© St Ninians Episcopal Church, Glasgow which is a charity registered under no.SC010966
Rector writes As this is the final pastoral letter of the season, so to speak, before we enter the summer holidays, I do not anticipate this holiday period with the enthusiasm that it merits. ‘What ails thee Rector?’ I hear you chorus. Let me explain. The Scottish Episcopal Church does not finish this period of time on a “high”, as it were; rather the Church enters a period of anxiety. In particular, there are three issues which grieve me. It was with sadness that I read the recent report presented by the Personnel Committee to General Synod which set out the results of a survey on clerical satisfaction. A proportion of my colleagues have reported a significant amount of bullying between clergy, Vestry and the congregation. I count my blessings that as your Rector I have never encountered such a poisoned atmosphere that would lead to serious bullying. In any group of individuals there will always be those with robust personalities and a vivid exchange of views at the Vestry is generally healthy and assists the happy workings of a church community. However, I can well imagine how miserable it must be for any Rector who finds that no matter what is said or done there is always an unhappy member or members of the congregation whose delight it is to whip up dissent and bitterness. There is a very clear dividing line between a frank exchange of views and vicious bullying. The SEC must work very hard to stamp out this un-Christian behaviour. The second issue which has exercised me is the news that St Silas has decided to leave the Diocese and the SEC believing as they do, that we have become heretical in our understanding of scripture. They are the third charge to do so following St Thomas’ Edinburgh and Westhill Aberdeen. Now I hold no brief for the Evangelical branch of the Church. At their worst they can be judgemental and suffer from spiritual arrogance in their manner of acting which gives the impression that only they understand the mind of God. However, I am mature enough to realise that a Church, for spiritual growth and theological richness, requires a broad understanding in its membership if there is to be an illuminating cross-fertilisation of ideas and spirituality. In the longer term, the loss of charges like St Silas will not bode well for our growth and our claim to be a broad-based Church. Finally, and as much as I have tried to put it to one side and get on with things, there is the huge issue of finding a new Bishop. I remain staggered and frankly appalled that the process has failed for a second time and on this second occasion we cannot find between three and five names to put before the Electoral Synod. What kind of message does this portray to the wider world that we cannot find a Bishop? Equally, what does the world think of us? More alarming and much more pressing is the issue of what kind of message this gives to my colleagues in this diocese. The inevitable message being conveyed is that there is not one cleric to be found in this diocese who could fulfil the calling of Bishop. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the clergy. Morale is at rock bottom and the worry is that existing good talent will quietly drift away. What is even more astounding to me is that this will be the third time since I became an Episcopalian that the College of Bishops will have had to intervene and elect the Bishop. I well remember the first occasion it occurred when the then Dean of Edinburgh was chosen by the College to become the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. At the time one of the Bishops told me that such a process was “very rare” and that I would never see the like again in my lifetime. Well I have seen it again as the College chose the current Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney. Now it’s our turn and I would not envy the task of the new incumbent as the Bishop sets out to heal the rifts and tend to the wounded. What can we do? I am not sure there is very much we can do save this: use this summer period to contemplate on what makes you energised in being an Episcopalian. What is precious to you? If our traditions and understanding are worth fighting for then now is the time to fight and let the College of Bishops know you support them. Tell them what you find precious and what you want them to defend. The Rector