Scottish Episcopal Church: steady as she goes
The focus of the Synod was "the intention of the Scottish Episcopal Church to become a more inclusive church, and highlight opportunities for deeper involvement in the Church's life through shared decision making and a clearer understanding of what membership of the Church might mean."
The Synod's tone and progress towards its goals overall was prayerful and harmonious. Opening remarks were delivered by the Most Rev Dr Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, at St. Mary's Cathedral, whose spires are one of Edinburgh's most recognizable features.
The Primus, who shortly after the Synod accepted an invitation to become a patron of Inclusive Church, challenged the Church to be more welcoming and inclusive.
He urged the Church to bear a stronger and more social witness at home and abroad, through partnerships with other denominations and with its cousins within the Anglican Communion, keeping in mind that the goal of the Church and its Communion, is to maintain and attract relationships with others in Christ, not repel.
"A priority that is laid upon us is to capitalise the undoubted possibility for the Communion as a whole to work for the health of the world. Instead of being pre-occupied with internal squabbles to turn our energy to the inclusion of all in what we consider to be basic human rights. To eradicate extreme hunger; to achieve universal primary education; to empower women; to combat the epidemic diseases that wipe out a high proportion of the world's population before they reach adulthood. The Church must speak with a united voice to urge the world leaders to cooperate in partnership for development of the whole world so that every man, woman and child would be included in what it means to be fully human.
"Then there is the need for inclusion not just in our relationship with other denominations but with all those who hold faith in God. To work, in other words to change those situations where people oppose each other on the grounds of religious belief to one in which all those who profess a belief in God put their energy into righting the wrongs of the world. The Jubilee Campaign has already shown what can be achieved but there is more to be done.
"Inclusion then is to see how we can make accessible to all people the knowledge of salvation and the love of God. To do this, we have to be aware of how our normal church practices can change to include those who are excluded by them. Most of our buildings are now accessible; but is our normal diet of worship?
"As Giles Fraser said in Church Times last week, 'mission is not about sticking up a sign that says, in essence, "Welcome to our way of doing things." No, mission requires a revolution in church structures'.
"As we reflect on the possible Covenant for Anglicanism we must again raise the question of how inclusive a process it is to be, and how we can ensure that the end product, if there should be an end product, is something that invites into relationship rather than repels from it."
Debate and comments on the Anglican Covenant itself, reflected an interested but rather cautious approach, according to the Church's Synod reports. Comments on the Covenant from members in attendance, included the following:
The draft Covenant was vague, and where it was specific, it was readily challenged
Communion that was lasting...was rarely generated by top down definitions of truth
If Provinces wished to remain in Communion with one another in a meaningful way, they needed to take the concept of Covenant seriously
Amounts to the bland leading the bland
It is not the only show in town
The Synod passed a motion to "finalise a response" on the Covenant and forward it to the Anglican Communion Office, by the end of this year.
They have also encouraged governments that have already pledged to meet the MDGs, to accelerate progress towards them. The Church recently applauded British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's call for greater commitment and cooperation on the MDGs.