Speaking Truth To Power – Sanctions Threatened Against Scottish Episcopal Church

It has been learned today that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has privately threatened to sack the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Chillingworth, from ecumenical dialogue if members of the church’s General Synod do not do as they are told with respect to same-sex marriage.

This will be an extension of the sanctions applied to the Episcopal Church of the United States of America by the Primates’ Meeting in January of this year, after ECUSA agreed to acceptance of marriage equality within their own province.

It is fair to say that this communication to our Primus came as a surprise to members of our own General Synod. There was a press conference immediately after that Primates’ Meeting in which Justin Welby was asked directly whether other provinces taking similar decisions would face the same sanctions as ECUSA, and at that time he said very clearly and very publicly that the answer to that question could not be known. A number of questions must therefore be asked. What has happened since January to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to unequivocally answer a question about a change to canon law that has not yet happened and cannot happen for at least another twelve months ? If something has happened, why have the public and the Communion not been told about it before now? And by whose authority does he make that threat? These are questions that I think deserve answers.

Bishop David has said before and he said again today at Synod that he believes that the Primates acted beyond their powers. He has said that there are times in the last six months and in the last two weeks when he has been upset and angry about what has happened. And, today, quoting Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, he has said that although this hurts, it will ultimately not change what we do.

In the Scottish Episcopal Church, our Primus is the first among equals in a province which through its long and proud history has been a leader in positive progress throughout the Anglican Communion. This has happened. I was tempted to be outraged, to greet this announcement with wailing and gnashing of teeth — but outrage is not a mission strategy.

The mission of the Scottish Episcopal Church must now be to speak truth to power.

“It will not change what we do, and maybe it is a price worth paying,” said Bishop David.

I was very proud of him when he said that, and I believe that he is right. If this is the price we pay for being on the side of the greater good, then bring it on.



    • The most direct consequence to Bishop David is that he will — he has been told — be removed from the position of Anglican Co-Chair of the International Anglican-Reformed Dialogue, and we are told that this, at least, is a decision that he can make.

  1. When bishops come to Canterbury they seem to forget the courage they may have brought. It happened to Archbishop Rowan. Why do people continue to placate certain provinces in the Communion at the expense of others?

  2. I find the Archbishop of Canterbury ‘s decision to resort to threats and bullying utterly despicable. Glad Bishop David takes the view that however if that is the price to be paid for greater good so be it,

  3. Well said Beth. Also, there can only be one rational response to bullying – to ignore it. bullying must never be rewarded.

  4. “Outrage is not a mission strategy.” What a great statement! I applaud your Primus for staying true to the faith received, a bearer of grace to all. He is setting a quietly courageous example for many other Anglican bishops we read about, in my opinion.

  5. So interesting to learn about what’s going on. I know a little of what goes on in the Anglican Church of Canada but now wish to look a little deeper to see where it is in all this.

  6. First the ECUSA, now the Anglican Church of Scotland. Where is this leading the AC? If Abp. Welby continues to end conversations with the other members of the Communion, eventually he will be speaking only to himself.

  7. please pray for the Anglican Church of Canada as we prepare in July to enter the same conversation and decision making … we too may find ourselves on the naughty bench with a time out

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