Scottish Episcopal Origins

Hermano David | Brother Dah•veed has asked me a question in a different place but I’m moving it here to a separate post for easier linking.

David asks:

Could you Scottish Piskies assist me in a matter concerning your church? On another blog someone has asserted that all churches of the Anglican Communion are the CoE and her daughter churches. I asserted that that was not the case of the SEC. (The Churches of Ireland and Wales as well, I believe.) Someone else has asserted that I am mistaken, that your BCP is an adapted CoE prayerbook and that your episcopal line is from the CoE. I reasserted that I did not believe that I was mistaken, that your episcopal line is ancient and is not from the CoE and that your prayerbook may borrow from the English prayerbook, among others, but that it represented your own liturgical tradition.

Am I correct or in error?

Well, you are certainly correct in that the Scottish Church is not a daughter of the English Church. Indeed, there were Christians organising in Scotland before the great mission from Rome to the Angles in England so there will always be some who refer to the C of E as our dear younger sister.

Our episcopal line is indeed ancient though it cannot be looked at without acknowledging some confusion at the Reformation. Notwithstanding that, our bishops now are the successors of those Bishops who occupied Scottish sees at the time of the Reformation in 1560.

I think that the answer about liturgy is perhaps not quite as clear as you are hoping for. The prayer books of 1912 and 1929 are very obviously derived in most part from the English Book of Common Prayer. However the significant thing which the Scottish Church has preserved and which is distinctive in them is the Scottish Communion Office.

And the particularly distinctive bauble which we polish up and offer to the rest of the Anglican world is the preservation of a double epiclesis in our Eucharistic prayers which comes from looking over our shoulders not merely at England or Rome but significantly futher East.

Here it is in its 1929 format:
“And we thine unworthy servants beseech thee, most merciful Father, to hear us, and to send thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that, being blessed and hallowed by his life-giving power, they may become the Body and Blood of thy most dearly beloved Son, to the end that all who shall receive the same may be sanctified both in body and soul, and preserved unto everlasting life.”

One tradition which seems to be quite distinctively part of who we are in Scotland is making do with wee bookies for liturgy – having whatever office we are using printed in a wee book rather than getting the whole of faith and life pinned down in a prayer book. Though there is currently a movement in our church to have a “proper” modern prayer book, there are those (including myself) who think that’s a nonsense and not really who we are. I’ve no desire for a prayer book that would settle liturgical questions for a generation. I think that the generations should have the freedom to meddle and that seems to be at least a part of who we are.

We certainly have a modern language liturgical tradition which is distinct from the English services. We did allow people to use the English Alternative Service Book though I did not experience it much. Its permitted use lingered in Scotland even after it had been pulped in England however, no ASB preservation society seems to have come into existence. It is no longer authorised for use in Scotland and neither (I think) is Common Worship.

I heard someone in this diocese refer to the Scottish Episcopal Church recently as holding a place within Anglicanism rather akin to the Uniate churches of the Roman Communion. I think that is a useful description and one worth thinking about.


  1. Robin says

    > I heard someone in this diocese refer to the Scottish Episcopal Church recently as holding a place within Anglicanism rather akin to the Uniate churches of the Roman Communion.

    I like that.

  2. Steve says

    The Scottish episcopal succession is complicated. There is a real succession in the sees from before the Reformation, recognised in Scots law, but the ‘apostolic succession’ by laying on of hands was lost after the Reformation and restored from the CofE in the 17th century. So, the SEC is not a daughter church of the CofE but does have a special relationship with it. The English Prayer Book was widely used in Scotland from the 1550s but the normal liturgy in Scotland before 1560 was the Use of Salisbury – so, no comfort for those who say the SEC is just the CofE in Scotland… or for those who say it is a completely different animal.
    And, the term ‘Anglican’ in its modern sense seems to have been invented in 17th century Scotland by those who did not like the episcopalian nature of the Church of Scotland.
    The RC dioceses were established by the Pope in 1878 and have no connection with the pre-1560 ones except in some of their names.
    History is great for showing that things are never simple

  3. fr dougal says

    Steve in right in so far as there were 2 infusions of English episcopal order (one under Charles 1 and again after the Restoration of 1660). The English BCP was use by the less Calvinistic elements in Scotland in preference to the Book of Common Order and later was widely used in the Qualified Chapels in the 18th century (like Haddington and Leith) One of the great tensions in the 19th century was between the Anglicisers such as + Charles Wordsworth who wanted confirmity and alignment with the CofE including 1662 and the Scots such as his predecessor Patrick Torry and the Forbes brother (+AP of brechin and GH of Burntisland) who fought for the primacy of the Scottish liturgy. That is why the prayer book still has the Scottish liturgy and “The Communion Office” which was described as “English Office” in the old Red Books. I of course have never in my life celebrated the Holy Eucharist using the English Office – even in England!

  4. Therese of the Roses says

    Kelvin. you are indeed the Luscombe scholar for your history of the SEC …… did you get the green accademic hood when you were at Coats ?

  5. Oh, I’m no historian, that much I’ve always known.

    I’m a child of TISEC too, I never went to Coates Hall other than for bizarre interviews.

    What’s more, if you hear confessions, I have to tell you that I never did my Luscombe essays on the grounds that by the time I was asked for them (in my curacy) I was running a cathedral and was busy.

  6. A small point on the Church of Ireland, Hermano David: it is actually derived from the C of E. Before 1870, when the C of I was disestablished, the title used was ‘The United Church of England and Ireland’.

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