The Golden Calf

Jeroboam Sacrificing to the Golden Calf, Jean-Honore Fragonard 1752

Exodus. 32: 1-14

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us:” Exodus 32:1.

We know that Moses will be on Mount Sinai for forty days. The children of Israel do not. We know that the Ten Commandments are being prepared and that a tabernacle will be constructed out of gold between the wings of two golden cherubim to house the tablets of the law. The children of Israel do not. We know that God has a plan. The children of Israel do not.

Out of frustration and impatience the Israelites ‘jump the gun’ and hound the Priest Aaron to “make Gods for us, who will go before us”. The gold that would have been used to construct the Ark is made instead into a golden calf. The Altar placed before it was instead meant to be placed before the Ark. The worship of Yahweh that was to be performed before the Tabernacle of the Lord is instead usurped by the calf.

It may surprise some of you to discover that the incident of the golden calf is not one of idolatry. The Israelites wanted bulls not to worship them but to form a throne for God. This is exactly the same concept of the Throne of Mercy which is the between the two Cherubim on top of the Ark of the Covenant. The Cherubim form the base of the invisible throne. It is worth remembering that in ancient near eastern religion the Cherubim were often depicted as having the bodies of bulls. It is also clear that the story is partially told to condemn the erecting of the golden bulls or calves at Dan and Bethel by King Jeroboam in Kings 12:28. The words used to dedicate those bulls were identical to the verses found here. This is why the plural is used instead of the singular you would expect for the single calf. Thus underneath the story is a polemic against the older form of worship of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The other polemic at work in the passage is the attempt to make Aaron look bad by later writers distrustful of the hereditary priesthood – but that is no matter.

If the golden calf and the golden cherubim serve the same function and the worship is of the same God: “When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it: and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’”, then why is the incident so serious? I contend that the sin of the children of Israel is their impatience with God and his Prophet. They cannot even wait forty days for Moses to return. They despair and turn against Moses who has led them out of slavery “This Moses”. They forget the promise and what God has already done for them in the Exodus from Egypt. So while God is preparing for them the way he wishes them to worship they instead rush in and create their own mode of worship. I will refrain from going off on a tangent about the motivation for people to seek new alternative liturgies without having first learned the rhythm and rationale of the authorized liturgies of our church!

By asking for bulls they are really asking for a way to make God come down to be with them. They were trying to force him to be present with them. The assumption being that they did not believe he cared or was paying attention to them. They thought he had abandoned them. He knew very well what they were doing for he was paying very close attention: “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them;”.

The plan backfires, for their lack of patience, lack of trust, and attempt to force Him to appear amongst them kindles God’s wrath. He reacts like a spurned, irate Father, whose first instinct is to turn away from them and then devour them. He reserves for Moses, because of his faithfulness, the original promise of a new nation “and of you I will make a great nation”.

It is here that Moses plays the mediator and reminds God of his faithfulness and the promise he made to Abraham. He questions the purpose of all of the effort to bring the Israelites out of Egypt only to destroy them because of their weakness and ignorance. We may find it difficult to imagine God reacting like this. Yet for anyone who has ever raised children and invested time and energy into friendships and marriages you will recognise this reaction. God speaks to Moses of ‘His’ people who ‘You’ brought out of Egypt as though He had nothing to do with it. It is touching and humbling, that it is a human being who has to remind God of the bigger picture and thus cool his anger, born of hurt and frustration, “I have seen this people, how stiff necked they are”, and have him repent of his plan of destruction.

Many of our decision in life reflect the dilemma of God and Moses on Mount Sinai. The people to whom they have given everything, whom they love, dance at the bottom of the mountain oblivious of the two of them alone on the mountain top seeking a way to free those very same people. Most of you will have loved someone deeply and known you were not loved in return. You will have experienced the anger born of hurt when those for whom you have sacrificed take it for granted and spurn what you have slaved to be able to offer them. ‘How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

Yet after the petulance, after the hurt, after the anger – sanity returns and we remember that even if they do not love or regard us, we still love them – even though it hurts. This passage from Exodus also reminds us of that which we so often forget – that it is acceptable, nay, even proper to give God our empathy and thanks for carrying the burden of his love for so long and at such great cost. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,”. John 3:16He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.Phil 2.8

In the Gospel we have a parable by Christ of a King throwing a huge wedding banquet that he wishes those he loves to share in. Instead they refuse the offer as they have other things to do. They are following their own timetable and not that of the king. The king in his anger destroys them and invites everyone in. Yet even after this there is still a note of warning – you must enter into the spirit of the celebration and not just come according to you own standards but rather that of the kingdom. The feast is given at a certain time and in a certain way. To refuse the time or spirit of it is to miss out.

Let us then worship God as he commanded us and approach the Altar with thankfulness of hearts remembering his words “Do this in remembrance of me”. Let us not set our own individual times and places to worship Him but rather when his family meets and how they worship. This patience and humbleness of heart will allow God to reveal himself to us in his own time and way.

Bu those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31

18 Blake Moses Indignant At The Golden Calf
 Tate Gallery

St Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130-c.200)


“If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.” Luke 11.36

The scriptures today all point beyond themselves to the words that will proceed from the mouth of this most venerable Father of the Church. Proverbs tells us “Hear for I will speak noble things and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truthProverbs 8.6-7 Today the Church intentionally uses the Scriptures to tell us to pay attention to a non-scriptural authority. Look to him who we honour this day and not to us! Many will find this deeply troubling. Yet I put it to you that Saint Irenaeus is worthy of such treatment and that this treatment is fitting. The Church allows Scripture to give him voice because his voice gives to the church Scripture.

To a church with various customs ranging from the reading from only one Gospel or several, or using the Diatesseron (a combination in one book of the four) Irenaeus attested to the authority of the four Gospel of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. It was Irenaeus that challenged the churches that used only one Gospel to use all Four and to those who used other Gospels besides the Four to abandon them. It was Irenaeus that gave us the first canon of Scripture that later formed the core of what we as Christians would come to know as Holy Scripture. He gave voice to the truth that God’s plan of salvation is to be found in both of the Old and New Testaments and that they cannot be separated.

This is not all that St Irenaeus gave us. Against the heresies of Gnosticism and Montanism he gave the Church stability and strength in the threefold cord of the Episcopate, Scripture, and Tradition. He laid down the concept of the Apostolic Succession. He himself was a student of St Polycarp who was a Disciple of St John. He knew the importance of the Apostolic Tradition – and stressed it at a time when the infant church faced disaster from various competing authorities. He emphasized the Councils of the Church for doctrinal assurance and yoked the church to the backs of the Apostles on which it is still supported today.

There is much more wisdom that proceeded from his mouth that we could give thanks for today: his insistence of the unity and goodness of God’s creation; his laying down the central myth of Christ as the new Adam and Mary as the new Eve in the plan of God’s salvation; and the emphasis that Christ as the Logos.

However it is his insistence that the heart of the atonement is found in the love of God in His Incarnation that has much to commend itself to us today. For Irenaeus the crucifixion was simple the outworking of God’s love in the Incarnation – the direct result of man’s sinfulness. Yet God’s love was to be found fully in Bethlehem and not just in Jerusalem. One of his most quoted sayings from Book 4 of Against the Heresies is “The Glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God” More commonly it is quoted as “The Glory of God is a human being fully alive”. The Word became flesh so that Flesh may become Word. “It was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God”. In a world of alienation this hope that there is something that will makes us truly alive as we instinctively know we are called to be still needs to be heard.

For his protection of the infant church by insistence on; the Historic Episcopacy; The Apostolic Succession; the Doctrinal Authority of Ecumenical Councils; the Vision of the Love of God in the Manger and the Hope of union with Him; but above all for the Authority of the four Gospels and the canon of Scripture - the voice of the Bible as we have received it, we give God thanks today for our Holy Father Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons.

The Anglican Covenant and the Experience of The Scottish Episcopal Church: Rewriting History for Expediency's Sake.


In this short paper I contend that the disestablished, non-juring history of the Scottish Episcopal Church and her ecclesiology and sacramental theology establishes a valid historical model of Anglicanism which is at odds with the example set by the Church of England. Thus the Anglican Covenant’s insistence on a historic commonality within the Communion, whether out of ignorance or design, effectively rewrites history and reduces historic diversity to an historical fiction for the sake of ecclesiastical expedience. This cultural insensitivity, especially considering the proximity of the Scottish Episcopal Church to the Church of England and the long history of persecution of the Scottish Church, raises serious issues about the effectiveness of the Covenant to address minority cultural and historical differences within the Anglican Communion. This has particular implications when considering the history of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in the United States. It is my hope to convince those currently wrestling with the Anglican Covenant to consider this factor when trying to discern whether the Covenant should be adopted.

Section one of the Anglican Covenant addresses points of historic commonality that it believes each Province of the Communion can affirm. The second point under the Title ‘Our Inheritance of Faith’ (1.1.2) reads:

“The historic formularies of the Church of England [3], forged in the context of the European Reformation and acknowledged and appropriated in various ways in the Anglican Communion, bear authentic witness to this faith.”i

Note three reads:

"The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.”ii

This is a rewriting of the first draft of the Covenant which in Section One, Point Five reads:

“Each member Church, and the Communion as a whole, affirms: that, led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons[5];iii
Note five reads:
“This is not meant to exclude other Books of Common Prayer and Ordinals duly authorised for use throughout the Anglican Communion, but acknowledges the foundational nature of the Book of Common Prayer 1662 in the life of the Communion.”iv

I contend that neither: the History of the Church of England; the Thirty-Nine Articles; nor the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are historic documents of or express the theology and ecclesiology of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Thus the Anglican Covenant does not express the commonality of the entire Anglican Communion. I shall examine the history of the Scottish Episcopal Church before dealing specifically with the points of commonality contained in the Anglican Covenant.

The history of the Reformation in Scotland is confusing and convoluted. Before giving a brief outline of the non Anglican History of the Scottish Episcopal Church it is necessary to remind the reader of certain basic facts concerning the historical relation of Scotland and England, which may appear obvious, but which is often overlooked by those not familiar with the history of the United Kingdom. Before the death of Elizabeth I of England, Scotland and England were two Separate Kingdoms with their own Monarchs and Parliaments. Upon the Death of Elizabeth I in 1603 the King of Scots, James VI, inherited the Throne of England through the claim of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. He had been king of Scots for thirty six years before becoming the King of England. This is referred to as the Union of Crowns. James VI & I was thus the King of Scots as well as the King of England. The governments of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England did not come together to form a single government of Great Britain until the Union of Parliaments in 1707, 104 years later. Although it is often treated as if the Scottish Parliament ‘joined’ the English Parliament in fact both parliaments ceased to exist and a new joint parliament was created by the Acts of Union. This becomes important when understanding the Penal Laws imposed on the Scottish Church by the joint Parliament.

Many assume that one of the chief expressions of the Reformation in Scotland was the abolition of the Episcopacy (‘Nay Bishops!’). This is not the case. In fact Bishops were only finally abolished in 1690, 130 years after the Scottish Parliament severed official links with the papacy in 1560. This Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Parliament of 1567 kept Bishops. Although the Second Book of Discipline sought to abolish the Episcopate and redistribute their lands and rent, James VI instead annexed these to the Crown. The Golden Act of 1592 transferred most Episcopal functions to the Presbyteries but did not abolish the office thus allowing King James to use them as Parliamentary Commissioners and to increase their ecclesiastical and civil powers. In 1610 Episcopalianism was superimposed over Presbyterianism when Archbishop John Spottiswoode of Glasgow was consecrated by English Bishops. This state of affairs lasted until the attempted introduction of the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637 by James VI’s son, Charles I.

The Scottish Prayer Book of 1637 is of great importance in the history of the Scottish Episcopal Church both in terms of the eventual disestablishment of Episcopalianism and the significant theological differences from Presbyterianism and the 1559 Prayer Book of the Church of England. I will return to these theological issues later. It is important to note that although the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637 is commonly referred to as ‘Laud’s Book’ (Archbishop of Canterbury) it was primarily the work of the Scottish Bishops Maxwell of Ross and Wedderburn of Dunblane. Archbishop Laud only made a few suggestions. The Prayer Book of 1637 was not well received, to put it mildly, and a riot broke out when it was introduced in the Cathedral of St Giles in Edinburgh. The following year the Glasgow Assembly abolished the Episcopacy and this passed into law by the Estates of Parliament. There were two ‘Bishops’ Wars’ (Bellum Episcopale) between the Presbyterian sand the Episcopalians in Scotland whose outcomes did not secure the Episcopacy.

However this was still not the end of the story of Bishops in the Church of Scotland. They returned just twenty three years later in 1661 with the Restoration of the Monarchy in England under Charles II. It is worth remembering that the Church of England lost her own Bishops twelve years after the Scots did during the Commonwealth and only had the Episcopate restored at the same time as the Scottish Church. Under this new system the Presbyterian system of Courts continued but the General Assembly was not permitted to meet and instead Bishops presided over Synods, Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions. The Bishops were fierce in their opposition to the Covenanters and imposed harsh legislation against them. This marks the time of the greatest power of the Scottish Bishops since the Reformation.

What led to the abolition of the Bishops and the formation of the Scottish Episcopal Church was not the suppression of the Episcopate by the Presbyterian faction of the Church of Scotland, the Covenanters, nor even the King but rather the Bishops themselves. The Bishops staunchly held a Non-Juring position in regards to the accession of William and Mary to the Throne in 1689. The Scottish Convention of Estates declared that James VII & II had forfeited the crown when he fled to France. The Bishops disagreed and all them refused to take the new Oath of Allegiance to William and thus were deprived of their Sees. These Bishops had already taken an Oath of Allegiance to James VII & II and did not believe they could break their oath regardless of what the civil authorities proclaimed. Canon White states:

“The principal fact about the Episcopal Church in the eighteenth-century was its devotion to the Stuart cause, and this was not just conservatism. As Peter Nockles has noted, ‘The element of Orthodox political theology which perhaps most distinguishes pre-tractarian High Churchmen from other church parties was an almost mystical, sacred theory of monarchy’. Monarchy was given, and one aspect of ‘man’s dependence on God’...”v

When William of Orange arrived in London he summoned Bishop Alexander Rose of Edinburgh to Whitehall with the hope that the Scottish Bishops would give him allegiance, He said :

“I hope you will be kind to me, and follow the example of England. To this the Bishop replied with more candour than diplomacy; 'Sir, I will serve you as far as law, reason and conscience will allow me.’ William took his meaning, turned on his heel and left the audience."vi

William established the Presbyterian Church of Scotland the following year. Episcopacy was abolished. In 1693 The Oath of Accession required all clergy to declare that William was not only ‘de facto’ king but also ‘de jure’ king. Although there was Jacobite resistance in Perthshire at Killiecrankie in 1689, under Viscount Dundee and Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, it was crushed at Dunkeld a month later. However, the Jacobite pot had begun to simmer.

It might be helpful to examine the background behind the attitude of Bishop Rose to William of Orange and the staunch Non-Juring stance of the Scottish Bishops. I have already touched on the theological and political world view so let me now turn to the historical context. Scotland and England were still two separate Kingdoms, each with a King that happened to be the same man. The Scottish Bishops remembered the time of the Commonwealth that followed the regicide of Charles I. To a Jacobitic Scot the execution of King Charles still stung. As Head of the Royal House of Stuart Charles was considered the King of Scots first and King of England second. After the Scots, who fought for the King in the Second Civil War, were defeated the King was taken to London to be tried by a court set up by the Rump Parliament. No Scot would accept the legitimacy of such a body, least of all because it was an entirely English body. The Scottish Church and Parliament had no say in the matter. To a Scot the English had killed one of her Kings. It is also worth remembering that the Kingdom of Scotland had proclaimed Charles II King of Scots when he landed in Scotland in 1650, the year after the murder of his father. The, soon to be, Lord Protector invaded Scotland and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Dunbar before capturing Edinburgh. The Scottish King Charles II was aided in his attempt to invade England to reclaim his English Crown by legions of faithful Scots. His failure to do so doomed Scotland to military invasion, military occupation, and subjugation until the Restoration of the Monarchy in England in 1660. Thus, although England ceased to be a Monarchy under the Commonwealth Scotland remained a Monarchy under military occupation. So the Scottish Bishops had already lived through one Stuart who had fled into exile only to regroup and return to Scotland. No doubt this experience fueled their hope that when James VII & II fled that he, like his brother, would return to reclaim the Thrones.

The last thing that may help give an insight into the Bishops’ mindset is to examine the coming of the Prince of Orange from a Scottish perspective. Once again the Scottish Church and Parliament had no part in the discussions to invite William to invade England and take the throne. In fact neither did the English Church or Parliament as the ‘Immortal Seven’ (5 Earls, 1 Viscount, and the Bishop of London) invited him on their own with no legal validity or mandate to do so by any official body - English or Scots. The Scottish Bishops who: had remained loyal to the Stuarts since the time of Robert II; fought for Charles I; had no say in his execution; proclaimed Charles II King of Scots ten years before the Restoration of the Monarchy in England; fought for him against the Lord Protector; endured a decade of military occupation; and were rewarded with complete restoration of the Episcopacy upon the Return of the exiled Stuart; could hardly be expected to have any regard for William who had suddenly appeared with no mandate or claim other than the private appeal of just seven Englishmen and the strength of an army to depose a Ruling and Reigning Stuart Monarch. One may not agree with the wisdom, romanticism, legalistic nature, or lack of pragmatism of such a mindset but it would improbable to expect anything else of the Scottish Episcopate at this time.

To return to the history, the Episcopal Church now comprised those Bishops who had become Non-Jurors and the clergy and laity that remained loyal to them. This new church was not only not established, or even un-established it was rather disestablished. This is an important factor in the formation of the Episcopal Church. By 1704 there were only four Bishops left and a crisis arose when the ‘de jure’ King James VII refused to nominate Bishops to vacant Sees. The Bishops decided to consecrate two new Bishops without appointing them to sees. After negotiations with the Non-Juring Bishops in England a further consecration of Bishops took place in London in 1711.

Queen Anne’s Act of Toleration of 1712 legally recognized the ‘Episcopal Communion in that Part of Great Britain called Scotland’. In order to be legally recognized, however, the clergy were required to: take an Oath of Abjuration of James VIII & III (her brother) and his descendants; Pray for Queen Anne and her successor, the Electress Sophia of Hanover; and use the English Prayer Book of 1662. Again, all of the Bishops and most of the clergy refused. However, a small number of clergy agreed and this led to a split between the majority illegal ‘unqualified’ Episcopal clergy and the minority legal ‘qualified’ Episcopal clergy. However the unqualified clergy were not overly harassed. With the death of Queen Anne this brief moment of toleration ended.

When the German George I took the Throne it provoked the Jacobite Rising of 1715. The Scottish Bishops supported the Stuart King James VIII & III, the eldest Son of James VII & II. When the Rising fell the first of the Penal Laws were enacted. The Penal Act of 1719 forbade Episcopal clergy from officiating in the presence of more than nine persons beyond their households, and imposed six month prison sentences on those who would not pray for the Hanoverian King. The qualified clergy took the Oath of Allegiance to the German King.

By 1720 the only Diocesan Bishop left was Bishop Rose. When he died none of the other Bishops possessed any jurisdictional claims. The clergy of Edinburgh elected a successor and the remaining Bishops ratified the decision and consecrated him. They also gave him a new title ‘Primus’. The term is either taken from the old Scottish title ‘Primus Episcopus’ or the Latin phrase ‘Primus Inter Pares’ meaning ‘first amongst equals’. The Primus had no Metropolitical powers but rather was the president of the College of Bishops. Metropolitical power was vested in and exercised by the College itself. The Stuart King James VIII & III ratified this innovative move. Still tensions remained between the Bishops in the College with Sees and those without. In 1731 it was agreed that the consent of the College was required for any new consecrations, the Primus was to be elected from within the College, and all the Bishops would have jurisdictions. A code of Canons reflecting this new system followed in 1734. The decision of the Bishops not to interfere with the rights and privileges of the government or the Established Church indicate that there was still some hope that they would return from exile. The Jacobite Rising of 1745 ended any such dream.

The failure of the future Stuart King Charles III to secure the throne for his Father, James VIII & III, and his final defeat at the Battle of Culloden on the 16th of April 1746 led to the even harsher Penal Laws of 1746 and 1748. Now Episcopal clergy were forbidden to officiate at all unless they took the Oath of Allegiance to the Hanoverian Dynasty and also took an Oath of Abjuration of the Stuart Dynasty. The oaths also had to be taken before September 1746. Failure to do so would lead to imprisonment in the first offence and deportation to America for the second. Even if the oaths had been taken, an Episcopal priest could still not officiate for more than four people and it was required for him to have been ordained by either an English or an Irish Bishop.

“Only five clergymen attempted to avail themselves of the provisions of the Act by ‘qualifying’, and these continued to officiate in meeting-houses.”vii

The 1748 laws went further to state that all Letters of Orders must come from an English or Irish Bishop and that all previous registrations of clergy by Scottish Bishops were ‘null and void’. The Penal Laws of 1746 and 1748 thus effectively outlawed the Episcopal Church and made it almost impossible for the Episcopal clergy to survive. Bishops and Priests could not officiate, had no incomes, Rectories or Churches, and could not seek employment outside of the Kingdom. Sir Walter Scott’s famous description of the Episcopal Church describes her state at the end of the Reign of George III as:

“Reduced to a mere shadow of a shade.”viii

The Death of Stuart Kings James VIII & III in 1766 and Charles III in 1788 relieved the pressure on the Jacobites. However Charles’s younger brother and the last direct Stuart in the senior line, Henry IX the Cardinal Duke of York, lived on until 1807. Still many, like Bishop John Skinner of Aberdeen, saw Charles III’s death as allowing for an Oath of Allegiance to be taken to the Hanoverian Kings. Bishop Skinner, Primus from 1788, did much to secure the continued existence of Episcopalianism by arranging for the repeal of the Penal Acts in 1792. The repeal of the Penal Acts passed as the Scottish Episcopalians Relief Act. However the Relief Act still left conditions on the Episcopal Clergy: 1) The requirement to take the Oaths; 2) the registration of places of worship; 3) the illegality of locking doors or barring gates at places of Episcopal worship; 4) the subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England; and 5) the requirement to Pray for the Hanoverian Monarch and the Royal Family by name at every public service. These requirements were not repealed until 1977.

Bishop Skinner also arranged the consecration of the first Bishop for the United States in 1784. The brevity of this paper necessitates the absence of any further treatment of the Consecration of Bishop Seabury and his commitment to Scottish liturgical and ecclesiastical usage. (The romantic story of his consecration is widely known but the historic and politically complex series of events which led to it is rather less so. For a more detailed analysis I commend Chapter Three of Canon Gavin Whites’ book The Scottish Episcopal Church: A New History.) Bishop Skinner arranged for the qualified and unqualified clergy to come together by convincing the Scottish Church to accept the conditions of the Repeal Act and adopt the Thirty Nine Articles at the Council of Laurencekirk in 1804.

The nineteenth century saw a revival in the fortunes of the Scottish Episcopal Church partially fuelled by the Oxford Movement and the reorganization of the church. However, it was not until 1864 that a Bill was passed by Parliament that allowed the Church of England to officially recognise the validity of Scottish Orders by abolishing the final clerical disability from the Relief Act of 1792. This allowed Scottish Clergy to apply for Church of England livings and for the two churches to come into full communion (The Scottish Church recognised English Orders although the English Church did not recognise Scottish Orders). Although a similar Bill introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury was passed in 1840, this only allowed Scottish Episcopal clergy to serve in the Church of England with a special license that was valid for only two days. Since the Kingdoms of Scotland and England ceased to be Roman Catholic at the Reformation, the Scottish Church and the English Church have only been in communion for a remarkably short period of time. The Consecration of Bishops Abroad Act of 1786 enabled the Church of England to consecrate Bishops for the American church in 1787 and 1790. Thus, ironically, the daughter of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church in the USA, was the first independent Province of what would become the Anglican Communion and not the Scottish Episcopal Church herself. I hope I have sufficiently emphasised the lack of historic ties between the two churches.

I now turn my attention specifically to the points of commonality suggested by the Anglican Covenant: 1) The historic formularies of the Church of England – A) The Thirty-Nine Articles, B) the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and C) the Ordering of Bishops Priests and Deacons. I begin with the most obvious historical fallacy envisioned by the Covenant – that all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion have some commonality with the Church of England. The formative period of the Church of England under the Tudors (Henry VIII’s break with Rome, The Prayer Book of 1552 under Edward VI, Elizabeth I’s Act of Uniformity) happened in a different country under a different Monarchy. Scotland never had a Tudor Monarch and does not begin to ‘share’ any common history with England until the Scottish Royal House inherited the English Throne in 1603. Yet even under the Royal House of Stuart the Church in Scotland and the Church of England were two separate bodies – however much the Stuarts wished to make the two parallel. The Scottish Episcopal Church was not only not part of the Church of England, it was actively persecuted by the Church of England (at least in its Erastian mode as the Established Church) and she only recognised the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1864 – 360 years after the Union of Crowns, 157 years after the Union of Parliaments, and 77 years after the recognition of the church in America. Although I will return to it in the next section and it has already been mentioned, it is worth noting here that the final conditions of the Repeal Act were only abolished in 1977. In 1861 the following was written in support of repealing the conditions of the Scottish Episcopalians Relief Act of 1792:

“Yet, up to the present day, these Scottish bishops and all the clergy ordained by them are under political ban denied the privileges conceded to all other subjects of her Majesty; denied what is conceded even to bishops and clergy of the Church of Rome, wherever ordained, all over the world denied what is conceded to Presbyterians of all classes, to Dissenters of every form, And why is all this? Simply because, in former days, the Episcopalians of Scotland were, as a body, faithful to their ancient loyalty to the House of Stuart.

Why then is it that there should he any political ban against these men? clergy or laity? Do her Majesty's advisers really think that her peaceful possession of the crown which she adorns is yet in danger from these ancient adherents to the House of Stuart? May we not rather believe that her Majesty and her advisers are ignorant that the oppressive restraints exist; and that the Government fail to do justice to those who suffer from them, simply because of indolence; because the sufferers are few in number; not of much political weight; peaceful, not noisy, under their oppression?”ix

There was a good deal of dialogue between the Scottish clergy and the Non-Juring clergy in England but it needs to be remembered that the English Non-Jurors were not part of the Established Church of England and had also been deprived of their livings and Sees.

The Thirty-Nine Articles were not part of the tradition of the Scottish Church and the mode of their introduction does not suggest that they can be used as a common link to the Communion. By the end of the nineteenth century the Scottish church was in ruins. The cumulative effect of the Penal Laws of 1719, 1746, and 1748 had taken their toll. The existence of the small number of ‘qualified’ clergy and chapels posed a serious threat to the Scottish Bishops. These chapels were not under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Bishops and were the only legal expression of Episcopal worship allowed in Scotland. These clergy had all been ordained and licensed by either English or Irish Bishops and used the English Prayer Book of 1662. It was a genuine fear that the Scottish Episcopate, the Non-Juring tradition, and the rich liturgical usage of the Scottish Church would be replaced by the qualified English parallel system.

In order to preserve the Scottish Church reunification between the qualified and unqualified systems had to be achieved. The Repeal Act not only required the Oaths of allegiance and Abjuration but also the subscription to the Thirty-Nine articles for qualification. Bishop Skinner thus arranged for the unqualified church to adopt the Thirty-Nine Articles which would effectively end the division and open a path of survival for the Scottish tradition. Whether the Scottish clergy were theologically open to the Articles or vehemently opposed to them is irrelevant, the fact is that the Scottish clergy were forced into a position where they had to adopt them or face supplantation and extinction. By 1792 the Scottish Episcopal Church was almost dead.

"In 1792 the Penal Laws were repealed, all but one. This one disability was to hamper the Scottish clergy for some seventy years yet. No priest, unless ordained by an English or Irish Bishop, might accept a charge in the Church of England. Otherwise the church was free if impoverished, weakened, almost drained of life. Bishop Mitchell has given some details: in 1689 she held two-thirds of the people of Scotland with six hundred clergy; now she had only four Bishops, forty priests, and only a twentieth of the people.”x

Thus the Articles of the Church of England were used by law to subjugate a suspect party and force submission to accepting an Anglicised political point of view and not a theological one. I contend that the legal requirement for their use by the qualified Episcopal clergy in Scotland in effect gave a weakened fearful church no choice but to accept them. The attitude of the Scottish Church to the Articles can be clearly seen when, 215 years after having been first introduced, the Repeal of the Scottish Episcopalian Relief Act of 1792 was finally passed in 1977. At the very first meeting of the Church Council (later to be General Synod) in 1979 the Scottish Church abandoned the Articles. In other words - the minute the legal requirement to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles was lifted, even though over two hundred years had passed, the Articles were immediately dropped. Thus the Thirty-Nine Articles in Scotland are a sign of intolerance, lack of religious freedom, and an oppressive legal imposition by a dominant body on that of a minority party, and not only a weaker party but a dying one. It is not much of a stretch to class it as a type of ecclesiastical colonialism. The Government’s introduction to the Repeal of the Act even states:

“The obligation to say prayers for the Royal Family is not regarded as burdensome but there is no reason now why this obligation, or the obligation to make a declaration accepting the doctrines of another church, should be enforced by law; and the repeal of these provisions is agreed to by The Queen and the Episcopal Church in Scotland. The legislation as a whole is offensive because of
its discriminatory nature, the provision for its enforcement (in some cases still at the instance of a common informer) by the machinery of the criminal law and the implication that it is required for the prevention of treason.”xi

The Anglican Covenant’s suggestion that the Thirty-Nine Articles are a sign of commonality is perversely (and I believe ironically) insensitive, and historically brutal. If anything the Thirty-Nine Articles in Scotland represent the opposite of commonality – divisiveness, disunity, abuse of power, and intolerance. Most damning of all for Christians, their imposition represents a lack of compassion for a defeated, suffering and incapacitated Christian body different from the dominant one. Of the Act of 1792 Blackwood and Sons in their legal brief said:

“The Act, in its whole terms, shows that it was wrung from an unwilling and ungenerous foe. Instead of simply repealing the persecuting Acts, and leaving the Episcopalians in Scotland free like their fellow-subjects, there is throughout the Act a narrow, illiberal spirit.”xii

It is historically questionable to suggest that the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 can be used as a sign of historic Anglican commonality in regards to the Scottish Church. The history of the Book of Common Prayer in Scotland is complicated. Many forget that most of the Reformers used either the 1549 or the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. The Episcopally minded Clergy tended to use the 1549 whilst those with Calvinist leanings used the 1552. John Knox himself regularly used parts of the 1552 until his death. The use of parts of the Book of Common Prayer is still legal for ministers of the Established Church of Scotland.

Before briefly describing the character of the 1637 Scottish Prayer Book we need to look at the issue of Usage. In 1618 the five Articles of Perth were introduced under James VI: 1) kneeling at reception of Communion; 2) Private Communion of the Sick; 3) Private Baptism in case of need; 4) Observance of the Holy Days of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost; and 5) the Confirmation of children. Yet the more commonly understood issue of ‘Usages’ also played a significant part in the Scottish Episcopal context: 1) the mixed chalice; 2) prayers for the Faithful Departed at the Altar; 3) the use of an Epiclesis as part of the consecration of the Elements; and 4) the use of a Prayer of Oblation; 5) Baptism by immersion; 6) the use of Chrism in Confirmation; 7) the sign of the cross; 8) the anointing of the sick; and 9) the reserved Sacrament for the use of the sick. Many of the Episcopal clergy and Bishops were ‘Usagers’:

“But in Scotland they occupied the chief thoughts of the scattered and depressed remnant of the Episcopal clergy.”xiii

Furthermore the situation became more complicated when the remaining Diocesan Bishops were non usagers but the rest of the College of Bishops were usagers. The ‘First Concordat’ was reached by the Bishops in 1731 that limited the imposition of the usages by any one Bishop unless the Primus and the rest of the College agreed. They also decided that either the English Communion Office without usages or the Scottish Communion Office with usages were both legal.

The First Scottish Prayer Book was introduced in 1637 and differed substantially from either 1552 or 1559. The 1637 Scottish Prayer Book was based on the 1549 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England and thus restored the ancient structure of the canon with both the anamnesis as well as an epiclesis included. Much has been made of the 1637 Communion Office so I shall therefore only briefly highlight the significant change it made to previous Reformed Eucharistic theologies. The first difference was the inclusion of an offertory prayer before the Eucharist that suggested a doctrine of the Real Presence.

More significantly the 1637 saw the introduction of an Epiclesis into the Communion rite:

“Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee and of thy almighty goodness vouchsafe so to bless and sanctify with thy word and Holy Spirit these thy creatures of bread and wine, that they may be unto us the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved Son: so that we receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of the same his most precious body and blood.”xiv

This is the first instance of an Eastern consecration theology in a Reformed Western church. It is worth noting that in the 1637 Prayer Book the epiclesis comes before the Words of Institution whereas in later Scottish Communion Offices it comes after the Words of Institution. The theological implications of a pre-institution epiclesis versus a post-institution epiclesis is too complicated to go into in such a short paper. W. Jardine Grisbrooke and Marion Hatchett have written extensively on this issue.

The 1637, as the 1549, places the Lord’s Prayer and the Prayer of Humble Access before the receiving of Communion. The placement of these prayers before the consecrated elements strongly suggests a Eucharistic theology of the Real Presence. The Words of Institution also only include the 1549 use:

“The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Amen. The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Amen.”xv

The association of the bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ is a further indication of the doctrine of the Real Presence.

Father Brian Douglas says of the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637:

"It has been argued that this book represents the first attempt on the part of Anglican bishops to move outside the Reformation model of the Eucharist, both doctrinally and liturgically, established by Cranmer (Jardine Grisbrooke, 1958: 18). Although the 1637 book made use of Cranmer’s prayers, it understood them in a different way, as is indicated by the inclusion of the anamnesis and the epiclesis, and the clearer statements of moderate realism in relation to Christ’s presence and sacrifice in the Eucharist of that book. It seems that the 1637 book “was but expressing practically what had already been formulated doctrinally” (Jardine Grisbrooke, 1958: 17). The 1637 Scottish Book of Common Prayer establishes a tradition where moderate realism in relation to the presence and sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist, is clearly intended. It is on this tradition that further liturgical development occurred, for example the Scottish Liturgy of 1764 and the various prayer books of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, and where the doctrine of a real, yet spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist and a doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice, based on moderate realism, were firmly established within the Anglican tradition. It is this tradition which is inherited and used in the many of the Anglican Eucharistic liturgies in the present day.”xvi

Bishop Gadderer of Aberdeen revised the Scottish Communion Rite of 1637 in 1724. There were Communion Offices issued in 1718, 1724, 1735, 1755 and 1764. All kept the Eastern tradition of the Scottish Liturgy. Bishop Rattray’s research into Eastern Liturgies made him favour either 1718 or 1735. Bishop Thomas Rattray was Bishop of Brechin then Dunkeld and finally Edinburgh. He was a scholar of Eastern Orthodox liturgy and theology and his edition of the Liturgy of St James also included a rite for use by Episcopalians. The 1764 rite closely follows that of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.

It was Bishop Rattray who translated Non-Juring letters into Greek for the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Moscow during the unification talks. It may be noted that there is some debate whether the proposed recognition by the Orthodox East led to the Eastern nature of Non-Juring liturgy or whether the interest in Eastern Liturgy and theology led the Non-Jurors to seek support from the East. The Scottish Church’s negotiations came to an end when the conversations with the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of Moscow became public and the Church of England made diplomatic protests forcing the Patriarchs to cease negotiations.

As for the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, it was used as early as the beginning of the eighteenth century. This may have been partially to limit the appeal of the qualified chapels which were required to use it. After 1788, when qualified clergy came into the Scottish Church they were guaranteed the right to use the 1662 Communion Office but not the rest of the book. Yet although the 1662 was in use by the Scottish Church it is important to remember that it was not technically the ‘official’ Prayer Book of the Scottish Church, but rather 1637 was with one of the 18th century Communion Rites. If serious financial constraints had not been an issue then it is probable that either the 1637 or another Scottish Prayer Book would have been printed and used. It is worth noting that Queen Anne sent a thousand free copies to Scotland after the Act of Toleration. However, ironically, it seems as if many of these books found there way into the hands of the Established Church instead of the Episcopal Church. What is important is that the 1662 book was used but was modified by the ‘wee bookies’. The English Communion Office from the English Prayer Book of 1662 was also widely used and continued to be an alternate legal Communion Rite for Episcopalians.

However, the Scottish Church envisioned her distinct theology as residing in her Eucharistic theology which is at the core of the Book of Common Prayer. She insisted that the Scottish Rite was the ‘official’ one and was to be protected. This was enshrined in the Canons of 1743 when the Bishops unanimously commended its use. The Canons of 1811 go further:

“While the Scottish Communion Office was commended ‘as the authorized service of the Episcopal Church in the administration of that sacrament’, permission was given to use the English Office in those congregations which had recently come under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Bishops. The Scottish Communion Office was to be used in all consecrations of Bishops, and every Bishop, when consecrated, was to give his full assent to it, ‘as being sound in itself, and of primary authority in Scotland.”xvii

Thus the Eucharistic theology of the Scottish Rite was the position of the Church whilst the English Office was allowed for pastoral or circumstantial use. This shows that the Eucharistic theology of the 1549 was retained by the Episcopalians and further developed in a way that is completely at odds with the Eucharistic theology of the 1662. The use of the 1662 Communion Office is also not the same as the Prayer Book of 1662 but only one part of it. Yet even if we assume universal usage of the 1662 Communion Office from its issue (which was not the case) the Scottish Church would still have only used it exclusively for 56 years and this would hardly constitute a historical sign of commonality with the Church of England.

The issue of the Scottish and English Communion Office and the usages brings up another factor in the Scottish Church – that of regional use. The North, especially Aberdeenshire which contained the largest number of Episcopalians, consistently used the Scottish Office and tended to be usagers whilst the other large group of Episcopalians in the South, centered on Edinburgh, tended to be more anglicised and tended to use the English Communion Office. This is partially because Edinburgh had the largest number of qualified chapels and later the largest number of qualified clergy entering into the Episcopal Church. The tension between North and South is a constant factor in the history of the Scottish Church.

It will come as no surprise that the use of the Church of England Ordinal has a similar history in Scotland to that of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Before 1689 there were distinct ordination rites in the Established Church which was still Episcopal. After this time the Ordinal of 1662 was used but with some minor changes. The following Canons are inserted after the Preface in the first full Scottish Prayer Book since the 1637, the 1911:

“1. The Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons shall be according to the “Form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons “set forth together with the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, with the following alterations: The reading of the King’s mandate, the oath of the King’s supremacy, and the oath of obedience to the Archbishop shall be omitted. In the interrogations the words “this Church” shall be substituted for “this Realm” or “this Church of England” or “this Church and Realm.” At the ordination of Priests and Deacons, a Priest appointed by the Bishop shall do what is directed in the Form to be done by the Archdeacon. At the consecration of Bishops the Primus when present shall do what is directed in the Form to be done by the Archbishop, but in the absence of the Primus the senior Bishop present shall act in his place unless it be otherwise unanimously agreed by the Bishops present.2. All ordinations of Priests and Deacons shall be held at the Ember Seasons, unless, for reasons which may seem to him sufficient, the Bishop shall appoint another time.”xviii

I have shown that the History of the Church of England, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 do not constitute a historic commonality with the Anglican Communion as far as the Scottish Episcopal Church is concerned. If anything these points of commonality often highlight points of contention and disagreement.

I contend that the Anglican Covenant is lacking in integrity by trying to insist on a commonality that does not exist. In a church that prizes cultural diversity and Provincial autonomy this is a worrying feature. The points of historic commonality sound a discordant note at the very beginning of a document that seeks to draw the Provinces of the Communion closer together as a family of churches. To begin this process by ignoring or trying to sweep under the carpet the difference of one of the members is more than a little troubling (it is widely rumoured that the issue of the history of the Scottish Church and the Covenant that this paper addresses was raised in the Covenant Draft Group who chose to ignore it).

An argument that the Scottish and American Church are the odd ones out and that most of the rest of the Provinces do share a commonality with the Church of England may be made. However, a system that seeks to forge a new community out of thirty-eight members by pretending that two of them are ‘just like us’ is playing loose with historical and cultural respect. This approach disregards who they are, their unique history and culture, and builds the new relationship on a false understanding. Any marriage that starts this way is sure to fail, or at least leave one party dominated. The Scottish Church has been through this before. The almost three hundred year relationship between the Episcopal Church of Scotland and the Church of England from 1689 to 1977 is a deeply troubling one. To have the Anglican Covenant gloss over it and rewrite history is even more so.

Timetable of Legal Acts

  1. 1560, Break with Papacy, James VI & Scottish Parliament

  2. 1567, Retention of Episcopate, James VI & Scottish Parliament

  3. 1592, Golden Act, James VI & Scottish Parliament

  4. 1610, Episcopal Function Reintroduced, James VI & Scottish Parliament

  5. 1638, Episcopate Abolished, General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

  6. 1639, Episcopate Abolished, Scottish Parliament

  7. 1661, Episcopacy Re-established, Charles II & Scottish Parliament

  8. 1689, Episcopacy Finally Abolished, William and Mary & Scottish Parliament

  9. 1693, Oath of Accession, William and Mary & Scottish Parliament

  10. 1712 Act of Toleration Queen Anne & Parliament of Great Britain

  11. 1719, 1st Penal Laws, George I & Parliament of Great Britain

  12. 1746, 2nd Penal Laws, George II & Parliament of Great Britain

  13. 1748, 3rd Penal Laws, George II & Parliament of Great Britain

  14. 1786, Consecration of Bishops Abroad Act, George III & Parliament of Great Britain

  15. 1792, Scottish Episcopalian Relief Act, George III & Parliament of Great Britain

  16. 1840, 1st Repeal of Clerical Disabilities, William IV & Parliament of UK & Ireland

  17. 1861, Privy Council Decision: Long v. Gray, Queen Victoria & Judicial Committee of the PC

  18. 1864, 2nd Repeal of Clerical Disabilities, Queen Victoria & Parliament of UK & Ireland

  19. 1977, Repeal of the Relief Act, Elizabeth II & Parliament of UK & Northern Ireland


  • Burleigh, J.H.S. A Church History of Scotland. Edinburgh: Hope Trust, 1988.

  • Craik, Sir Henry. A Century of Scottish History Volume I: From the Days Before the ’45 to Those Within Living Memory. William Blackwoods & Sons, 1901.

  • Donaldson, Gordon. “Scottish Ordination in the Restoration Period” The Scottish Historical Review 33, no. 116. (October 1954): 169-175.

  • Douglas, Brian. “Case Study 1.4: Scottish Prayer Book of 1637.” Anglican Eucharistic Theology.

  • Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993.

  • Goldie, Frederick. A Short History of the Episcopal Church in Scotland: Revised Edition. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrews Press, 1976.

  • Guild, Ivor. “Synodical Government in the Scottish Episcopal Church.” Ecclesiastical Law Journal Volume 4 (1996): 493-496.

  • The Law Commission (No. 80) & the Scottish Law Commission (No. 44) Statute Law Review: Eighth Report, Draft Statute Law (Repeals) Bill, Presented to Parliament by the Lord High Chancellor and the Lord Advocate by Command of Her Majesty, January 1977

  • Lochhead, Marion. Episcopal Scotland in the 19th Century. Edinburgh: John Murray, 1966.

  • “On the Civil Disabilities of the Scottish Episcopalians.” Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1861. Project Canterbury:

  • White, Gavin. The Scottish Episcopal Church: A New History. Digisource Limited, 1998.


    [i] The Anglican Covenant (2009), 1.

    [ii] The Anglican Covenant (2009), 1.

    [iii] Covenant Design Group, An Anglican Covenant Draft (April 2007), 1.

    [iv] Covenant Design Group, An Anglican Covenant Draft (April 2007), 1.

    [v] Gavin White, The Scottish Episcopal Church: A New History (Digisource Limited, 1998), 8.

    [vi] Marion Lochhead, Episcopal Scotland in the 19th Century (Edinburgh: John Murray, 1966) 11.

    [vii] Frederick Goldie, A Short History of the Episcopal Church in Scotland: Revised Edition (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrews Press, 1976) 59.

    [viii] Frederick Goldie, A Short History of the Episcopal Church in Scotland: Revised Edition (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrews Press, 1976) 61.

    [ix] “On the Civil Disabilities of the Scottish Episcopalians.” Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1861. Project Canterbury:

    [x] Marion Lochhead, Episcopal Scotland in the 19th Century (Edinburgh: John Murray, 1966) 36.

    [xi] The Law Commission (No. 80) & the Scottish Law Commission (No. 44) Statute Law Review: Eighth Report, Draft Statute Law (Repeals) Bill, Presented to Parliament by the Lord High Chancellor and the Lord Advocate by Command of Her Majesty, January 1977

    [xii] “On the Civil Disabilities of the Scottish Episcopalians.” Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1861. Project Canterbury:

    [xiii] Frederick Goldie, A Short History of the Episcopal Church in Scotland: Revised Edition (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrews Press, 1976) 48.

    [xiv] Scottish Prayer Book of 1637, Communion Office.

    [xv] Scottish Prayer Book of 1637, Communion Office.

    [xvi] Douglas, Brian. “Case Study 1.4: Scottish Prayer Book of 1637.” Anglican Eucharistic Theology.

    [xvii] Canons of the Scottish Episcopal Church, 1811.

    [xviii] Scottish Book of Common Prayer, 1911.


  • I would like to thank my long-suffering professor,The Rev'd Doctor Benjamin King, the Director of the Advanced Degree Program at Sewanee the University of the South for allowing me to kill two birds with one stone by using this paper produced for him for a secondary purpose.

    The Burning Bush


    Exodus. 3: 1-15

    “Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” Exodus. 3:1

    Why did Moses chose to lead the Priest of Mideon’s sheep ‘beyond the wilderness’ towards Mount Horeb. Was he simply seeking better grazing beyond the areas he already knew? Was he aware that Mount Horeb, or Mount Sinai, was called the Mountain of God? Was he seeking out Horeb out of idle curiosity or did he find himself on the Holy Mountain by chance? Regardless, as we know, he did find God. The God who would commission him to go down into Egypt and repeat this journey to Sinai once more, but this time as a shepherd of an entirely different kind of sheep, a strange flock – the children of God.

    Whilst wandering on the Holy Mountain Moses something catches his eye – a desert bush that seemed to be on fire and yet not consumed. He turns from his path to investigate this strange phenomena – and the history of the world turned. Burning but not consumed: a creature radiating the glory of God but not destroyed; a womb containing the eternal Word of God which even the universe could not contain and yet not destroyed (as the Orthodox Hymn says: “ blessed is the womb that contained that which the universe could not”); a true son of Eve who held in himself the fullness of the Godhead – God and yet Man; a universe of material and time sustained by the infinite and the eternal; The ceaseless movement of Three who remain unchanged and One; a people who die to the world and yet rise again to new life; bread and wine of time and place and yet the timeless communion with all time and all space; a Prophet who stuttered and strayed and yet became the Shepherd and mouthpiece of the Almighty. A bush engulfed with splendid light and roaring heat and yet - still, silent and unchanged.

    From this threshold, this door, this angel, this mouth, comes the voice of God. Moses is called by name There is no doubt in hearing his name, no confusion that he has imagined it, for the name comes immediately a second time. He responds, approaches, and obeys the command to remove his sandals ‘for you are standing on holy ground.’ Then out of awe and fearful to look upon God, he hides his face.

    And with what kind of God did he stand before with his face covered? “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” A God of relationships; a God who interacts with the ancestors and with Moses; a God of history and of the present moment. A God who cares; who sees; who listens; who has compassion; who hears; who sets free; and who leads into ‘green pastures’ Psalm 23:2 “I have observed the misery of my People”; “I have heard their cry”; “I know their sufferings”; “I have come to deliver them”; “to bring them out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey”.

    Moses stands at the edge of the abyss: God has called him to be the agent through whom God will accomplish his plan. He stammers out his fear and trepidation “Who am I that I shall go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” With what words does God reassure him? The words of relationship, of commitment “I will be with you.” No sign is given that Moses is not mad, is not suffering from exposure or the heat of the Arabian sun, instead is given the promise that he shall only know that God is who He says He is when, in the future, he shall once again stand upon the Holy Mountain with the children of God gathered at its base and “you shall worship God on this mountain”. God will be worshipped at Sinai, the law shall descend from the peak of smoke and fire – but not yet, not for a very long time. When it does occur this future reality of freedom shall confirm the promise of freedom from the past. You shall know the truth of the path on which you tread by where it will lead you.

    Moses still has one last objection before he is pulled over the chasm into a new world and a new life: “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?

    God said to Moses, “I am Who I Am.” Yahweh. Being. ‘He causes to be’. ‘He causes to be what comes into existence’. “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious33:19I say what I say”. Ezek. 12:25 No title is given, no proper name, no magical formula – instead only the attribute God His relationship with creation. Not who He is but rather what He does. God is the God of the ancestors, the God of history, to God of the present moment, the God who will lead His people into freedom, the God who cares, the God who Is.

    Why do we come to gather here on the morning of the Resurrection? Do we come out of idle curiosity? Do we faintly remember a promise we heard long ago that there is beyond the wilderness a Holy Mountain? Is there a folk memory that once upon a time God was to found here? Did we come to find God or simply seeking better pastures?

    I put it to you, that rather the question is - can we turn aside to dare approach the bush that is alight and yet whole? The one who was God in Man – burning but not devoured ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us’? John 1.1 &14 The Scriptures through whom speaks the word that can make “our hearts burn within us”? The bread and wine that is his Body and his Blood? This Jesus known in the breaking of bread? This mystery that burns upon the Altar but remains whole and makes us whole? Can we remember that ‘the place on which you are standing is holy ground’?

    Christ tells us that “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake shall find it.Mathew 16: 24-25 If Moses had wanted his life to remain his own, he should have fled from the Holy Mountain back into the wilderness, he should have turned away from the Burning Bush and run. To remain is to risk losing the life you knew. Those seeking better pastures for themselves will be called to lead those suffering, those crying out in the world, those who are oppressed and needy to a better home. To stay on the Holy Mountain and dare to speak with God is to lose one’s life. Yet Christ promises us that “Those who lose their life for my sake shall find it”.

    Moses came to Horeb as a stranger in a strange land, a refugee, the shepherd of another man’s sheep – and not just another man but a Priest of a foreign God, a man who could not speak with his own words. He came up to Horeb out of the wilderness. He went down from Horeb as God’s Shepherd, as God’s voice, as God’s Prophet of a freedom yet to come. Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow him, to lose our life so as to gain it, to cease living for the smaller concerns of just our own lives and find new life in the calling to serve in the vastness of God’s family. As Saint Paul tells us ‘It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me.Gal. 2:20 He calls us to burn with blazing light and roaring heat. To die and so to live. To burn and yet not be consumed. I end with one of the stories of the earliest monks, the Desert Fathers:

    “Lot went to Abba Joseph and said, “Abba, as far as I can, I keep a moderate rule, with a little fasting, and prayer and meditation, and quiet, and as far as I can, I try to cleanse my heart of evil thoughts. What else should I do?” Then the hermit stood up and spread out his hands to heaven, and his fingers shone like ten flames of fire, and he said, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

    CBS Letter

    The Venerable Edward Simonton OGS
    Archdeacon of Saint Andrews
    Life Member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament

    TO:The Charity Commission

    RE:The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (Charity Number 1082897)

    I write as a Life Member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (CBS) to formally complain about the one million pound grant given on May 27th 2011 by the Trustees of the Confraternity to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (an organisation of the Roman Catholic Church). I ask that you begin investigation into this matter as soon as possible.


    You have already received complaints about the fact that the grant is over 50% of the total assets of the Confraternity. You will also have been made aware that five of the six Trustees of the Confraternity are recent converts to the group receiving the grant and that the inclusion of members of the Ordinariate in the Confraternity is a very recent development (April 2010 or perhaps 2009). The Trustees at the time of awarding the grant were: The Rev’d Christopher Pearson (Joined the Roman Catholic Church in 2011); The Rev’d David Waller (Joined the Roman Catholic Church in 2011); The Rev’d Christopher Lindlar (Joined the Roman Catholic Church in 2011); and The Rev’d Stephen Bould (Joined the Roman Catholic Church in 2011); The Rev’d Irving Hamer; and one other Roman Catholic priest.

    It is clear from the last Annual Report of April 2010 that the Trustees believed the finances of the society should be stabilised:
    “The attached financial statements show that the Confraternity's finances have suffered as a result of the present global financial situation. The trustees are confident that this will resolve itself in the mid-long term, provided that expenditure is kept within the limits of income and that the shares are not sold to finance grants.”

    The grant of the 1 million pound grant is clearly not in keeping with the view of the Trustees the previous year. The primary thing that had changed is the denomination of most of the Trustees themselves.


    The ecclesiological background of the relationship between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church is key to understanding this situation. Although the Anglican Church recognises the validity of Roman Catholic Orders (the ordination of Bishops, Priests and Deacons) and the Sacraments they celebrate the Roman Catholic Church does not reciprocate. The Papal Bull Apostolicae Curae issued by Pope Leo XII in 1896 declares that Anglican Orders are “absolutely null and utter void”. This teaching is still adhered to. In 1998 the Present Pope, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a commentary on the Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem which listed the teaching on Anglican Orders as one that Roman Catholics must give “firm and definitive assent”. Those who fail to do so would “no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church”.

    Thus a Roman Catholic does not believe that Anglican Bishops, Priests and Deacons are actually ordained (thus are not actually Bishops, Priests or Deacons) or that they are able to celebrate the Sacraments. More to the point in this case, they do not believe that the Mass (Eucharist, Holy Communion) can be validly celebrated by an Anglican. In consequence a Roman Catholic does not recognise the Sacrament (the bread and wine after the Mass has been celebrated which the faithful then believe to be the Body and Blood of Christ) celebrated by an Anglican. Thus five of the six Trustees that made the grant, by nature of their membership in the Ordinariate, did not believe that the aims of the Confraternity were being met by the vast majority of the membership.

    Unlike other devotional societies which could happily include members of different denominations united by a particular theological conviction such as the Society of May, the CBS exists (as stated in its Constitution) to promote “3.1.1 the honour due to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood” and 3.1.4 “the reverent and dignified celebration of the Eucharist and the reservation and veneration of the Blessed Sacrament”. However the Superior General and the other CBS members of the Ordinariate deny that Christ is present in the Sacrament as celebrated by the Anglican Communion or that any celebration of the Eucharist even takes place (let alone reverently), not to mention the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament. Thus the very nature of the Confraternity instead of uniting all members in a theological conviction has instead divided the membership and become an issue of deep theological disagreement.

    I contend that the aims of the society are unable to be met by the Trustees that have joined the Roman Catholic Church. As a matter of obedience to their church and as a matter of conscience they will no longer be able to award grants to Anglican churches or societies for the furtherance of the society’s aims as they no longer believe that those objectives can be met within the Anglican Church. To continue to do so would be farcical. The Trustees that have joined the Ordinariate are no longer able to fulfil their role as Trustees as they control monies from Anglican sources that will have to be spent solely on Roman Catholics (if they conform to their Church’s teachings).

    In the Annual Report of April 29th 2010 the CBS states that its objects are:
    “The Confraternity exists for the advancement of the catholic faith in the Anglican Tradition and in particular to promote: The honour due to Jesus Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood; prayer for one another at the Eucharist; careful preparation for and reception of Holy Communion, including the Eucharistic fast; the reverence and dignified celebration of the Eucharist and the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament; the continuance of the catholic priesthood, and; catholic theological teaching, learning and development.”

    The Roman Catholic trustees can no longer promote any of these aims except the last unless it is only for the few Roman Catholic members. Practically within the life of the society, this places them, and especially the Superior General The Rev’d Christopher Pearson, in an untenable position. The Superior General can no longer celebrate the Mass at Confraternity gatherings without excluding the vast majority of the Confraternity as the Roman Catholic Church does not allow Roman Catholic Priests to give communion to Anglicans. It also means that the Superior General and all the Trustees but one cannot receive the Sacrament when an Anglican says Mass or reverence the Sacrament when that Sacrament has been consecrated by an Anglican. This means that all services of veneration by the Confraternity must now be celebrated by the minority priests of the Ordinariate because Anglicans do acknowledge the validly of Roman Catholic Orders and the Sacraments they celebrate. In effect this amounts to a takeover by a small number of Roman Catholics of a charity founded as an Anglican Charity and which historically and numerically has always been so.


    Using the same reasoning I contend that the Counsel General when it allowed the Ordinariate to be one of the churches from which membership could be drawn from made a decision that ran contrary to the Constitution and thus was beyond its scope to do. The Council-General by making the decision to allow members of the Ordinariate into the CBS effectively was a Trojan Horse, and like it I believe the receivers were unaware of what they were ecclesiologically getting. It is questionable whether the Council-General had sufficient knowledge of this when the vote was taken to allow the cuckoo into the nest.

    I would also point out that nine of the twenty five members of Counsel General (36%) were Roman Catholics when the grant to the Roman Catholic Ordinariate was finally approved and re-elected the now Roman Catholic Superior General.


    The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament was founded by Anglicans as part of a movement within the Church of England. Its nature as an Anglican society may be clearly seen by the fact that its membership has been made of Anglicans and more telling that almost all grants of money since the founding of the society have been to Anglicans.

    The CBS itself (in the most recent Annual Report of April 2010) states its purposes:
    “In furtherance of these objects the Confraternity organises services and meetings at national, District and local Ward level. It publishes a Manual of devotions for public and private use by Associates. The Quarterly contains Eucharistic teaching and also contains Intercessions to help Associates fulfil the second Object. It encourages adherence to the third Object by teaching through the Manual and Quarterly and by example in its own services. It gives grants of vessels and vestments to parishes at home and abroad for the reverent celebration and Reservation of the Eucharist.

    It also provides funding to other groups for purposes which reflect the Confraternity's Objects; this includes efforts to ensure that there will continue to be priests ordained in accordance with traditional Catholic order and sacraments on which Catholics can rely within the Church of England.

    No material change in these policies has been introduced during the past year.”

    As a point of history, the founder of the Confraternity, The Rev’d Canon T.T. Carter, was firmly against conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. He even wrote a book trying to dissuade Anglicans from becoming Roman Catholics: The Roman Question, in Letters to a Friend (London: J. Masters, 1888).


    In a recent document entitled ‘Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament: Questions and Answers’ the leadership contends that The CBS is not an Anglican charity and justifies the grant given to the Ordinariate by stating that the Ordinariate is ‘in’ the Anglican Tradition. This is a blatant redefinition of the historical usage of the term by the Confraternity. For 148 years the Confraternity has interpreted ‘Anglican Tradition” as meaning the Church of England and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion and Churches in communion with it. To include the Ordinariate, that denies the validity of Anglican Orders and Sacraments, is a contentious and self serving reinterpretation. To give over half of the charities funds to a body does not recognise the Anglican Church and then to claim it is ‘within the Anglican tradition’ is simply absurd. I ask the Charity Commission to take the recent developments against the backdrop of the founding and last 148 years of the 149 years of the charity into consideration.


    The Trustees are accountable for operating the charity within the scope of the aim of the original trust. Changes to the operations and the rules should be in the spirit of the original trust. Changes to the rule and aims without suitable consultation should not be considered legal.

    I also question whether the Trustees declared their personal interest in the matter of the grant correctly. They should have declared their interest before discussion on the matter and then absented themselves from the meeting (unless asked to stay by the non interested parties) during the discussion. They should have absented themselves from the vote. They also should not have been counted as part of quorum. This did not happen because if it had then there would have been only one Trustee in the room with no one to discuss anything with (unless he himself asked everyone else to stay) and he would have had to vote on the matter by himself.
    The Trustees claim that they will not directly benefit from the grant. This is untrue. The Ordinariate has limited funds and must pay for the new clergy that have joined it. Although the grant from the Confraternity could be kept as a separate amount and money from this fund not be paid to the Trustees the fact is that the grant frees up the other money to pay them. If you only have twenty pounds and fifteen pounds has come from another source, it is disingenuous to claim you are being paid from the five pounds that originally existed.


    The Confraternity is not known for making huge decisions or being the centre of attention. For decades it has gone about its business with dignity and perseverance without rocking the boat. Thus it took ordinarily members by surprise to find out that something as huge as the grant of over half our assets had been given to the Ordinariate, that five of the Trustees had become members of that organisation, and unfortunately, that the CBS Council-General last year had allowed Ordinariate members to join. Although it is the responsibility of the membership to pay close attention to what is happening in the society it is understandable that people did not because nothing like this has ever happened before. So I believe it is against the wishes of the membership of the Charity. The fact that the membership was not consulted before such an unprecedented move, and not informed that the Superior General and the Trustees had become members of the Ordinariate gives the impression of secrecy and Machiavellian machinations.

    This is added to by the Superior-General, in his letter of 5th July 2011, informing the membership that “all membership and district elections are suspended until the Council-General next meets in June 2012”. The festival of the Confraternity scheduled for November of this year has also been cancelled. In leadership common sense, adaptability, and integrity are recognised traits. For the leadership of the Confraternity to treat a million pound grant as ‘ordinary business’ is disingenuous. I contend that such an unprecedented use of charity funds should have led to a consultation of the whole membership of the charity to seek guidance and input. The failure to do so gives the impression that not making the grant public until it had already been awarded gives credence to the belief that the Trustees knew it would be controversial and would not receive the support of the society. Whether this was a lack of common sense, adaptability or integrity is not a judgement I am in a position to make.


    What has occurred in the last calendar year amounts to a political and financial takeover of an Anglican charity by a small number of Roman Catholic members of the leadership that is at odds with the previous 148 years of its history.

    To conclude I ask that the Charity Commission investigate the running of the CBS, the actions of the Trustees, and , specifically, the grant made by them to the Roman Catholic Ordinariate in England and Wales. It is my hope that the million pounds given to the Ordinariate will be returned to the Confraternity and that the Roman Catholic Trustees will be replaced.

    Below is the final decision of the Charity Commission, June 28th 2012.

    Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament

    The Charities
    The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (“the Confraternity”)
    The charity’s purposes are the advancement of the catholic faith in the Anglican Tradition.
    The Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham (“the Ordinariate”)
    The charity ‘s purpose is closely connected to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham which established a structure that enabled former Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church . The charity was established to advance the catholic religion by any of the charitable activities undertaken by or in connection with the Personal Ordinariate.
    The Background
    The Commission received a substantial number of complaints about a grant of £1m which the trustees of the Confraternity had made to the Ordinariate.
    Our regulatory concerns
    • Whether the trustees’ decision to make the grant was validly made (in particular, whether the trustee body was inquorate because the trustees were subject to a “personal interest” which meant they were not entitled to act).
    • Whether the grant was wholly within the objects of the Confraternity
    The decision review
    During our engagement with the charities the Commission set out its provisional conclusions. Both charities co-operated fully with our staff but, having taken legal advice, disagreed with our provisional conclusions. For this reason, we asked a member of our Senior Management Team to review our initial findings under our decision review procedure.
    Our review concluded that:
    • The decision to make a grant to the Ordinariate was taken at an inquorate meeting, the majority of the trustees having a (financial) personal interest in the decision. It was also in breach of the charity’s governing document.
    • The meeting being inquorate, the decision was invalid. There was no valid exercise of the power to make a gift to the Ordinariate and the payment was unauthorised.
    • The gift is held upon constructive trust by the Ordinariate for the Confraternity.
    • The objects of the Ordinariate are wider than those of the Confraternity. A gift given to the Ordinariate without restriction could be used for purposes which have no connection with the Anglican tradition at all.
    • The precise meaning of Anglican Tradition is unclear but there is substantial doubt whether the Confraternity could make a grant to the Ordinariate (even with restrictions) which could be applied by the Ordinariate consistently with the objects of the Confraternity.
    • The Commission therefore considered the trustees of both charities were under a duty to take action to ensure the repayment of the money.
    • We have been informed that the grant has been returned in full (with interest) by the Ordinariate of its own volition.
    • We continue to work with the charities to ensure that all our regulatory concerns have been addressed.