Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church speaks of “shared journey” in speech to the General Assembly
Published on 24 May 2021
In an address to the General Assembly, Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has spoken warmly of the "shared journey" with the Church of Scotland and reaffirmed the strong ties between the denominations.
Reflecting on the particular importance of the partnership throughout the pandemic, he said it had reinforced the value of working together.
"These past months which have been so painful have also been so remarkable in our shared journey: the concern of keeping the church alive in this new way of life, people discovering that they could join a Eucharist in Melrose, morning worship in St Cuthbert's Edinburgh and finish of with Mass at St Mary's RC," he said.
Bishop mark's words came directly before the Assembly voted in favour of passing the St Andrew Declaration, which is the product of work begun in 2019.
The new statement formally recognises a shared faith and will now be brought forward for the consideration of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church in June, after which it is hoped it will be officially signed by both churches.
Speaking about the proposed formalised agreement, Bishop Mark said that it is "about providing a loving and prayerful worshipping community for the whole nation, from the glen head in Sutherland to the close end in Partick".
"I have heard more and more people telling me that their faith isn't denominational, rather it is about where they encounter God, where they feel loved, nurtured and respected for who they are," he added.
"The faith needs of the people of Scotland are not best served when we each spend time doing many of the same things in two separate places, almost next door to each other especially when in the next community, church life has already ceased."
At the same time, Bishop Mark emphasised that the unique characteristics of the two denominations would not be undermined through the St Andrew Declaration.
"This Declaration doesn't ignore the things that seem to make us different from each other", he said.
"Some of those differences will need to be worked through or accepted as differences we will always have.
"Remember, unity is not the same as uniformity."
"What I believe the Declaration is doing is trying to encapsulate the working together that we have already achieved while also informing the communities we serve that we aren't here to compete for your loyalty, we are here to share with you our vision of a Scotland still served by the church, with all its breadth, history and prayers for the future.
"I commend this document and look forward to the day we will be able sign it together."
In the speech, Bishop Mark also praised the new Scottish Church Leaders' Forum, saying that he was "delighted" in the relationships being built through the new group.
Since March 2020, the Scottish Church Leaders' Forum has now become one of the principal expressions of partnership between church groups in Scotland.
Every week since Sunday 22 March, the Forum has succeeded in issuing a joint call to prayer, which is now signed in the name of 15 different Christian denominations.
Responding to Bishop Mark's comments, Lord Wallace, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland said: "Thank you very much for your address to the Assembly and being with us today.
"You've given us your very profound thoughts and indeed your commendation of the St Andrew Declaration.
Referring to the new Scottish Church Leaders' Forum, Lord Wallace then spoke of the importance of "continuing a very productive piece of work beyond the pandemic".