The Scottish Episcopal Church has hit back strongly at rebel clergy who protested at the appointment of their new bishop.
Christian Today revealed that half the paid clergy in the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney wrote an open letter to Scottish bishops on Friday accusing them of fostering ‘disquiet and division’ by nominating Canon Anne Dyer, the first female bishop in the SEC who is also strongly in favour of gay marriage, to be bishop of the largely conservative diocese.
Now the head of the SEC, Bishop Mark Strange, has hit back with a strongly worded response to the clergy involved and a press release published on the Church’s website insisted ‘preparations are underway’ for the consecration service which will be held in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, and live streamed online.
In a letter responding to the open letter signed by seven stipendiary clergy as well as several non-ordained senior officials and churchgoers, Bishop Strange, primus of the SEC, said it was ‘particularly regrettable’ they had chosen to protest publicly without speaking to him first.
‘We are dismayed at the invidious position in which it places Canon Dyer as the Bishop elect of the diocese,’ the hard-hitting response read. ‘We deplore that you have sought to subvert the outcome of the canonical process which led to Canon Dyer’s election.’
He added: ‘You have chosen the mechanism of an open letter to endeavour to undermine Canon Dyer’s election. You give us no option but to respond similarly.’
The letter insisted the Scottish bishops were ‘unanimous’ in their approval of Canon Dyer and the appointment would go ahead.
The manner by which she was appointed was the key aspect to the clergy’s original protest but Bishop Strange said the bishops’ decision to take over the process, usually made from within the diocese, was ‘entirely in accordance with the procedure’ and urged the clergy to support Canon Dyer.
Her consecration service will be attended by ‘a large number of clergy’ as well as ‘representatives from civic, political, business and education interests across the city and beyond’, the press release on the SEC’s website said.
Canon Dyer said: ‘I continue to look forward to my consecration and ministry as Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney with great anticipation. As the date approaches, I am becoming increasingly aware of the demands of leadership in the diocese and of my new role within the wider church, and am grateful for the prayerful support in my preparation for this.’
It comes after the Dean of the Diocese, Dr Emsley Nimmo, and Canon Ian Ferguson from the Cathedral Chapter in Aberdeen, both quit in November accusing the Church of being ‘not only insensitive but disrespectful’.
Last year the Scottish Episcopal Church became the first Anglican Church in the UK to permit gay weddings, removing its understanding of marriage as being between ‘one man and one woman’. Now clergy can opt in to a register to carry out same-sex weddings if they want to.
Bishop Mark Strange, the new Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) – the first Anglican Church in the U.K. to legislate for Same-Sex Marriage – has hit back at those in his Church who have signed an Open Letter disapproving of the unanimous choice of SEC’s Bishops for its first female bishop-elect (Canon Anne Dyer) to become the next Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney, Scotland.
Dean Dyer – along with the House of Bishops – is known to be a supporter of the Church’s decision to allow Episcopal clergy in Scotland to officiate at Same-Sex Weddings if they so desire. However, the Church has legislated for this option to be open only to those clergy who wish to officiate at such weddings – with no expectation of any penalty being incurred by those who do not wish to avail themselves of this ministry.
Despite this caveat allowing dissenters to refuse to take Same-Sex Weddings, there have been resignations – of the Dean of Aberdeen and a member of the Chapter, who both accused the bishops of insensitivity – as well as threats of resignation from other diocesan clergy if the planned consecration of Canon Dyer goes ahead.
One does wonder whether the fact that the proposed new bishop is a woman being appointed to a conservative diocese, is more of a problem to the dissenters, than the fact that she happens to be a supporter of Same-Sex Marriage. The situation is that, whether the new bishop is female or male, this would not alter the doctrine of SEC on Marriage, which is no longer based on the premise that marriage is reserved only for the relationship between a man and a woman.
In accordance with the decision of the House of Bishops, which was unanimous, there will be no change in the planned procedure of ordination which will take place in Aberdeen’s Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand