The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has hit back after a group of clergy in the Diocese of Aberdeen criticised the appointment of the province’s first female bishop. The Revd Canon Anne Dyer will be consecrated as the new Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney on 1 March. She was selected by an Episcopal Synod, in accordance with the Church’s canons, after the diocese twice failed to complete the process of selection. Bishop Mark Strange says he “deplores” the publication of the Open Letter, saying, on behalf of the College of Bishops: “we are dismayed at the invidious position in which it places Canon Dyer as the Bishop elect of the diocese.”
The open letter, signed by 18 clergy and lay leaders says that Canon Dyer’s appointment “directly goes against the established wishes of the Diocese on the views it would hope that our new Bishop would hold, and minister to us from the perspective of them.” They say: “our protest is not in any way personally directed at Canon Anne and should not be construed in that way” but ask that their concerns about the process be “discussed at the next General Synod as the action of the bishops in our case have caused unnecessary anguish and distress in a Diocese which had been largely united in its hopes and aspirations for the years ahead.”
In his response, Bishop Mark said that the process by which Canon Dyer was appointed was “entirely in accordance with the procedure set out by Canon 4.” He said that the diocese went through “two complete processes under which it had full opportunity to elect a bishop” and was “unable to produce a shortlist of the required minimum of three candidates.” He added that “There is no provision in Canon 4 for election by the Episcopal Synod to be subject to any subsequent vote on the part of the Diocese. To introduce such a vote would be at odds with the canonical procedure.”
He said that it was “not open to the bishops” to unilaterally alter the procedures of the canon, which had been adopted by the General Synod following consultation with the dioceses.
“The election of Canon Dyer followed a period of deep prayer and reflection on the part of the bishops,” he said. “Whilst, it would not be appropriate to disclose the internal discussions which took place among the bishops, suffice it to say, that the bishops fully believe and trust that they have been led by the Holy Spirit in their election of Canon Dyer. She too shares that conviction and looks forward to becoming the new Diocesan Bishop in response to God’s call. The bishops know her to be a person who will seek, under God, to enable the diocese to move forward in its mission and ministry and in service to the people of Aberdeen and Orkney.”
The Primus concluded his letter with a plea for unity: “You have chosen the mechanism of an open letter to endeavour to undermine Canon Dyer’s election,” he said. “You give us no option but to respond similarly. However, by that same mechanism, we would appeal to the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney as a whole to come together now to welcome Canon Dyer as your new Bishop. We invite you to join with us in supporting her and to commit yourselves, as we do ourselves, to pray for the Diocese as a whole, and for Canon Dyer in particular, as she prepares for her consecration and future life with you.”