A Moratorium on Moratoria

Rather surprisingly, I’ve not said much about the Lambeth Conference since it closed. The truth is, we were rather distracted at St Mary’s at the time.

People are still asking me what happened. What was the result?

Well, the result was not as bad as it might have been. I still wish that our bishops from Scotland had not gone though I don’t find it difficult to understand why they did go.

So what happened?

Well, the gathered bishops of the Anglican Communion met and talked and then published a document of reflections on their discussions. They did not pass motions. They did not vote. They just reported a discussion. That in itself does not seem too bad a way of proceeding. My only reservation is that it did not allow the bishops to undo any of their previous misdoings of 10 years ago. We cannot really be expected to take Rowan Williams seriously when he maintains that Lambeth 1.10 is the “official” teaching of the Anglican Commnion when there was no opportunity to reexamine it this year. Not that we have official teaching as Anglicans anyway. Don’t we just believe in the Christian faith?

I don’t have much sympathy for Rowan Williams at the best of times these days. (In order to dredge up any sympathy for him I have to try to imagine who he would be replaced by if he did go). No doubt many bishops fell in love with the internationalist scene whilst in Lambeth and no doubt many felt great affection for the Archbishop of Canterbury whilst they were there. None of that excuses his performance at the final press conference when he seemed to undermine the Reflections docucument by presuming to speak about what the bishops really meant by it.

He seems hell bent on a Convenant. Looking over Rowan’s shoulder at what might come next, I think there might be quite a few of us in Scotland who would want to work quietly, gently and firmly to ensure that our Scottish church remains free from the jurisdiction of the throne of Canterbury. Coming under Rowan’s Rule would be bad enough. What might follow is unthinkable.

Archbishop Rowan is claiming that the communion needs three moratoria. Firstly a moratorium against any new partnered gay bishops being consecrated, secondly against authorising same-sex blessings and thirdly a moratorium against bishops crossing borders and acting within the jurisdiction of others. (Oh the irony!)

I’m happy to be corrected by anyone who has better information than I have, but I think that none of these are in force today in Scotland.

There is today no moratorium against consecrating a gay bishop in Scotland. There was a moratorium in place but it expired a fortnight or so ago. In any case there is no need for one as the bishops can consider every candidate for every episcopal election on their merits and vote whether or not to veto them. (They do this anyway and we should manage everyone under the same process).

So far as I know, there is today, no moratorium against the authorisation of same-sex blessings. There are no plans that I know of to authorise such a blessing in General Synod. We’ve no real need of a moratorium as the Faith and Order Board have not asked the liturgy committee to prepare such a document. Presumably they judge there to be no need for such as service at this time. I agree with that, though if we really did produce another prayer book, I might then change my mind. So no moratorium here that I know of. Our ministry to lesbian and gay people continues apace and I’m happy to take enquiries for people for same-sex blessings in St Mary’s Cathedral.

I don’t think there has been any talk of the third moratorium. Notwithstanding a recent rather ill thought through press release from one of the bishops concerning services in two other dioceses, I think a moratorium in this area would be heavy handed. Sadly, I fear we don’t yet have the stomach to interfere in England and I must conclude that if we are not going to rescue people from the Bishop of Carlisle, we are probably not going on any rescue missions at all.

If you listened to Rowan Williams, you might think that the Lambeth Conference called for these three moratoria. It didn’t. Very precisely it did not do so. The Lambeth Conference this time around had no mechanism for calling for moratoria. It was itself a moratorium against making moratoria.

In Scotland, we would be wise to respect the council of the gathered Anglican Bishops at Lambeth. A moratorium against moratoria will do for us too.


  1. there might be quite a few of us in Scotland who would want to work quietly, gently and firmly to ensure that our Scottish church remains free from the jurisdiction of the throne of Canterbury.

  2. I’m not sure about this, Kelvin and Chris – but it seems to me that such an insularist attitude (with regard to the ABC and AC etc) has something of the descent into small, protestant, sect territory about it – but then, perhaps that’s what we are already – alongside the Baptists or Methodists.

  3. Insularist? What David, are you suggesting that we should indeed set sail and launch a crusade against the Diocese of Carlisle after all? 😉

    I’m not really interested in being part of a small protestant sect. After all, in Scotland, the Episcopal Church like others, has presumed itself to be a local expression of the holy, catholic and apostolic church. Lambeth Conferences and Anglican Communions (I nearly wanted to write Communia) may come and go, but I don’t think they make much difference to that claim. The SEC was around before the Anglican Communion. My guess is that it will be around after the Anglican Communion.

  4. John Penman says

    Yes, I’m not really keen on the concept of a covenant either, but want us to stay in the loop until we actually see what the final version is before deciding what we want to sign up to in terms of being inner circle or semi-detached from Cantuar.

    Trouble is Kelvin, although the SEC claimed to be the local expression of Reformed Catholicism prior to linking closely with the CofE at the Synod of Laurencekirk, until it linked into the bigger grouping, it was, frankly, a piddly wee Church utterly absorbed in its own affairs and of doubtful relevance to anyone save its own members. I strongly believe we need to be part of something bigger for our own health and well-being. I’m no more a fan of ecclesiatical nationalism than I am of its political cousin – like patriotism it is the last refuge of the scoundrel!

  5. I’m not advocating that we should not be part of something bigger. We are after all a full member church in two communions at the moment.

    I’m just not interested in being part of something bigger which is not worth being part of.

  6. Martin Ritchie says

    You know, size isn’t everything…..

    I wonder whether it’s also possible for a large body to be insular in its attitudes, even if it is spread throughout the world?

    Perhaps another way of looking at this to say that the SEC needs to be continually in dialogue with other churches – and in that way is part of something bigger? Or is that hopelessly idealistic and unworkable?

    Church history geek question for John P: do you think that the Qualified Chapels arose out of a desire to be part of the Church of England, or as an expedient by non-Jacobite episcopalians to worship freely? Interesting to note in some research how few English members there were in many of the early qualified chapels. This may seem a subtle difference now, but does make a difference in light of your comment about the synod of Laurencekirk being a move towards closer relations with the Church of England. My contention is that the non-jurors and the qualified were two sides of the same Scottish episcopalian coin. Geekness over!

  7. John Penman says

    The QC’s were partly a chaplaincy to pro-Hanoverian Anglicans who were working in Scotland often from England or Ireland and who saw themselves as part of that (then) united and Established Church. The Scottish element would be the non Jacobite Piskies. You make an interesting point on the non Jurors and the qualified being both equally Episcopalian! The Laurencekirk agreement was a recognition of a changed political reality by the non Jurors and a necessary move for surivival and revival, Sadly we had to have the 39 Articles as part of the package!

  8. Martin Ritchie says

    John – thanks for responding to the question. Not sure that what you say about the QC’s was entirely the case with all of them. For example, Gavin White identified St Andrew’s by the Green in Glasgow as being composed of almost all Scots and Patricia Meldrum analysed data from St Paul’s Aberdeen and came to the same conclusion. Although there is truth in what you are saying about the chaplaincy (to English and Irish) element in some of the city chapels, I think that there is more to it than that. Interesting, though, that close analysis of individual congregations reveals a different conclusion to some of the broad-brush assumptions about the Qualified Chapels. Perhaps they were subject to a “smear” campaign by pro non-juring historians of our church? A theory I’d like to explore is that the Qualified Chapels were a Scottish non-jacobite expression of episcopalianism rather than a Church of England or Ireland chaplaincy. The fact that they could only operate legally with clergy of English and Irish ordination and had to use the BCP was something that they had to take on board – and inevitably gives the impression in retrospect of being a CofE chaplaincy.

  9. Robin says

    As far as I’m concerned, the Anglican Communion has become an embarrassment and Rowan Williams – well, my views are not fit to print!

    In Latin terms, and for Fr Penman’s benefit, “Christian” is my “Nomen”, “Catholic” is my “Cognomen” and “Scottish Episcopalian” is my “Agnomen”. “Anglican” is simply not on the screen.

    I remarked to +Gene Robinson last week (name-dropping, did someone say?!), “Wars were fought to prevent the Archbishop of Canterbury from having any jurisdiction in this country. He has none. You are free.”

    Long may it remain so.

  10. Robin says

    This fantasy, written for +Ted Luscombe’s amusement at the time of the bicentenary of the ever-to-be-regretted Synod of Laurencekirk, shows my own views pretty clearly:


    “A canna dee’t!”

    Primus Skinner sighed to see his colleague’s tortured face. Alexander Jolly had spent the night on his knees, and he looked it. His wig was askew, his face was chalk and the shadows under his eyes were as purple as the prelatical vestments the good old Scots bishops had never yet worn and never would.

    “Skinner, min, A canna dee’t!”

    “Fit ails ye, brither?” the Primus replied in alarm. “We’ve been here afore. Ye gied me yer aith ye’d dee’t. Maister Sandford expecks it. Wir freens i’ the Sooth expeck it. Ye canna let’s doon noo, min!”

    “Primus — John, min — ” Jolly stammered. “It’s ma affa dream! Nicht efter nicht A’ve warsled wi’ it, on ma bed and on ma knees.” (Jolly pronounced the ‘k’ in ‘knees’, as did Skinner himself.) “It’s auld Craigha, it’s Maister Lyon, it’s Maister Troup and Maister Petrie, they aa come tae me, an — Saints preserve’s — the King himsel and the Prince, they come tae me at nicht and tell me nae tae dee’t!”

    “Nae tae dee’t?” gasped Skinner. “Fitiver div ’e mean?”

    “Ye ken, John. Weel ye ken. Say fit ye wint me tae say. Bid us aa ging ower tae the Hanoverians. Turn wir backs on the King and on the Martyrs and on wir ain Scots Liturgy. Subscrieve the Airticles. Gie wirsels a confession. Gie wirsels a confession! Fegs, we hae the three auld Beliefs, fit are we needin wi a new confession blaudit and fichered aa ower wi the clarty fingermerks o Maister Calvin? Were the auld Beliefs nae eneuch for Thomas o Aquin? Were they nae eneuch for Maister Elphinstone and Maister Spottiswoode and the twa Maisters Gairden and aa the godly priests o this auld Kirk the baith o us mind sae weel? And fit o bishoppin? Fit wey dis Airticle Five-an-Twinty nae tak cognisance o the Acht-th o Acks? And for fit are we needin these nyow-fangilt ferlies? For tae slevver ower auld Thurlow’s doup,” (by 1804 this was anachronistic, but old sores were still raw and Jolly was getting carried away with emotion) “and tint wir history and wir martyrs’ bleed for a pucklie siller?”

    So far, Jolly and Skinner had kept their voices low. But some of the assembled presbyters heard Jolly’s last remark and sensed that all was not going as smoothly as Skinner wanted it to go. Something about the drawn, beseeching face of Jolly touched their hearts — or the hearts of some of them. And they, too, suddenly saw with horror a vision of the future that Rattray, Lyon and the others, and King James himself, had revealed to Jolly in his dream. They saw a church gelded, anglicised, hindered and shackled by subscription to an alien creed, its own liturgy suppressed and sneered at, its fashionable leaders falling over themselves to please Hanoverian Englishmen — the same Hanoverian Englishmen who had burned their Kirks, harried their old priests and deposed their King — while the Old Faith was left to wither in the Buchan ferm toons and among the braes of Appin, no longer preached to the people by the sons of the people in the language of the people. It was like seeing a corpse.

    And then came ‘the voice’ that every true Episcopalian since has learned to bless, so that parents even now thrill to tell their children the story. Was it Mr Christie of Fyvie? Or Mr Shand of Arradoul? Or Mr Sangster of Lonmay? The stories differ, but ‘the voice’ came loud and clear.

    “We’ll nae dee’t!”

    Another joined in, and another, and soon it was a chorus, the occasional southron “We winna dae it!” blending with the clear “We’ll nae dee’t!” of the old, true, Episcopalian north east, semper eadem, semper fidelis. What from Jolly’s anachronistic remark has passed into history (inaccurately, of course, as regards its ecclesiastical status) as ‘The Synod of “Kiss-Lord-Thurlow’s-Doup”’ ended not — as it might so easily have done had Skinner and Sandford succeeded — with an ‘English Church’, pale, effete, southern, fashionable and ultimately alien, but with a Kirk still truly Scots, truly Catholic and truly free, and fit to play her vital part in building once more the independent nation and the reunited Muckle Kirk of Scotland that those who fought for Jamie knew would one day come. (The ‘Qualified Chapels’? They didn’t disappear. They flourished for a time, as integral to the life of the nation as the English chaplaincies in the South of France. One assumes God blessed them, in His Way.)

    As for the Convocation, Skinner quit in a rage while Jolly cried in the corner. But whoever ‘the voice’ belonged to — ‘the voice’ that spoke for the purity and liberty of the auld Kirk of Scotland — we do know that it was Mr Sangster of Lonmay, himself once persecuted, who there and then led the singing of the Te Deum. And well he might. As a friend of the Scots Kirk from across the seas had it:

    “They’ve robbed thee of thine altars,
    They’ve ta’en thine ancient name,
    But thou’rt the Church of Scotland
    Till Scotland melt in flame!”

  11. As an English prospective-ordinand, I’d be more than happy for the SEC to launch a mission in England. We need freeing from our bondage to the Protestant state and it’s parliamentary prayerbooks!

  12. Craig – say therefore to the Israelites, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the parliamentarians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement.”

  13. Will there be ‘plagues’? Obviously they’d need to be in keeping with the the Episcopalian spirit, so nothing horrible.

    They could culminate in the first born of every conservative bishop coming out as gay. 🙂 We might see some hearts softening then.

  14. John Penman says

    Robin, I do enjoy your “Scotland the What” theology! St Futret’s Auchterturra is still thriving I see!

  15. Robin says

    It’s aye chavin’ awa, Maister Penman!

  16. @Craig – how would a plague of midges do?

  17. Midges would do fine

  18. David |Dah • veed| says

    May I commend an excellent essay on the Moratorium of the Episcopal Church regarding slavery, and the church’s shame and long recovery for it. The essay is found today at Daily Episcopalian; Moratorium? Not again.

  19. Zebadee says


    It is possible that there is no need for a plague of midges, effective as they would be.

    Missionaries are about to leave ‘Bonny Scotland’ to bring enlightenment to the ‘poor deludeds’ of Englandshire.

    Please believe me Mrs Zebadee has an effect that would bring +R to his knees.

    So all is not lost help and assistance is on it’s way.

  20. Eamonn says

    ‘Moratorium? Not again’ is an absolute must-read. Go and see!

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