Who wants to be Bishop of Argyll and The Isles?

It seems that the process for electing a new Bishop of Argyll and The Isles is taking a little longer than it might have done. It seems it has not so far been possible for the Preparatory Committee to produce a list of names from which the diocese might elect a new bishop. The post is to be readvertised.

I don’t know why that’s not been possible, but I know it can’t be good news for those involved. Those involved include:

  • members of the diocese (who are without a bishop)
  • anyone who has already applied (because they are left in limbo even longer)
  • the Primus (who faces more travelling for the process itself and a longer time helping to administer a diocese that is geographically challenging at the best of times)

It would be remiss of me though, not to point out that this is all happening almost a year since the College of Bishops decreed that some of the clergy should not be considered for election. No-one should be surprised if it is now the case (as seems likely) that it is difficult to find enough good candidates for the Episcopacy to fill a shortlist of three.

You see, last year’s decree (which I still maintain is a change to the way we elect bishops and thus an extra-canonical interference in the Canon 4 process) does not just affect gay people. There are all kinds of people who would be put off applying because of the moratorium declarations.

Gay people in relationships who are truthful about them are directly targetted by the bishops. However, they are not the only ones affected. Gay people who are not in a relationship might well be put off applying simply because of the prurient interest likely to be generated, should they be candid. Anyone with a gay family member might well be put off by the peculiarly nasty and uniquely Scottish moratorium on bishops even attending a Civil Partnership ceremony. I think it is not unreasonable to suggest that many straight people might be put off by the fact that the moratoria make, not only the sex lives of bishops public property, but also the hitherto private lives of family members. Others might be put off by the politicisation of the Episcopate along these lines which is a direct result of the moratoria – who wants to be part of this and represent such a view to the world?

The post of Bishop of Argyll and The Isles is probably never going to be an easy job. However, we are supposed to believe that the Holy Spirit works though our processes when they are applied properly and that someone, somewhere, is feeling called to this job in a way in which the diocese itself can affirm. When those processes are interferred with and manipulated by others on the basis of prejudice and discrimination, it is much harder to maintain such a lofty sense of what such a vocation means.

It is time for the damage that the moratoria have done to be undone.

Any diocese deserves to be able to consider from amongst the best people available who are prepared to undergo the rigorous interviews, vetting, public comment and terrifying Electoral Synods that make up the process. Right now, Argyll and The Isles, like any other diocese that may become vacant, cannot know that it is being offered such a choice.

With regards to the College of Bishops, j’accuse. I can do no other.

With regards to the Diocese of Argyll and The Isles, our prayers are with you.


  1. robin says


  2. I worry about it as the slippery slope of conservatism in action if not always in word

  3. Elizabeth says

    Well said!

  4. Great post, especially in the light of my current frustrations as a member of the Electoral Synod you mention as being terrifying. Me, I’m terrified by the SEC right now.
    Your prayers are welcome at this time.

  5. Ross Kennedy says

    Who on earth would want to be a bishop especially in a lilttle sect like the Piskies? I suppose some who like dressing up in frocks and funny hats might fancy it. I’m afraid the Sacred Ministry is no longer a vocation but a career in which you must ‘get on’. . I’m fed up lisitening to women and gays moaning the about discrimination. I’ve been discriminated against for years simply because I’m so stupid – and also because I’m not married not gay and it doesnt’ bother me one bit. Get a life!

  6. I had not known much of the background detail Kelvin provides us with, but it all makes sad sense. And despite its often apparently sympathetic external face, I feel more now than ever that the SEC is sadly, deliberately but unnecessarily prepared to discount its gay people of God.

  7. Rosemary Hannah says

    Sighs. There is little doubt the conservative wings of the church have got their knickers in a right twist over the general desire that gay people should have an equal recognition of their relationships. I don’t actually think there is one simple reason for this, but there are two I can single out. The first is that general feeling of unfamiliarity and unsettledness in the face of same sex intimacy which some people unhappily have. This has radically reduced over the last fifty years, and will probably die altogether, or virtually so. But its presence has enabled this whole bandwaggon to move forward in a way that will be impossible a few years in the future. (Or so I think.)

    The second is the very real discomfort with the huge changes in knowledge and society which have occurred of which attitudes to sex are one tiny part. People have found themselves in an unfamiliar and scary world, where they are told that their reactions to creation/sexual ethics/gender roles and a myriad other things are not based on anything rational and they need to re learn and re think. That some are very upset is understandable. I think the whole same sex relationship issue is for many just the stalking horse for a whole set of miseries and angers – they are just as cross over a whole heap of other things.

    The church finds itself between the rock of acting according to its principles, and the hard place of further fracturing the body of Christ.

    I don’t think that a real compromise is possible – it is possible that a slower pace might enable more to change their minds and re adjust to the world as it is. It is unlikely. Liberals have a fatal weakness for seeing the other point of view and being swayed into actions they do not at all believe in. That seems to be what is happening – some conservatives are throwing all their toys out of the pram, and some liberals hope given time the tantrum will end harmlessly – it is a sometimes a reasonable strategy. I don’t think this time it will work however

    I don’t think we liberals should give an inch just now – but I do think we need to continue to have compassion on those who oppose us.

  8. on more mature reflection (see my earlier comment), I think the really sad thing is that whilst TEC is the “child” of SEC, the parental bishops don’t have the integrity shown by the US bishops and have opted rather for the fudge of a moratorium which has no authority but of the Primates. I was born a Presbyterian (of Covenanter stock) and begin to believe that the protests against prelacy were right … who but themselves were the Scottish bishops representing?

  9. Father Andrew Crosbie says

    Is Gregor Duncan the bishop elect of Glasgow married ?

    In answer to Rosemary. Remember in the Christian world your views are those of a tiny minority. It is not a question of you giving an inch but of the wider church being prepared to tolerate your extreme views. There is no conflict between Catholic teaching and the body of Christ just conflict between those who are trying to maintain the faith and those determined to pursue protestant revisionist secular agendas.

  10. or, one might remember that Jesus’ views were often in the minority but were recognized as both true and good over time.

    ‘catholic teaching’ itself had to evolve and grow as Christians articulated new quesions. The question right now is whether we allow that growth to continue, and what direction Godly-growth takes.

  11. Rosemary Hannah says

    Really, the priorities of some Christians are in a very odd place when an orthodox Christian, an unblushing Trinitarian, who can recite both the Nicene and Apostles Creeds without any need to cross her fingers behind her back, can be told that the wider church is struggling to accommodate her extreme views.

    I fear I am too good a historian to think for a moment that views on sexual activity held by the church are in any way immutable. Gregory the Great, for instance (and this is but one instance) is worried that married couples will fall into sin while finding too much pleasure in the marriage bed, even though they enter it bent on procreation. I cannot think of any branch of the church today where the importance of sex in creating a pair bond is not acknowledged. However much some pretend, attitudes on sex have totally changed. Secular knowledge and understanding always permeates Christian understanding. Sometimes (thankfully) Christian understandings of compassion and forgiveness also permeate the secular world. Neither can exist without the other.

    Moreover, it is blatantly apparent that the secular world is as conflicted over this as the church, and that (talking generally) older people, and especially older men, are more liable to dislike the idea of others, and especially men, forming same sex bonds. It is not actually true that in this instance ‘the secular world’ thinks one thing, and ‘the Church’ another, but rather, different segments of the church reflect the views of their secular counterparts.

    The Catholic Church is a loaded term. It can be used as it once was to refer to those who are not Arian Christians, but rather Trinitarins. To me, that remains the proper use, and in that context I would applaud Kimberly’s post and add that famously Athanasius refused to yield to truth-as-a-head-count. But over time Catholic has come to mean other things. I will grant you that the Roman Catholic Church is numerically strong. Moreover it can draw a clean line on what is, and is not, the ‘truth of the Church’ by simply excluding those who disagree. In face, in the UK and on the ground, many of her faithful disagree with (and ignore) much of her moral teaching. If by the Catholic Church you are intending to include those parts of Anglicanism which particularly value a spiritual heritage born in the Roman Catholic church and nurtured by the Catholic Reformation, I have to tell you that in fact they are as split on this issue as Roman Catholics are in the liberal West. Only by defining ‘Catholic’ a more and more rarefied way (The Roman hierarchy, Anglo-Catholics but not Aff Caff) can you EVEN support the claim to weight of numbers.

    As Kimberly says, we cannot resist the Spirit.

  12. Steve says

    ‘A tiny minority’ might also describe the adherents of the ‘safe churches’ in Dumfries and Inverness. It is the discernment of where the Holy Spirit is leading us that counts, and in this it may be the so-called ‘traditionalists’ who are wrong, like those early Christians who imposed the Jewish Law on converts. Rosemary Hannah makes an excellent point.

  13. Father Andrew Crosbie says

    The difference is Steve that the tiny minority in Dumfries, Inveness, Edinburgh, Fort William, Aberdeen, Dundee and many other pisky churches are still affirming the Catholic faith not some revisionist invention.

  14. Rosemary Hannah says

    And which Catholic would that ‘Catholic’ be’?? You are dodging that very real question.

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