Scottish Bishop Suspended — For a Few Hours

The Rt Rev Anne Dyer, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney. | Credit: Ian Jacobs, SEC website

By Kirk Petersen

The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney was reinstated to her job August 10 — after having been suspended earlier the same day by the head of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The Rt. Rev. Anne Dyer has been responding to allegations of “bullying” for nearly two years. In August 2021, an 18-page independent report described confrontations between the bishop and the trustees and leadership of the diocesan cathedral, and recommended that she be ousted. The church declined to do so, instead establishing a mediation process between the parties.

But a year later, after receiving two formal complaints of an unspecified nature, Bishop Mark Strange, the primus of the church, suspended her to investigate the complaints. She promptly appealed the suspension, which then was lifted. “The suspension ceases to have effect until the appeal is determined by the Episcopal Synod. It is expected that a meeting of the Episcopal Synod will be arranged as soon as possible,” the church announced. The mediation process “is expected to be put on hold pending the outcome of the disciplinary process,” the church said in an earlier announcement.

The brief suspension was announced two days after the end of the Lambeth Conference, which Dyer attended and wrote about almost daily on her Facebook page.

The suspension “does not constitute disciplinary action and does not imply any assumption that misconduct has been committed,” the primus wrote. “The decision to suspend has been taken bearing in mind the interests of both those making the accusations and Bishop Anne.

Dyer’s episcopacy has been controversial from the start. When she was appointed in 2018, half of the priests of the largely conservative diocese protested because of her support of same-sex marriage, according to Christian Today. Aberdeen and Orkney was the only one of the SEC’s seven dioceses to oppose the church’s 2016 authorization of same-sex marriage in the church. The 2021 report found no evidence that the issue played a role in the recent conflict in the diocese.

In response to allegations of bullying in the 18-page report, Dyer wrote in a letter to the diocese: “I am very sorry indeed that some in the diocese feel this way, and want to attend to the matters and concerns raised as a priority.” She added, “I had also felt myself, since I arrived, to be subject to significant bullying and harassment on a number of fronts.”

The Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney comprises 46 congregations in the city and county of Aberdeen, as well as the Orkney and Shetland Island groups north of the Scottish mainland.

The Scottish Episcopal Church is an independent provinces of the Anglican Communion, and reported membership of 27,585 in 2019. Unlike the Church of England, which is by far the dominant church in England by membership, the SEC is the third-largest church in Scotland, after the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) and the Roman Catholic Church.

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