Scottish Episcopal Church History
In the Church the consequences of the General Synod vote in 2017 to allow same sex marriages is being played out. The first such marriage is in Saint John's Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh on the day after it first becomes possible. However, some who disagree with the Synod decision leave the Church completely, both individuals and congregations - including Christ Church, on the Isle of Harris, one of the smallest congregations in Scotland and the first to leave, and Saint Thomas', Edinburgh, and Westhill Community Church in Aberdeenshire, two of the largest congregations in the country.
The Episcopal Church also receives sanctions (called Consequences) from the Primates of the Anglican Communion. It all follows the Scottish Parliament's redefinition of marriage which means that same gender marriage has been possible in Scotland since December 2014. At the General Synod in June 2017 the Canonical Change is approved in all three Houses (Laity, Clergy and Bishops) by the necessary two thirds majority, although just by one vote in the House of Clergy. At Diocesan Synods earlier in 2017 Aberdeen and Orkney is the sole Diocese to reject the proposed change.
However, five months later the right to appoint a Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney lapses to the Bishops (just four as two other Dioceses are also vacant) and the four appoint Canon Anne Dyer as Scotland's first woman bishop. Canon Anne has, however, conducted a same sex marriage and the Bishops' actions produce outrage in parts of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney.
Canon Anne's Episcopal Ordination takes place in Saint Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeeen, on Thursday, March 1st, 2018 - Saint Marnan's Day in the North-East of Scotland and Saint David's Day in much of the rest of the world. It is exactly 45 years to the day since the then Dean of the Diocese, Ian Forbes Begg, was consecrated as Bishop in the Cathedral. There have been three Bishops of Aberdeen and Orkney between Dr Begg and Canon Anne, two of whom took part in the service. Canon Anne's consecration is an historic moment for the Episcopal Church - the end of a long journey to the full ordination of women as deacon, priest and bishop in Scotland .
THE WIDER WORLD
In the wider world the United Kingdom ends its combat role in Afghanistan after 13 years, but is drawn into war in the Middle East - joining a United States led coalition in support for those opposing the militant group, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which, until the coalition offensive, controlled considerable areas of both Iraq and Syria, and later in attacks on military bases of the Syrian Government in response to that Government's bombing of sections of its own people. ISIS is largely defeated in Syria but the picture becomes ever more complex as Russia moves to support the Syrian Government against rebel groups opposed to it. The tinderbox situation in the Middle East is further complicated by a growing rift between Iran and the United States. President Trump pulls the United States out of a treaty signed by many countries including the European Union. In Palestine there are clashes on the Israeli Border with Gaza and the Israel Defence Force shoot dead many Palestinians. The United Nations calls for an independent investigation into the clashes. There is also tension on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea tests both incontinental ballistic missisles and an atomic bomb. President Trump imposes economic sanctions on North Korea and demands the de-nuclearization of the country. He holds two meetings with the North Korean leader, Chairman Kim Jong-un, but cuts short the second one and returns to Washington saying "There are times to just walk away"
The Referendum on Scottish Independence, with voting on September 18th 2014, results in a 55 to 45 percent decision to stay within the United Kingdom. However, the Scottish National Party still forms Scotland's (devolved ) Government and continues to argue for full independence for the nation. A second referendum is likely with the Scottish National Party asserting that Scotland can be an independent country and rejoin the European Union.
The Referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Union on June 23rd 2016 leads to an unexpected decision to leave and a subsequent change of Prime Minister. However, of the four nations of the United Kingdom both Scotland and Northern Ireland vote to remain while England and Wales vote to leave. The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union ion March 29th 2019, but on what terms? And what of Scotland?
CHANGING ATTITUDES IN RELIGIOUS BELIEF
Changing trends in religious belief will continue to affect all the Churches. The Scottish Episcopal Church remains relatively small with around 350 congregations, while the Presbyterian Church of Scotland has 1427 and, south of the border, the Church of England more than 16,000. Financial constraints throughout the United Kingdom mean that maintaining the traditional parish system is becoming increasingly difficult, and advertisements seeking to fill parish vacancies frequently offer part time or "house for duty" posts. However, new ways of "being Church" are (perhaps all too slowly) developing alongside the familiar patterns. Both new and old ways have the intention of enabling people to meet God, and such a union is what actually matters. When the people of God are faithful to Jesus' teaching to love God and to reach out in care to all whose lives touch ours then, in the end, all shall be well.