Saturday, June 13, 2009

Statement to members of General Synod
of the Scottish Episcopal Church
by the newly-elected Primus,
Rt Revd David Chillingworth,
Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane

Calling is an extraordinary and wonderful thing. To be literally handed a new ministry like this is a daunting experience. I could produce a thousand reasons why this is difficult, demanding, challenging … but that is not the question. The question is vocation and it has just been answered.

I want to thank the members of the College of Bishops. We are a College – we have been talking about how we can develop our collegiality and put it at the service of our church. At our Synod Dinner last night, we expressed our thanks to Idris and to Alison. I want in the context of our General Synod to say to you Idris how much we value what you have given to ministry, to the life of this church and to all of us. We pray that you and Alison may have a long and happy retirement.

I approach this new ministry with deep humility and no small apprehension. This church – my diocese and the wider church – has been extraordinarily generous in the trust which it has placed in me. This church is willing to take risks – and that is a sign of its spiritual vitality. I experience that trust as I share in ministry day by day with clergy and laity. I experience it in the support which I receive in prayer. I ask you to pray for me and for all of us as bishops. Our task as a College of Bishops is to offer leadership in a church which is committed to patterns of sharing. To be that kind of church is a gift we have received and a gift we can share. But such a church will only be built on foundations of clarity, honesty and truth in our relationships.

Those of you who have worked closely with me will know that I believe that our church is richly blessed in the quality and commitment of laity and clergy. You will know that I also believe that this is a precious moment of calling for the Scottish Episcopal Church.

You will have heard some of this in the discussion of the mission of our church yesterday. I believe two things about this time. First that we are being called to take our place in a new way among the family of churches in Scotland and in the wider community. I come from a minority church – the church of my family roots is the minority Church of Ireland community of southern Ireland. There are several generations of its clergy in my family background. I believe that minority churches do not need to be marginal and that small churches can bring special gifts to the whole. In particular, I believe that our strengths in spirituality and service, in dignified liturgy and inclusive openness are gifts and treasures for this moment. Our calling is to offer Jesus – to offer new ways of exploring faith – in a time when people search have questions but do not expect to find the answers in traditional churches.

But there is a second challenge which faces us at present. We are entering a time of difficult decision-making as we respond to the new financial circumstances which face us as they face the whole of our society. Adding new things is relatively easy. Deciding what really matters when resources don't stretch to cover everything is much more difficult. It tests decision-making and it tests relationships. That is the period which we are about to enter. Our prayer must be that this period will be for us a time of creative refining and pruning - from which will come more growth.

On a more personal level, the clergy and people of our diocese know what an integral part of my ministry Alison is - and I want you to know how much I appreciate the contribution which she makes and the support which she gives to me. Scotland has been good to us. Perthshire is a beautiful and extraordinary place and we are very happy here.

And so, members of Synod, I look forward to playing my part in the adventure in faith which we shall undertake together. May God bless us all as we work together in his service.

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