Columba Declaration Advances

By John Martin

A bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church will be part of a group charged with overseeing the Columba Declaration, an agreement between the [Presbyterian] Church of Scotland and the Church of England.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross, and Caithness, will serve on the group. The Most Rev. David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said the appointment “will give us the opportunity to be actively involved in future developments.”

Chillingworth’s remarks followed a speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on May 25. Archbishop Justin Welby apologized to the Scottish Episcopal Church for the “consternation and deep hurt” caused by the way the Columba Declaration was announced and appeared to ignore the Episcopal Church as the constituent member of the Anglican Communion in Scotland.

At the time of the public announcement of the declaration, Chillingworth said, “The Church of Scotland and the Church of England seem to have decided that their commonality as national churches justifies them in setting aside other ecumenical relationships and etiquette.”

He added that “the aspect of the Columba Declaration which will cause most concern to the Scottish Episcopal Church is the potential involvement of the Church of England in the ecclesiastical life of Scotland. The Church of England is not a Scottish church, nor does it have any jurisdiction in Scotland.

“The Anglican way is to recognise the territorial integrity of each province — they are autonomous but interdependent. The important question is whether, within that understanding of the relationship between provinces of the Anglican Communion, it is proper for the Church of England to enter into this agreement about ministry and ecclesiastical order in Scotland.”

With a mandate from the Church of England’s General Synod to take the declaration forward, Archbishop Welby told the General Assembly, “At the risk of quoting another cliché of which I was unaware, I want to suggest that the key question for us today, for you today, is not just, ‘What shall we do?’ — which is easy to answer with clichés — but ‘what shall we do now?’”

The primus was present for the speech by Archbishop Welby to the General Assembly and for its vote to approve the declaration and form a contact group to take it forward.

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