Thursday, 7 July 2011

Scotland is Independent!

Only, however, in terms of The Open Episcopal Church. Things were going so well, but now the Scottish Bishop has departed and taken his diocese with him.

Here is the Scottish Church.
Here is the rest of the Church, with Scotland under the Archbishop's Council.

So there is now The Open Episcopal Church with a diocese in Scotland and then The Open Episcopal Church in Scotland. Both serve "in a modern and liberal way".

This isn't the first time there have been splits within this stream, as indeed its birth was difficult, but stability seems so difficult with institutions this small. Everyone knows everyone else too well, and personalities clash. I don't know the reason for the division, but I do know that Scotland had made progress on the ground in terms of ministries and it could be more decentralised. This might indicate the difference, for in Scotland:

The result is always that lay representatives outnumber clergy and so hold the balance of power over the running and administration of their own church. Only matters of faith and morals are reserved to the bishop and his clergy, within the normal constraints and understanding of Catholic Christian theology, doctrine and practice.

These groups have tended to be clergy led, and forming congregations is difficult - with a tendency then to ordain the committed through a succession of lower orders first. I thought the OEC (throughout) had tried to slow down these processes. It may well be that Scotland is going a bit 'lower' than the other OEC.

The Open Episcopal Church in Scotland is considering whether it can join the Free Churches Council...

Can a liberal way Church with an Old Catholic authentic feel join the Free Churches Council? If one grants it quotes the Nicence Creed and the Trinity, it still might ruffle a few feathers due to its inclusivity. That was the point of the OEC: independence and inclusivity.

Interestingly, the news of the split hasn't yet reached the OEC of the larger geographical area.

On a more general point regarding this split: isn't the idea of being liberal having a diversity that comes together? What claims are there to be ecumenical, if you can't be in the same institution with others where there is fundamental agreement? Unitarians have been theologically divided for a long time, though the nature of the division keeps changing: they have had to learn to keep together and then value the diversity.


Bishop Jonathan Blake said...

The Open Episcopal Church has over 20,000 lay people throughout the United Kingdom, well outnumbering clergy.

Our approach to governance is decentralised, as are our ministries.

We are comprehensively ecumenical, from the highest to the lowest.

The Open Episcopal Church had considered joining the Free Churches Council, but concluded that the delarations involved would have encroached on our inclusive approach.

It is important to research the statements that others make, to substantiate their accuracy.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Thanks for commenting. The information one has is that made available. By the way, the figure of 20,000 would mean four to five times the size of Unitarianism, with its 160 plus congregations. I find this number rather hard to believe, unless of course Unitarians counted everyone who it married, partnered, offered hospitality.

Bishop Jonathan Blake said...

Your blog is erudite and good Adrian.

It is important to maintain its status. I would suggest that commenting on the basis of available information alone may undermine it, particularly if the facts do not stand up to scrutiny.

Denominations calculate their support base differently. Christian Research has encountered these problems in relativising their statistics.

While we have a few settled congregations like the Unitarians and other churches, the thrust of our ministry is not to replicate the provision of other denominations, rather to service the needs and dynamic of the liquid church.

The size of our membership base is surprising, given our short history and our small clericature. However, that is because we are a church that exists to minister to the public.

That is why also we are a significant modern and authentic expression church

We have carefully kept registers and records detailing our membership.