I respectfully disagree…

I respectfully disagree with the latest College of Bishops statement on Aberdeen and Orkney and I do so in two respects.

Firstly, there is no mention of a mediation process in Canon 53. If the College of Bishops wishes to use Canon 53 section 11 and subsequent sections, then they should follow the procedure laid down there and name the bishop who is hearing the dispute. The bishop in question should publish the terms under which they are going to determine the dispute and the date on which the hearing will take place. Canon 53 does not allow for the resolution of such disputes to be outsourced to other individuals or organisations. (Sections before section 11 do not apply to disputes within a diocese). The procedure outlined in Canon 53 Section 11 and the following sections is clearly a decision making process and not a process of mediation. (In any case, my personal view is that mediation processes are seldom appropriate in cases where bullying is alleged and where there are discrepancies of power between the parties involved).

Secondly, anyone making a claim of bullying against a serving bishop or any serving bishop wishing to make a claim that they have themselves been bullied by anyone subject to the Code of Canons, should be explicitly invited by the College to make a complaint under Canon 54.

Canon 54 can only be initiated by someone who is a member of the church. My view is that the College should make public appropriate arrangements for the bringing of a complaint by anyone who has subsequently left the church – specifically that the complaint would be passed to a (communicant) diocesan registrar or the clerk to the Episcopal Synod to be initiated formally.

Making vague references to the “Disciplinary Canonical process” of the church in a press release is unhelpful. Canon 54 is what the process is and the College of Bishops should long ago have insisted that people use it to bring allegations.

This is not the first statement by the College of Bishops with regard to these matters that has given me cause for concern. In a statement last December the College asserted that neither the Primus nor the College of Bishops had the power to suspend a bishop. The Code of Canons is very clear that bishops can be suspended and that only the Primus can do so and that this can only be upheld or not by the Episcopal Synod (which is the same body of people as the College of Bishops). The due processes governing how these things can come about are found in Canon 54 (Of Offences and Trials) and Canon 6 (Of Diocesan Bishops and their Jurisdiction and of Bishops’ Commissaries).

For the last few years I’ve been a member of a review group which has been carefully considering whether the disciplinary canonical processes of the church need to be updated. In time, I hope that they are. However, the canons that we currently have remain in force. Bishops require clergy to take oaths to uphold the Canons. Bishops themselves take oaths that they in turn will uphold the canons of the church.

I regard members of the College of Bishops as colleagues and friends and remain willing to discuss these matters with any of them or indeed with any member of the church. A number of the members of the College of Bishops have heard me say privately what I now assert here, that for the good of the whole church, the College of Bishops needs to return to the Canonical norms of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

I will not be discussing this matter with any journalists. The opinions expressed in this post are explicitly with regard to the College of Bishops and do not constitute a comment on anything that may or may not have happened in the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, about which I have little knowledge.

The Code of Canons of the Scottish Episcopal Church can be found here: https://www.scotland.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/Code-of-Canons-2020.pdf


  1. Rod Gillis says

    Thanks for the article. I sent off the message below to my bishop this morning with a copy to our Primate.

    “I will be keeping you in my prayers while you are participating in the upcoming Lambeth Conference. However, in addition to piety I also wish to sound an activist note. At this juncture, as a ‘Joe citizen’ in the church, I regret the participation of the Canadian Bishops in this event. I note the sad and shabby treatment of some of the bishops/bishops’ spouses. I note as well the ‘call’ to return to the infamous Lambeth Resolution (1998 1:10) even though provinces Like Canada and TEC have clearly moved on from this and are known throughout The Communion as having done so. The opinion of Kelvin Holdsworth on this matter is especially poignant. (link)The Lambeth Conference lacks legitimacy in that there is no formal deliberation by laity or deacons or priests alongside that of the bishops. It is not unheard of for the church to get itself into a divisive muddle when bishops alone are doing the discerning and deciding. Notwithstanding, since the Canadian Bishops are attending one may only hope, against all hope perhaps, that the delegations from Canada and TEC will provide Lambeth something of a better model in terms of the availability of same sex marriage in the Church. As I have copied this to our Primate, I’ve attached my full moniker in brackets.

    Blessings, -Rod Gillis (The Rev. Canon Rod Gillis, retired). “

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