Provincial Conference Cancelled

I’m sorry to hear that the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Provincial Conference which had been planned for October this year has been cancelled. It must be very disappointing and frustrating for the organisers to get to this stage and then have to cancel. I like organising things like that and would have quite enjoyed working on a big project such as the Provincial Conference, so it is easy to appreciate how they will be feeling.

It seems to me that Ruth’s analysis of some of the issues around this conference are quite right. The only thing that I would add to what she said about this conference is that I think that perhaps people underestimate how much the internet has changed the world. There were a number of things that might have helped, such as drip feeding stories through the Episcopalian bloggers about the conference and also using the web for sign-up, payment and pre-conference activity (discussion/group allocation/lift sharing). I know that a lot of people don’t like the fact that the internet has changed people’s lives as much as it has done, but that is the way things are.

The cancellation is more significant in the life of the church than it first appears. It is quite a major failure within our church’s polity.

Once upon a time, the Scottish Episcopal Church the body which decided a lot of things was called the RCC (the Representative Church Council). It had representation from every Episcopal congregation in Scotland. I don’t remember that body – but can only imagine that it would have been a little, shall we say, unwieldy. Change came with the formation of the General Synod which introduced an albeit slightly strange version of representative democracy to church life. (It is strange because some dioceses elect people to synod and one, at least, sends people on the basis of dividing up its General Synod seats amongst its congregations).

What was lost with the start of General Synod was the sense of the whole church getting together. The answer to this problem was the idea of the Provincial Conference to be held every few years. The idea was to get people from right across the church together. At one point, I think, all congregations were allocated 2 places and expected to fill them. The idea also was that the church would be able to meet to consider stuff which affects us outside the argumentative debating chamber atmosphere of a synod. The whole church would be able to come together to consider something, have a bit of fun and think together without being in the position of having to make heavy decisions.

In other words, it is hard to think of something that could have been better designed to help us deal with the Anglican Communion/Sexuality conundrums of the present day, and all that they represent about being a church in a modern Scotland.

I’m sorry that the proposed conference this year was not used in this way. I’m sorry that steps were taken at the last conference to eliminate all mention of any of that stuff in the main sessions of the conference itself.

We must all be grateful for the hard work that has been put in by a lot of people in trying to make the conference happen. I’d hope that much that is positive can be transferred into the experience of organising a new, more focussed Provincial Conference dealing with the real issues of the day. Sooner rather than later, would do for me.


  1. Sign me up.

  2. yes. And I think the ‘two from each congregation’ idea is important. (but how did the clergy delegation work?)

  3. I don’t remember those conferences, Kimberly. It would be interesting to hear from others who were there.

    I missed the Tutu conference as it was the same weekend that I was moving back from London and was rather embroiled with TISEC issues at the time. I was at the Marcus Borg one and the last one.

  4. We too are concerned about the low registration numbers for our Rural Conference to be held around the Diocesan Synod gathering at the beginning of July this year. Drought and the Economic Climate are said to be the major factors affecting attendance, yet these very things that the church needs to reflect upon and exercise ministry within, to effectively be the Church in this place, at this time.

  5. I went to the RCC – in fact, that was the first place where I spoke in public about the nuclear issue. Each charge sent its rector and its lay rep – it was simple. It was also quite stimulating, and attracted media interest in a way it doesn’t now. But then, so did the Kirk’s General Assembly.

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