. He has been suspended since November 2018. Subsequent newspaper revelations show that there had been a sustained campaign against the Dean.
2019 The summer is a turbulent time in the House of Commons with both Labour and Conservative MPs joining the Liberal Democrat Party, and some leaving the Conservatives and Labour but remaining Independent. On August 28th the Queen agrees to Mr Johnson's request to prorogue Parliament for five weeks. The Queen, constitutionally is thought to be obliged to agree to the Prime Minister's request, but there is fierce opposition to the Prorogation as there is a belief that the Prime Minister may have mislead the Queen by saying that the Prorogation was necessary for the Government to prepare a Queen's s Speech for the State opening of Parliament in the Autumn, while actually being for political reasons. The High Court in England says that the Prime Minister was within his powers to request the long suspension of Parliament. The Court of Session, Scotland's highest court, says that he was not. On September 24th the Supreme Court decides the matter and, in a unanimous ruling, says that the Suspension of Parliament was "unlawful" and therefore void. Parliament resumes its sitting on the following day.
2019 In October Christians from all denominations take part in Extinction Rebellion protests in Westminster. Lambeth Bridge is occupied and, for the duration of the protest, renamed Faith Bridge.
2019 In October the four main churches in Ireland - unsuccessfully - call on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to re-instate the Northern Ireland Assembly in order to prevent the liberalisation of abortion laws (which the Assembly has consistently opposed). Later in October, with the Assembly still not in session, the Westminster Government imposes legislation on Northern Ireland which gives approval for abortion, civil partnerships and same sex marriage. All of this effectively ends the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionists MPs agreement to support the Conservative Government at Westminster.
2019 On October 19th Prime Minister Johnson is obliged, by a vote in the House of Commons, to ask the European Union's heads of government for a further Brexit delay. He sends an unsigned letter containing the request, accompanied by a signed one arguing against it. The EU grants a delay until January 31st 2020.
Further negotiations with the EU enable the Prime Minister to obtain a slightly amended deal. It is put to the House of Commons and approved by 329 votes to 299. Following the approval, Mr Johnson repeatedly asks the House of Commons for an early General Election. Although a majority is obtained for this, the request is denied as the necessary majority of two thirds of MPs voting in favour, required under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, is not obtained.
Internal Westminster politics however bring the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Nationalist parties of Scotland and Wales - who all now think they may do well in an early election - to vote for it. On the final day of this Parliament the House of Commons says farewell to both the Speaker, John Bercow, and the Speaker's Chaplain, the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is to become Bishop of Dover in the Canterbury Diocese.
2019 In November two people are murdered during a conference on prisoner rehabilitation at Fishmongers' Hall in central London. The murderer, Usman Khan, had been released from prison under licence twelve months earlier.
2019 On Saint Andrew's Day, November 30th, Saint Silas's leaves the Scottish Episcopal Church. It is technically a private chapel in the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway, but is in fact a large and flourishing congregation in the West End of Glasgow. Earlier 86 per cent of the congregation had voted to leave.
2019 The result of the General Election on December 13th is disappointing for Labour, who lose 59 seats, and also for the Liberal Democrats, who lose all the MPs who joined them from other parties, as well as their Leader, Jo Swinson, who is defeated in her Dumbarton constituency. The Liberal Democrat Party has 11 seats. All the Independent MPs who were originally members of other parties are defeated.
The Conservatives with 364 seats, have a majority of 80 over all other parties, their biggest since 1987. The Scottish National Party also do well and win an extra 13 seats, giving them 48 of the 56 Scottish seats. The party continues to argue both for Scottish independence and for the right to remain in the European Union, thus honouring the Scottish result of the 2016 Referendum, in which Scotland voted by a considerable majority to remain. Of the four nations of the United Kingdom, Scotland and Northern Ireland chose to remain, with England and Wales choosing to leave. A formal request from Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for a second independence referendum in 2020, is rejected by Mr Johnson.
2019 In December it is announced that the next Archbishop of York will be Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford. He succeeds Archbishop Sentamu, who retires on July 7th 2020.
2019 Also in December the United Nations climate summit - COP25 - fails to agree on any significant measures. Decisions are deferred to the next summit in Glasgow in the Autumn of 2020, which later, because of the coronavirus pandemic, is postponed until 2021.
2020 In January the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announce that they will step down as senior members of the Royal Family from March 31st and will spend a considerable amount of each year living in Canada, the country where the Duchess (the former actress Megan Markle) lived before her marriage to Prince Harry in May 2018. The couple intend to earn an independent living and desire greater privacy for themselves and, especially, for their son Archie, who was born in the summer of 2019. In late March, the day before the Border between Canada and the United States closes to all but essential users because of the corona epidemic, the family move to Los Angeles where the Duchess has also previously lived.
2020 In January the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, the Right Reverend Kevin Pearson, is appointed by the College of Bishops as Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, the Electors of the Diocese having been unable to make an election. It is the second time that Bishop Kevin has been so appointed - the first was to Argyll and the Isles in 2011. His move keeps the number of Bishops appointed by the College at two, the other being the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, while four have been elected by the relevant Diocese with one Diocese currently vacant.
2020 In the first months of the year the corona virus (also known as Covid-19 ) spreads from the City of Wuhan in China, where it began in December 2019, to countries across the world. In March the World Health Organisation declares a pandemic. Several parts of the world are in lock-down to try and contain the virus. In Palestine this includes the City of Bethlehem and most of the West Bank of the Jordan River and in Italy and Spain the whole country is included, with schools and universities closed, as are all churches, bars restaurants and shops, apart from food stores and pharmacies.
As numbers infected by the virus in the United Kingdom rise, deaths occur, including in Scotland . People are requested to self-isolate if they have symptoms or have been in contact with anyone who has them. The Prime Minister says that many people will die across the country in the pandemic and - in the worst case scenario - 80 per cent of the population may be infected. All football league games in the United Kingdom are cancelled indefinitely. Similar decisions are made by shinty, hockey and rugby authorities. Everyone aged over 70, the group most at risk from the virus, are urged to stay at home as much as possible for at least 12 weeks.
2020 In Doha at the end of February President Trump reaches an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan in August 2021. The deal is concluded without any consultation with America's allies, including the United Kingdom, and will cause major problems in August 2021.
2020 In mid-March the Standing Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church decides that the three day meeting of the General Synod in Edinburgh in June will be cancelled because of the Coronavirus pandemic. A shortened Synod, over the internet, may be held in the Autumn.
On March 17th the Scottish College of Bishops issues a statement, part of which says -
Advice issued last night by the Scottish Government is to the effect that church services should cease. Consequently, the Bishops ask that all gatherings for worship, including small gatherings such as house groups, should be discontinued until further notice.
On March 23rd it is announced that the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops, due to be held in Canterbury in July is to be postponed for a year, which later in the summer is postponed for a further year, until July 2022. Another casualty of the pandemic is the 2020 Olympic Games, scheduled to begin in Tokyo in July, which are postponed for a year.
The Scottish and Westminster Governments both announce that all schools will close from Friday, March 27th, for an indefinite time. Arrangements will be made for some to be open for children of key workers - such as medical, nursing and other staff, members of the Emergency, Armed and Banking Services as well as those staffing food shops, food delivery workers and key members of Council and Court staff.
On Friday, March 21st, all places of worship, restaurants, cafes and pubs are ordered to close to the public. Everyone is ordered to stay at home and only leave for essential shopping for food; medical appointments or to collect medication for themselves or a vulnerable person; if unable to work from home, to travel to work, and just once a day to leave home for exercise.
The Westminster Government introduces a scheme by which all workers unable to access their work places will be paid 80 per cent of their normal income from Government funds as part of a job retention plan. Similar arrangements for the self-employed unable to work will also be introduced. Amounts available to claimants of universal benefit will increase by £1000 a year. Only essential travel is permitted and train and bus services are reduced.
On March 27th emergency legislation comes into effect to enable the Police to enforce both the dispersal of gatherings of numbers in excess of two and also the self-isolation guidance. On-the-spot fines can be given by the Police. The Prince of Wales; the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson; and the Secretary of State for Health in the Westminster Government, Matt Hancock, are infected by the virus and are self-isolating. The Prime Minister is admitted to St Thomas' Hospital, across the river from Westminster, on the evening of Sunday, April 4th. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Dominic Raab, will stand in for the Prime Minister as necessary.
During the evening of Sunday, April 4th, the Queen makes a televised address to the nation and says that if everyone plays their part the corunavirus will be beaten and eventually life will return to normal and the Queen ends with the words "We shall meet again".
Later that evening Scotland's Chief Medical Officer resigns after being detected breaking the rules she had helped formulate on non-essential travel by visiting her second home in Fife
2020 April 6th marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, in 1320 when Earls and Barons, meeting in Arbroath Abbey, put their seals to a request to the Pope to recognise Scotland as an independent nation. Scotland had been involved in an intermittent war of independence with England, which had resulted in a renewal of actual independence when King Robert the Bruce defeated an English army, led by King Edward II, in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn.
The Declaration of Arbroath is a bold statement in favour of independence and the only surviving copy in Scotland, held in the National Records Office in Edinburgh, is regarded as Scotland's most important mediaeval document. The coronavirus pandemic delays the planned, and rare, exhibition of the Declaration in the National Museum and celebrations planned in Arbroath are delayed.
2020 During the early evening of April 6th the Prime Minister's condition with coruna virus worsens and he is transferred into the Intensive Care Unit at St Thomas's Hospital in London, where he has spent the previous 48 hours in a corona virus ward. After four days he is well enough to return to a ward. On Easter Day he is discharged from St Thomas' and travels to the country home of all Prime Ministers, Chequers, to recuperate. He thanks the National Health Service staff for saving his life.
2020 On Good Friday, April 10th, the First Minister of Scotland announces that confirmed corunavirus cases in Scotland now exceed 5000 and almost 500 people have died. The infection and death rates are currently doubling every four days. In the whole of the United Kingdom around 9000 people have died.
2020 In April Cardinal George Pell's conviction for child sex abuse is overturned in Australia's high court, thus ending a saga of trial and appeals. The final court decision is unanimous. The Cardinal later returns to Rome, where he lived before his return to Australia and arrest.
2020 The May meeting of the English General Synod is cancelled due to Corona virus restrictions.
2020 In May Bishops in England say that the Prime Minister's senior advisor Dominic Cummings, who travelled from London to County Durham during lock-down, by doing so undermined people's trust in the Westminster Government.
2020 Finally, in May George Floyd, a 46 year old unarmed black man dies in the city of Minneapolis in the United States while being detained by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, who is filmed kneeling on his neck for nine minutes thus killing him. Mr Floyd bought a packet of cigarettes at a convenience store but a shop assistant believes that he paid for them with a counterfeit note and calls the police. There are protests about the killing throughout the United States and in much of the world. In 2021 the police officer involved is found guilty of the killing. The Jury takes less than a day, after the three week long trial, to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty on all three charges - second-degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter. He is subsequently sentenced to 22 years in prison. Three other police officers are charged with lesser crimes.
2020 In June, during a Black Lives Matter protest outside the White House in Washington, police forcibly clear the streets so that President Trump, holding a Bible, is able to photographed outside the nearby Saint John's Episcopal Church. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, issues a rebuke to the President.
2020 In July and August the lock-down imposed in March is eased, churches, shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels and pubs, can open once more as long as mitigating measures are in place. Many churches began to broadcast services (at which only the celebrant was often present) over the internet and some continue with this practice once congregations are gathering once more.
2020 Scottish schools re-open for the new term from August 11th and the Scottish Government takes immediate action over exam "results" (the exams had not happened because of the virus) and the results, calculated on a complicated system, mean that many students' results are unfairly downgraded. The Scottish Government say that teachers' predictions will be the official result. Northern Ireland and Wales follow suit and, after five days of defending the original system, so does England.
2020 In September, after an independent investigation, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, is cleared of safeguarding lapses, although the College authorities continue the campaign against him.
2020 In September wildfires in the United States destroy church buildings as well as many homes.
2020 In September it is reported that coronavirus deaths worldwide now exceed one million.
2020 In October the Independent Enquiry into Child Sexual Abuse says that the Church of England has "for decades contradicted its moral purpose" by failing to protect children and young people. The English bishops agree to accept the conclusions of the investigation and to implement its recommendations.
2020 During October Pope Francis in his encyclical On Fraternity and Friendship confirms the Roman Catholic Church's rejection of war, capital punishment and excessive wealth.
2020 In November Joe Biden easily defeats President Donald Trump to become the next President of the United States. However, Mr Trump continues to dispute the result saying "I won". Mr Biden's Democratic Party will also now control both the Senate and House of Representatives when the new Congress meets in January.
2020 In November an earthquake in the Aegean Sea kills at least 115 people and greatly damages the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Izmir.
2020 In December the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullaly, says that seeing the first corunavirus vacine being given brings hope to people around the world.
2020 In December the Scottish General Synod agrees to reduce carbon emissions to net zero within a decade, matching the pledge by the Church of England.
2020 In December nearly 500 church leaders sign an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer requesting him to find a solution to lock-down debt. They say that families who have been badly affected by the coronavius pandemic face "awful choices" in having to decide between food and rent.
2020 At Midnight on Christmas Day in Scotland another lockdown begins amid concerns of rapidly increasing virus infections, hospital admissions and deaths from the virus. Hospitality, closes, soon to be followed by all but essential shops, businesses. and schools. All but essential workers are to work from home. Almost all visiting is prohibited in homes of neighbours, friends and family. Churches and other places of worship close entirely from January 8th. The restrictions begin to be gradually lifted through the Spring of 2021.
2021 The spread and development of coronavirus in Scotland during 2021 is listed here -
2021 On January 6th in Washington the United States Senate and House of Representatives meet in joint session to hear and confirm the votes of the Electoral College following November's Presidential election. However, President Trump, who has never been able to accept his defeat and continues to claim that he won and the election has been "stolen" from him, addresses a rally, close to the White House, of supporters who have travelled from across the United States. He calls on them to march to The Capitol to "persuade" the politicians meeting there not the approve the election result. Sometimes, he says, we have to fight. He is irate that his Vice-President, Mike Pence, presiding over the joint meeting, consistently refuses his requests/instructions to prevent the certification of the Electoral College vote and is proceeding with the confirmation hearing.
Despite the implication in his speech that he would march with the protesters to The Capitol, Mr Trump returns to The White House. His supporters, however, breach the defences around The Capitol and break into the building and, among much else, damage the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers, and narrowly miss capturing the Vice-President and other leaders. Some of those atttacking and defending the building die.
Within hours the certification hearing resumes and at 3-30am the following morning President - Elect Joe Biden is confirmed, as is the Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris, the highest office in the United States ever - as yet - to be held by a woman and the first African/Asian/American Vice President of the USA. In Congress the Democratic Party has won narrow control of the Senate, giving added responsibility to the Vice President, who, as President of the Senate, will have a casting vote in the event of a tie (only in such a case does the Vice President have a vote within the Senate). The Party also keeps its control of the House of Representatives.
On January 20th Joe Biden takes the Oath of Office as 46th President of the United States of America. He is immediately followed by Kamala Harris, who takes the Oath as Vice President. It happens, as is now traditional, outside the west front of the Capitol building in Washington. President Trump, does not attend (very untraditional) but lands in Florida in the Presidential plane shortly before the Capitol ceremony begins.
2021 Much of the year is taken up with an on-going dispute in the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney. In January a story in the "The Times" of London newspaper makes public for the first time that there are problems. Several clergy and church workers (up to ten, according to the "The Times") claim they have been bullied by the Bishop, the Right Reverend Anne Dyer, and their lives made intolerable. The College of Bishops asks the Very Reverend Professor Iain Torrance, Pro-Chancellor of Aberdeen University, a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, a former Dean of the Chapel Royal and a former President of Princetown University in the United States, to undertake a review, which the Bishops commit to publishing.
They receive the report in July 2021 and a series of Bishops' meetings via zoom and in person (which might or might not include Bishop Anne) considers it. They decide not to publish the report and plan instead to set up a second review. However, Professor Torrance's report is leaked to "The Times" and the Bishops then abandon their second review and publish Professor Torrance's one, keeping private only the confidential annexe.
In his review Professor Torrance says "I cannot recommend the continuation of a tenure in which I fear more people will be made to feel diminished and discouraged. Consequently I recommend that, for the good of the diocese, she (the Bishop) be immediately granted a period of sabbatical leave and step back permanently from the diocese."
More than 100 people give evidence and the Professor says that a number say they have been bullied by the Bishop and are "afraid of retaliation in some form or another."
A particular example cited in the report is that of the Very Reverend Dr Isaac Poobalan, Provost of Saint Andrew's Cathedral in Aberdeen. The Cathedral is closed temporarily, pending a review of the state of the building, and another Church made the Pro-Cathedral. The problems culminate when Dr Poobalan and the priest of the Pro-Cathedral are each appointed an assistant priest in each other's churches. There are difficulties between the Bishop and the organist of Saint Andrew's, and shortly before the first Sunday on which the two Cathedral congregations worship together in the Pro-Cathedral, the Bishop asks Dr Poobalan to ensure that the Saint Andrew's organist is not present. After he appears anyway, the Bishop suspends Dr Poobalan as a priest of the Pro-Cathedral, and Professor Torrance in his report says that the suspension of a respected priest for eight months (at the time of the publication of the report) without apology or explanation is irrecoverable and a scandal.
However, following a meeting of the Episcopal Synod (attended by all the Bishops, including Bishop Anne), a process of mediation is initiated. A steering group of three - David Strang, Morag Hendry and the Reverend Liz Crumlish - is established and appoints the University of Dundee Mediation and Early Dispute Service to facilitate this. An invitation goes to all in the diocese who wish to be involved. The process is voluntary and entirely confidential. The mediators are all accredited by Scottish Mediation and have expertise in resolving workplace conflict. It is not known when the mediation process will conclude.
In December the College of Bishops issues a statement in which the Bishops say "The Torrance Report enabled us to hear the voices of some within the Diocese. We have also become aware of voices within the Diocese expressing other and different views. We consider that these experiences indicate a situation of conflict and relationship breakdown, best dealt with through mediation seeking healing and reconciliation. The Mediation Steering Group was set up to oversee this process. The Torrance Report concludes with the opinion that Bishop Anne Dyer does not have the personal capacity to bring about healing and reconciliation in her Diocese and recommends that she should therefore step back permanently from her position. We do not believe that this is justified. We believe that with the support of the College of Bishops, the work of the mediation process and the help of the Diocese itself, Bishop Anne will have the capacity to bring about healing and reconciliation". The statement also says that the mediation group has become aware of a "mistaken assumption" about the powers of the College - neither the College or the Primus can require a bishop to step down.
As 2021 ends there are two resignations of significance. The Very Reverend Dennis Berk, Rector of Ellon and Cruden Bay, becomes a casualty of "this rancorous intra-diocesan conflict" and resigns in October as Dean of Aberdeen and Orkney, and just before Christmas another prominent member of the Church resigns - the Chancellor of the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness (the Diocese's principal law officer), and also the Lord Lyon King of Arms, Canon Joe Morrow. He says "I have been so ashamed of the leadership relating to this matter and, in particuar, the approach to Iain Torrance and other casualities that I have returned my commissions and resigned as the Moray Chancellor" (the diocese of which the Primus, the Most Reverend Mark Strange, is Bishop).
In February 2022 a 100 page report is sent to the Charity Commision for Scotland alleging financial abuses in the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, and especially that the Bishop appears to be able to overide others responsible for such matters.
Gerald Stranraer-Mull writes - I intend the above brief account of the troubles in Aberdeen and Orkney Diocese to be factual and impartial. In writing the chronological account, which spans six centuries, I have not before added comment of my own but (temporary as I hope it will be) I do so now in the interest of balance and impartiality.
I am aware that in some parts of the Diocese the Bishop is well regarded and liked. Also my two personal meetings with her have been entirely pleasant and, of course, that is exactly what is to be expected of a good and pastoral bishop. However, this seems not to be the experience of everyone. And this is the core issue which needs to be addressed, not withstanding how many people find Bishop Anne wonderful.
The College of Bishops' actions from the start have been unusual in that they have deviated from the normal process of investigating complaints against a priest (the route for a bishop is no different) and the December statement seems to have a degree of "spin" in it, which I draw attention to as in my work as a journalist accurate and factual reporting has always been required.
While it is true that the Bishops, including the Primus, cannot require a Bishop to "step down" they can, if so minded, suggest it. And, of course, if the mediation process sadly does not bring a conclusion that is satisfactory for all, we arrive in last resort territory - in which there may be one or more of several outcomes, none of which are likely to be acceptable to everyone.
Professor Torrance, at the beginning of his involvement, invited all with anything to share with him to contact him. I personally did not do so, but I know that people who support Bishop Anne did (as, of course, did many of those who feel hurt or wronged by the Bishop) - so it is strange that the Bishops' statement (five months after they received the Professor's review) says "We have become aware of voices in the Diocese expressing other and different views". The facts are that everyone had the opportunity to send the story of their experiences to Professor Torrance and he will have taken into account all the views and opinions received. That they do not feature in his report is balanced by the fact that (apart from the example of Dr Poobalan) nor do details of the specific complaints of others. All will perhaps appear in the confidential annexe which only the Bishops have seen. But, in any case, voices in support of Bishop Anne were heard by Professor Torrance.
The Bishops in the December statement say that these other voices, of which they have become aware, led them to conclude that "These experiences indicate a situation of conflict and relationship breakdown, best dealt with through mediation seeking healing and reconciliation". That is a "stretch" for - as far as has been made public - the breakdown is between the Bishop and those who feel bullied or hurt by her. This is what needs to be resolved. The "other voices" the Bishops have heard may not be directly involved in the conflict. If they are not but become become so, then matters are likely to become even more complicated and difficult.
The Bishops' statement makes no mention of another independent review, commissioned by the Trustees of Saint Andrew's Cathedral, which, like Professor Torrance's own report, finds that the complaints made by Dr Isaac Poobalan are substaniated. Do the Bishops' accept, ignore or, again, reject another report?
I recognise that it is a difficult time for those who feel bullied and hurt (I am not aware of who the complainants are apart from Dr Poobalan, (cited in Professor Torrance's report), whom I have known for many years and hold in very high regard. It is also a difficult time for Bishop Anne herself, who, as I make clear at the start of this comment, I found to be a pleasant person in my own meetings with her. It is also difficult for the whole Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, the College of Bishops and the wider Church. I would wish to add that it must also be very hurtful for Professor Torrance, one of the most respected Churchmen in Scotland, to see the conclusions of his review - requested of him by the Bishops themselves - being subsequently rejected by them.
However, we are where we are. I wish the mediators well and place some hope in a process that may, somehow, bring peace and healing to a Diocese, which I love, having served in it for 36 years as a Parish priest, for 20 years as Dean, and for the last 14 years as Dean Emeritus. But, if the hope of success for the mediation process is impossible to fulfil, then further action must quickly follow if matters are not to become very, very much worse.
2021 In January it is announced that the Governing body of Christ Church, Oxford, is to instigate another internal tribunal into the conduct of the Dean, the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy, to decide whether he should be removed from office following a complaint made against him in October. Over the last three years the Governing Body has spent several £million in legal and other fees in seeking to remove the Dean. An earlier tribunal cleared him of 27 charges of improper conduct.
In November the Charity Commission's Director of Regulatory Services, Helen Earner, writes to the Reverend Professor Sarah Foot, the Chair of Christ Church's Governing Body, requesting much background information, going back to the Minutes of the Governing Body's meetings in 2018 concerning the salaries-board dispute which began the original dispute with the Dean, and details of the money spent on payments for legal advice and public relations support. Also requested are details of emails from senior members of the College, including one of about the Dean, which says "I am always ready to think the worst of him. Does anybody know any good poisoners?"
In February 2022 the four year dispute comes to an end with an agreement under which the Dean agrees voluntarily to leave the College and Cathedral while the College agrees to pay all the legal costs incured by the Dean over the four years and also pay him "a susbstantial sum in compensation" (thought to be in excess of a million pounds).
2021 The Bishop of Lincoln returns to duty in February after a 20 month long safeguarding investigation. He accepts a formal rebuke for mishandling a safeguarding disclosure and apologises unreservedly. He retires at the end of the year.
2021 In February protests begin in Myanmar after the country's army seize power. The protests continue for much of the year, and many are killed as the army seeks to quell them. In October it is reported that priests and churches are being targeted by the military government - there have been shootings, arrests of clergy and buildings, including churches, in Christian areas of the country have been burned.
2021 Also in February, The Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, invites church leaders to meet in 2025 to mark 1700 years since the First Council of Nicea, to seek agreement for a more determined ecumenical way in the years ahead.
2021 In March, on the 10th anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria, international aid agencies, urge world leaders to end the humanitarian and political crisis to prevent continuing suffering for the Syrian people.
2021 Church leaders from seven denominations in the United Kingdom condemn the March announcement from the Westminster Government that the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons capacity is to be increased.
2021 The murder of Sarah Everard in March as she walks through part of London begins further discussion, across many sectors, on the safety of women.
2021 On April 9th the death of the Duke of Edinburgh is announced. His body was placed in a vault in Saint George's Chapel, Windsor, just over a week later, following a funeral service in the Chapel, attended by 30 members of the Royal Family - the maximum permitted by Covid regulations, which are relaxed the following month. The Duke dies shortly before his 100th birthday and afer 74 years of marriage to The Queen. Tributes are paid from across all four nations of the United Kingdom and indeed from all over the world.
2021 The May election for members of the Scottish Parliament means that the Scottish National Party remains the single largest party, but one seat short of an overall majority. Later in the summer an agreement is reached with the Green Party to share power and the Co-Leaders of the Greens become Ministers in Nicola Surgeon's Government. As both parties agree on Scottish Independence it means that Nicola Sturgeon has a clear majority for seeking a second Independence referendum, which coronavisus permitting, she plans legislation for in the second half of 2022 with - if the Westminster Parliament agrees - the vote taking place in 2023. However the Prime Minister says he will oppose there being a referendum in Scotland - an opinion poll published six months later shows that 55% of the people of Scotland support independence and 45% do not.
2021 In May the Archbishop of Canterbury condemns outbreaks of antisemitic incidents in the United Kingdom following an increase of violence between Israel and Palestine. The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, postpones parliamentary elections due on May 22. They would have been the first since 2006.
2021 The Bishop of Winchester steps back from his duties in May, after the possibility of a vote of no confidence in him in the Diocese. In July he resigns and apologises to those who feel hurt or let down by him.
2021 In June the Princess Royal speaks at a service to mark the opening and refurbishment of the now totally accessible domestic parts of Iona Abbey. The renovation, which cost £3.75 million, includes modernised bedrooms and community areas, a lift and dedicated bedrooms for guests with special access requirements. Among those conducting the service is the Reverend Joyce Watson, an Episcopalian priest who lives on the Island.
2021 Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Friesing, offers his resignation to the Pope in June over the German Church's handling of allegations of sexual abuse. The Archbishop is 67 and is regarded as having liberal views. Last year the Cardinal founded Spes et Salus (Hope and Wellbeing) for victims of sexual abuse and put his personal wealth of half a million Euros into its funding. In his resignation letter the Cardinal says "The recent debates have shown that some members of the Church refuse to believe that there is a shared responsibility in this respect, and that the Church as an institution is also to be blamed for what has happened, and therefore disapprove of discussing reforms and renewal in the context of the sexual abuse crisis". The President of the Central Committee of German Catholics, Thomas Sternberg, says he is sad about the Cardinal's resignation - "The wrong person is leaving". However, the situation changes as Pope Francis declines to accept the Cardinal's resignation.
2021 In June the G7 summit meeting in Cornwall promises to deliver a billion Covid vaccines to middle and low income countries by the end of the year by either donating surplus vaccines or contributing to the United Nation's Covax scheme.
2021 During the summer the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church approve the Columba Declaration which recognises a shared faith between the two Churches and and commits to closer working as ecumenical partners. The Declaration is signed on Saint Andrew's Day (November 30th) by the Moderator of the General Assembly (Lord Wallace of Tankerness) and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church (the Most Reverend Mark Strange). See also the entry for Christmas Eve 2015 for the news of the Columba Declaration agreed between the Church of Scotland and Church of England, without any contact with the Scottish Episcopal Church.
The Synod also discussed the way in which Bishops are elected. In a break-out session Synod members are asked whether they would prefer to retain the present system (an electoral synod consisting of lay and clergy members, which is given a short-list of candidates prepared by a Preparatory Committee which has input from other dioceses) or a electoral council, which would be smaller but include representation from the wider church. The discussion results in a majority (74) wishing to retain the electoral synod with no input, at the point of election, from outside the Diocese, and a minority (39) prefering the electoral council. There were also calls for the process to be more compassionate, with the Bishop of Edinburgh, John Armes, calling the present method "fairly brutal". The vote is indicative and not binding. In another debate, four motions on climate change are approved and will be further discussed.
2021 By a margin of one vote the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) approves the formation of a coalition government in mid-June. Six parties, including for the first time an Arab one, form the coalition . The leader of the far-right Yamina party, Naftali Bennet, will be Prime Minister for two years and will be succeeded by Yair Lapid of a centre party. The Palestinian Authority regrets the new Prime Minister's support for the Israeli settlements in Palestine.
2021 The Methodist Conference in June votes to allow its Ministers to conduct same-sex marriages in its churches and buildings.
2021 In July church leaders and charities express disappointment at a House of Commons vote which confirms a £4-billion cut in the international aid budget.
2021 Also in July the Archbishop of York, at an online meeting of the English General Synod, responds to many complaints about plans for 10,000 lay-led worshipping communities and says that the parish system still remains at the centre of the Church's plans.
2021 After Father Alan Griffin, a Church of England priest, kills himself following unfounded allegations of child abuse, the Coroner at a July Inquest takes the unusual step of warning the Archbishop of Canterbury that more deaths will come unless the Church of England improves its safeguarding structures.
2021 In July Pope Francis publishes an Apostolic Letter limiting the Use of the Mass in Latin. In December clarifications are issued. They include - any local use of Latin is to be be authorised directly by the Vatican and not made "part of the ordinary life of the parish community". Some sacraents may still, on occasion, be permitted to use Latin, but this will not be granted for confirmation and ordination.
2021 In Afganistan the Taliban takeover of the country is completed within days in August, much more quickly than had been anticipated. American troops, in accordance with the agreement signed by President Trump in February 2020 (without consultation with other countries - including the United Kingdom - who are also involved in Afghanistan) are due to leave by mid-August. President Biden extends the deadline to August 31st. The United Kingdom's 20 year involvement also ends and there is panic and confusion at Kabul Airport as many Afghans, who had aided the Allies, seek to leave the country. Many fail to find places on the flights. Eurpopean Union and other countries also withdraw their nationals and the Taliban claim victory after the fall of the Afghan Government and the hurried flight of the President Ashraf Ghani on August 15th.
2021 At the end of August Haiti suffers a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which is shortly followed by Tropical Storm Grace.
2021 In September the Governing Body of the Church in Wales agrees that same-sex couples may have their civil partnership or marriage blessed in church.
2021 The Gideons UK, a charity which distributes 800,000 copies of the Bible each year to schools, hotels, hospitals and prisons announces a change of name in September to Good News for Everyone. The move comes after the Gideons UK wish to offer full membership to both women and men. Previously women could only be members of a separate part of the Gideon organisation - The Auxiliary. However, Gideons International objects and takes legal action to prevent the Gideon name being used under a new constitution in the United Kingdom. There are still continuing members of Gideons International in the United Kingdom and both groups will continue their work of distributing Bibles, attending school assemblies etc.
2021 In September final stage renovation work begins on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was damaged by fire in April 2019. "We are now officially declaring the building saved," says Jean-Louis Georgelin, a former French army chief, charged by the French Government to oversee the rebuilding. He says that work so far has focussed on making the 850 year old Cathedral safe, by reinforcing its flying buttresses and removing 40,000 pieces of fire damaged scaffolding. The Cathedral's gargoyles, interior walls and floor will now be carefully cleaned and the 8000 pipe organ reassembled by October 2023. More than 800million Euros has been pledged by donors for the State managed rebuilding of Notre Dame.
2021 In October an independent enquiry says that 216,000 people in France have been sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests, monks and nuns over the last 70 years. Between 2900 and 3200 priests are involved.
2021 In October, ahead of the COP 26 conference in Glasgow, 72 faith organisations, including 32 from the United Kingdom, announce disinvestment from fossil fuels, one of the agents of climate change. This is the largest ever such disinvestment and amounts to more than $4.2 billion. The Cop 26 conference lasts for two weeks in November and agrees to phase down coal production (rather than phase it out, after very last minute objections from India and China), and agrees to meet in Egypt in 2022 to attempt to strengthen the committments. The promised financial support for vunerable to poor nations so far remains a hope rather than an expectation.
2021 The House of Bishops in Ghana in October backs draft legislation proposed by the Ghanian Government, which will prohibit "LGBTQ+ and related activities as being incompatible with the sociocultural values of any ethic group in Ghana". Homo-sexual acts have been illegal in Ghana since independence from British Colonial rule. The draft Bill seeks to impose a minimum of five years in prison for identifying as being LGBTQ and ten years for advocating LGBTQ rights. The Archbishop, Dr Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, say "We see LGBTQ+ as unrighteousness in the sight of God". The Archbishop of Canterbury, is, however "gravely concerned" and says "The majority of Anglicans within the Global Anglican Communion are committed to upholding both the traditional teaching on marriage as laid out in the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1:10, and the rights of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, before the law".
2021 A two year synodical process which will involve every parish in the Roman Catholic Church is launched in October. The theme is "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission". The first, Diocesan, phase will run until April 2022 and this will be followed by a phase in each Continent and will end with a gathering of Bishops at The Vatican in October 2023. The Pope says "This is an Ecclesial moment and the protagonist will be the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit there will not be a Synod"
2021 The newly elected General Synod of the Church of England is inaugurated in November by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, as the Queen accepts her doctors' advice to rest. It is the first time that the Queen has not been present at the opening session a newly elected Synod since its foundation in 1970. The Queen also misses several other engagements, including the Remembrance Day Serviuce and Wreath Laying in Whitehall.
2021 European church leaders urge an end to the November refugee and migrant crisis on the borders between Belarus and European Union countries.
2021 A Disciplinary Committee of the Church in Wales in November finds "a case to answer" over allegations of bullying and harrassment brought against the Bishop of Llandaff, the Right Reverend June Osborne, by the Dean, the Very Reverend Gerwyn Capon.
2021 In November 30 migrants drown in the English channel as they try to cross from France to England. Church leaders urge safe passage for those seeking asylum.
2021 In December a review into the resignation of the Right Revered Richard Pain as Bishop of Monmouth criticises an "unhealthy culture" at senior levels of the Church in Wales.
2021 Storm Arwen damages homes and buildings in December and leaves thousands of people in eastern Scotand without electrcity and gas for more than a week and, even weeks later, in Aberdeenshire much damage still needs to be dealt with. The storm also causes damage in England. In the United States powerful tornadoes hit mid-western states - all evidence of global climate change.
2021 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an anti-aparteid campaigner and a major force which brought about peaceful black government in South Africa, dies in Cape Town on Saint Stephen's Day, December 26th. He receives a State Funeral a week later. Of Anglican clergy in the last decades years, the "Church Times" states that only two have become world figures. (Three if George Bell, Bishop of Chichester is included). The two mentioned in the "Church Times" are Trevor Huddleston , who died in 1988, and his one time protege and long time friend, Desmond Tutu. Both were involved in the struggle for freedom in South Africa during the 40 year civil war between white and black South Africans. As Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986, Desmond Tutu had the stature to speak for the oppressed black majority. He was joined by Nelson Mandela, after his release from decades of detention. In conjunction with the last white President of South Africa, F.W. de Clerk, the three were able to bring about a mainly peaceful transition. Mr Mandela became President of the Republic and the Archbishop the Chairman of a Truth and Justice Commission, which was instrumental in keeping the peace. The Archbishop was appointed an Honorary Doctor of Divinity of Aberdeen University in 1981 (one of many such awards he received) and afterwards he was introduced to a young Afrikaan woman, living in Aberdeenshire, who had never before met a black person who was not one of her family servants. He recognised her accent and surprised her by speaking in fluently in her own language. The meeting changed her life and she later became an Anglican priest.
2022 January 6th, the Epiphany, is the first anniversary of the attack on the Captitol building in Washington by supporters of President Trump who urges them to march to the Captitol and seek to prevent Congress from certifying the election result of November 2020. Although the attack ultimately fails and the result is certified hours later (at 3-30am the next morning), the months that follow reveal that the attack was part of a larger anti-democracy movement - closely aligned to Mr Trump's Republican Party - which has changed some State laws and removed some election officials with the aim of overturning future election results. The movment justifies these actions with lies about voter fraud in the 2020 Presidential election. "The New York Times" newspaper reveals that the movment is following a play-book used by authoritarians in other countries, recently and historically, and is trying to use existing demcratic laws on vote counting and election certification to unravel democracy. Former President, Jimmy Carter, writes an opinion piece in the newspaper headed "I fear for democracy". A similar point is made by President Biden, and also in a speech in Atlanta a few days later in which the President pushs for the Senate to pass a Bill concerning voting rights. President Biden said -
We’re here today to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle — forces that attempted a coup, a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people". The President added “They want chaos to reign. We want the people to rule. The battle for the soul of America is not over. We must stand strong and stand together to make sure January 6th marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of our democracy.”
2022 Former Prime Minister and clergy daughter, Theresa May, is appointed an honorary vice-president of the Clergy Support Trust in January. The move is criticised by the Windrush Group who say that, as Home Secretary, Lady May intorduced a "hostile environment", which targeted the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in Britain.
2022 A report in January for the World Wide Watch List , which monitors the persecution of Christians around the world, says that the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan has encouraged Jihadist groups to increase the threat the Christian minorities in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, with Afghanistan itself becoming the most dangerous country for Christians. There are now said to be 360 million Christians across the world who suffer high levels of discrimination or persecution, a rise of 20 million during 2020 and the highest level for 30 years.
2022 In mid-January an international consultation begins on whether Episcopalians/ Anglicans from across the world should have a greater say in the choice of future Archbishops of Canterbury. It follows a request (said to come from Canterbury Diocesan Synod although other reports later say it comes from the English Archbishops' Council) to consider reducing the number of its Diocesan Representatives on the Crown Nominations Commission. The suggestion is for a reduction of Canterbury Diocesan representation from six voting members to three and in addition the possible increase of voting members from the rest of the Anglican Communion from one to five. The total voting members of the Commission considering appointments to Canterbury would increase by one to 17.
The Crown Nominations Commission (if this route is followed) considering the appointment of future Archbishops of Canterbury would consist of a Chair (appointed by the Prime Minister), two English Bishops (one of which is the Archbishop of York) unless he or she is a candidate, three clergy and three lay people appointed by the English General Synod, three representatives of Canterbury Diocese and five from the wider Anglican Communion. There would also be three non-voting members (the English Archbishops' appointments secretary, the Prime Minister's appointment secretary and the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion). The proposal, however, specifically and surprisingly excludes Scotland, Wales and Ireland and, confusingly, given the composition of members of the Crown Nominations Commission listed above, the Church of England. The consultation lasts until March 31 and is "open to all", although the Archbishops' Council lists "key partners" who are being contacted directly. These are Buckingham Palace, the Prime Minister's office, existing General Synod members of the Commission, Episcopalian/Anglican Primates and the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
2022 In late January plans to run a hospitality programme, across the nations of the United Kingdom for Bishops from around the world coming to the Lambeth Conference of Bishops are abandoned, and replaced by two days of hospitality in Canterbury, before the beginning of the Conference in July. The Conference was originally intended for the summer of 2020 but was postponed for a year because of corona visus until 2021 and then again until 2022.
2022 In January and February Prime Minister Boris Johmston comes under increasing pressure from the House of Commons and Media in relation to 10 Downing Street, and other Government, parties held during coronavirus restrictions. A report into it all by Senior Civil Servant Sue Gray can only be published in an interim form as the Metropolitan Police, at the very last minute before publication of her full report, decides to open its own investigation, having previously declined to be involved. In her interim report Sue Gray says that many of the alleged parties should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did.
The timeline of the parties and gatherings is here -
Yet Another Moment in the Century
Frederick Charles Darwent, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney from 1978 to 1992, died on January 15th 2020, aged 92. He was the last surviving member of a trio of traditionalist bishops who, as they formed more than a third of the House of Bishops in the Scottish General Synod, were able to prevent the ordination of women as priests for years. The others were the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, George Sessford, and the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, George Henderson. Eventually the retirement of all three meant that the Canonical legislation passed in the House of Bishops (as it had done earlier, among the Clergy and Lay members of the Synod) and with two thirds majorities now in all three Houses the change happened, and the first women priests were ordained in December 1994.
However, Bishop Fred, as he was known throughout the Diocese, was far from a reactionary and his opposition to ordaining women did not extend to making them deaconesses and then, immediately it became possible, deacons. His views about the priesthood came from deep theological reasons, which have consistently been accepted as honourable and able to be held within the Scottish Church.
He was, in fact, a kind and generous man who loved his diocese and its people deeply and was loved in return. He kept on good terms with the women deacons he ordained and was, characteristically, both sad and pleased when they were eventually ordained priest.
A Requiem Mass was offered in Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in Aberdeen early on the morning of his funeral, the celebrant being the Very Reverend Emsley Nimmo, who had been inducted into his parish by Bishop Fred exactly 30 years previously.
The Cathedral was full for the funeral service, which was conducted by the present Bishop of the Diocese, the Right Reverend Anne Dyer, who also gave one of the three addresses.. The others came from the Primus of Scotland, the Most Reverend Mark Strange, and Canon Graham Taylor, Rector of Saint John’s, Perth, who said that Bishop Fred had baptised and confirmed him in All Saints', Buckie, when he was 14, and two years later told him he should think about ordination in the years ahead. Both were delighted when Graham, more than twenty years later, became the Rector of Saint Mary's, Carden Place, Aberdeen, just round the corner from where the Bishop lived in retirement.
Bishop Fred had the ability always to see the best in others and his smile and good humour were appreciated throughout the diocese as he made his regular round of visits.. In the far north of the Shetland Islands he was pleased to welcome a nun who wished to live a hermit life. Soon others joined her, and the Bishop oversaw the creation of the Society of Our Lady of the Isles, with the nun, Sister Agnes, becoming Mother Mary Agnes, a role which decades later she still excellently fulfills.
The Community of Our Lady of the Isles was not Bishop Fred’s only innovation – there was the creation of Elders, lay ministers answerable directly to the Bishop, and being trained as they worked with parish priests. They were able to perform a surprising number of roles - pastoral care, preaching and what was known as the Extended Eucharist, by which Communion from the Sacrament, consecrated at an earlier time or elsewhere, could be brought to congregations when a priest could not be present. The service used was that which would be familiar to each particular congregation, but with the Prayer of Consecration omitted and one approved by the Bishop substituted. It was the first time this had happened in Scotland, and it was a practice which was very soon taken up in other Scottish dioceses, and the Church’s Liturgy Committee produced a booklet containing a fuller version of the service. The Extended Eucharist met a real need, and continues to do so in some times and places.
He also brought the Diocese into line with the rest of the Scottish Church by accepting that there should be non-stipendiary clergy both trained and ordained. His predecessor, the saintly Bishop Ian Forbes Begg, had taken a radical line and said that non-stipendiary clergy were not essential as he could send an appropriate lay person, in the name of the Bishop, to celebrate the Sacrament in a congregation which did not have access to a priest. With the thrawn-ness of the north-east of Scotland much to the fore, Dr Begg actually did not ever contemplate doing such a thing - he wanted the Church as a whole to move together on it which, as he anticipated, it has yet to do. The Lay Training Scheme which Bishop Ian had initiated was widened by Bishop Fred to include those seeking ordination. It was now known as Training for Ministry and participants in both routes went on to flourishing lay and ordained ministries.
And then there was the strengthening of historic links with Aberdeen and Orkney’s companion Diocese of Connecticut, formed when the first Bishop for the United States was consecrated in Aberdeen in 1784. And a new and additional link in deeply rural Transkei, South Africa, was made and also flourished. Bishop Fred traveled regularly to both the Dioceses of Connecticut and St John's (later renamed the Diocese of Mthatha) in Transkei and was as welcome in each as throughout his own diocese.
The Bishop was born in Liverpool in 1927 and in adulthood , for his National Service, joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and then had a career in banking, before training for ordination at Wells Theological College. After a curacy in Lancashire, Fred came to Aberdeen to be interviewed for a parish in the city centre. He was met on the railway platform by the then Bishop - Edward Easson - who apologised and said that an appointment to the parish had been made the evening before, but that there was somewhere else he would like Fred to look at. He drove him north from Aberdeen far into Buchan, the great coastal province, described in the first issue of the diocesan magazine in 1896 as requiring travelers to go “aff the earth and doon tae Buchan”.
The parishes were New Pitsligo and Strichen and that evening the future bishop was interviewed jointly by the two Vestries. Fred said that most of the interview consisted of silence, until a Strichen farmer summed up the meeting by saying “Weel, iif th' Beshop cannae gie us onyone ilse, we’ll jist hae to tak Meester Darwent”. And that was that.
It was the beginning of a long love affair with windswept Buchan, its harsh coastline, the Doric of its speech, and the wonderful people. He remained Rector of Saint John’s, New Pitsligo - with the village of Strichen later exchanged in a reorganisation of the diocese for the fishing port of Fraserburgh – until he became bishop in 1978. He continued links with all three parishes for the rest of his life. and is buried in the churchyard of Saint John’s at New Pitsligo with his first wife, Edna, who died in 1981. Fred and Edna had married in 1948. Edna was a wonderful clergy spouse - always cheerful, with an open door at The Rectory and with a wonderful Merseyside welcome for all. She saw her twin daughters, Helen and Sara, married and settled in Fraserburgh. She also saw Fred become a Canon of the Cathedral and then Dean of Aberdeen and Orkney and finally Bishop.
Fred was a talented pianist, although he could not read music, and only needed to hear a tune to be able to play or sing it. He was a member of many groups including Fraserburgh Musical Society, Aberdeen Operatic Society and the Granite City Barbershop Chorus. He memorably starred as the king in the musical “The King and I” in sell-out performances at Fraserburgh, a show which he also directed. In retirement he became one half of “Nite Music”, playing and singing jazz and Frank Sinatra classics, at venues across Aberdeen and beyond. He also made several recordings of piano music, including one dedicated to his second wife, Roma, whom he married in 1984, and this was played as background music at the reception following the funeral. Roma was a friend of Edna, an Elder in the Church of Scotland and a caring and excellent support for Fred in their more than three decades of marriage. And with the agreement of the Kirk Session of which she was a member, she was excused Elder duties to accompany the Bishop on many of his Sunday visits around the Diocese .
Bishop Fred is survived by Roma, by Helen his daughter. (Helen's twin sister Sara, a fine organist, died much too soon, leaving her children in the care of her husband) and between the families of the two girls there are five grand-children and three great grand-children. The Bishop was very proud of them all..
The final word comes from Canon Graham Taylor, who ended his address in the Cathedral by saying -
FRED, MY DEAR FREND, MAY YOU REST IN PEACE AND GO WITH THE WORDS WE WOULD ALL WANT TO SAY TO YOU - "WELL DONE, MATE, THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT".
Photo courtesy of the Diocesan Archive