St John the Evangelist Church, Floors Street, Johnstone PA5 8QS
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The Scottish Episcopal Church - United Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway

Welcome to St John the Evangelist Church

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A Welcome to the Episcopal Church in Scotland booklet image

A Welcome to the Episcopal Church in Scotland

This booklet is currently out of print but the text has been transcribed below.
Welcome to this church and to the others in Scotland which belonged to the Anglican tradition and which make up the Episcopal Church in Scotland. We are a little a small minority church, and while we are not proud of the divisions which affect the Christians in Scotland (as in the rest of the world)we feel we do have our distinctive contribution to make to the whole church and nation. We have a very long tradition and we would like to share it with you and I ask you to think and pray with us about the contribution which an understanding of the past can make towards future unity and concord among Christians.

To be an Episcopalian in Scotland is to belong to the worldwide Anglican Communion. That is not the same as being a member of the Church of England. Our offices are similar and our liturgical year shares the same pattern as other Anglican worship, but we are an independent church. The Scottish Episcopal Church is not to be confused with the Church of Scotland.

The Presbyterian Church of Scotland is the national church, as the Church of England is established in England. The Church of Scotland provides the ecclesiastical framework of Scotland through parishes each governed by the Elders of the Kirk session and their Minister, and united into Presbyteries. In every village you will see the parish Kirk, sometimes you will see several kirks, witness to the past tendency of devout Scottish believers to establish break-away o rganisations to uphold the more extreme forms of Presbyterian worship.

The Church of Scotland is very much the Church of the land .

You will also see many Roman Catholic churches, especially in Central Scotland where many Irish settled in the 19th century, and in the highlands and islands of the North West, where the Reformation had only patchy success. As well as these you will see our little churches. They are nearly always distinguished by the Episcopal Church sign which bears the arms of the Seven dioceses.

Some of the parish kirks of the Church of Scotland are the old pre-Reformation buildings - St Giles in Edinburgh is one, Dunblane and Dunkeld Cathedrals and Paisley and Dunfermline Abbeys other examples. This is a happy historical accident that worship has continued in the same building under the changing pressures of the religious convictions of the majority. The Church of Scotland may use some of the old cathedrals for worship, but it has no bishops in its governance.

The strand of our national worship which is the Episcopal Church represents is a very old one and can only be undertook by a brief look at the past. The first thing to grasp is that an interest in theology is or was one of the great national passions in Scotland. Where France had a Revolution, and England had the Chartists, Scotland had the Disruption of the Kirk's as her 19th century expression of dissatisfaction with social justice. Until very recently every topic of politics, land ownership and even industrial development was debated in religious terms. Partly this was due to the loss of Scottish political identity after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Union of Parliaments in 1707. The Scots looked to their national church for leadership in the absence of a political focus in the country. But a passion for religious debate goes back much further in Scotland.

But what ‘Scotland’ are we talking about who are the Scots? Probably five main strains went to our making: the early Celts, the Picts of the North East; the Gaels or Irish Scots of the south-west; the Angles of the Lothians; and the Norseman of the north and the islands. Each group contributed their own qualities to the country and to the spoken language common and each made their own interpretations of Christianity.

The Celtic churches’ contribution was an important one. The first missionary that we know of was St Ninian in late Roman times. He was the apostle of the Picts, and was trained under St Martin of Tours in the 4th century. His widespread travels in Scotland are still marked by old place names and church dedications. ‘Kilmartin’ is always a reminder of the places that he erected in memory of his old master. Elsewhere churches called after Celtic Saints like Blane and Kessog are usually evidence of the fact that they pass that way on their journeys. So the great army of early missionaries whose flocks were in Pictland have their names preserved all over Scotland.

There are more than ancient names by which to remember the Picts. Their beautiful cryptically-carved stones stand on our moors, or are gathered for preservation in museums. Their tradition of interlaced ornament found its way into manuscripts which they decorated to the glory of God. School of Art, that flourished in the Celtic monasteries, reached its summit in the illuminated Book of Kells. These people lost out to the more aggressive Gaels or Scots from Ireland who colonised the south-west .

The Scots required the latest strenuous efforts of St Columba and his followers to convert them. The island and Abbey Church of Iona is the lasting monument to Colombian Christianity. The descendants of Ninian and Columba, working in these distant northern lands and in Ireland, diverged in development from Rome and formed the distinctive Celtic Church. In its turn this part of the Christian world made its contribution to the spread of the gospel into Europe, during the Dark Ages.

The differences between the separate branches led to tensions and when times were more settled the Great Council of Whitby arrived at a kind of unity and compromise between the Roman and Celtic observances. But the work of mission was not completed. For centuries Scotland continued as a half-pagan land. Holy wells and shrines of pilgrimage in the names of the Celtic missionary saints attracted the masses; only at court and in the small burghs did the Roman church lead the worship of the literate and the Anglo-Normans, the rulers of the land. In the 11 century the pious Englishwoman Queen Margaret arrived as the bride of Malcolm Canmore. She was horrified at what she saw as lax observance of the true tradition. She set about a work of reformation introducing Roman clergy and lending her influence to the founding of the great bishoprics and abbeys.

Scotland became a part of medieval Christendom. But the Roman observance remained isolated in the towns and at court and in the monasteries. A fair sprinkling of religious houses sprang up in Galloway, the Borders and Central Scotland but for the rest of the country they were few and far between. The notions of the Gospel were only imperfectly understood, Bulls were still being sacrificed in the 17th century in Ross-shire, in the name of Saint Mourie.

Beyond Queen Margaret herself there are virtually no medieval Scottish Roman saints. She is matched only by the great battling bishops of the distinctive Norse tradition, St Magnus and St Eric, and the Dominican Clement of Rodil, in the Isle of Harris.

In the late middle ages the Church found itself in need of reform and the fiercely independent Scots (who had successfully fought off the claim of the Archbishop of York for supremacy) was soon debating the new claims of the protestants of Geneva. By 1561 the Reformation was accomplished in Scotland and the Roman church became a tolerated minority, with Queen Mary its leading adherent. Then for 150 years the debate on the form of reformed church government raged in Scotland, as it did to a lesser degree in England.

The Stuart kings, who's hold on the loyalties of Scotland was deep, were adherents of episcopal government. James I imposed bishops on the calvinistic Scots; Charles I and Archbishop Laud tried to enforce the liturgical Prayer Book, touching off the “Bishops War”. Pressure was not only one way - the intention of the Scots during the Civil War was that the price of victory should be the imposition of Presbyterian worship by law in England, and in this they succeeded during the Commonwealth, 1645-1660.

Imposed religious settlements were not destined to triumph on either side. With the restoration of Charles II the Bishops and the Prayer Book came back to Scotland; with William and Mary they were “outed” again. From 1690 the established Church of Scotland has been Presbyterian. Through the following extremely troubled times there was always a minority of episcopalian ministers and congregations. In the early 18th century their lot became even harder and they were suspected of disloyalty to Queen Anne and then to the Hanoverian succession, be cause of the association of the exiled House of Stuart with Episcopalian worship if not with Rome herself. To be Episcopalian was equated with being Jacobite, and with some justification. It was both a source of strength and of weakness. Episcopal worship was banned, priests and congregations were persecuted and imprisoned; the tiny Episcopal Church went underground. During this long official harassment one episode should be noted. After the United States of America declared their independence, the Americans of the Episcopal Church wish to have their own bishops ordained in the Anglican apostolic succession. No English bishop, for political reasons, could consent to do this, and so in 1784 three Scottish Bishops quietly consecrated Samuel Seabury as the first American Bishop; a link with the great Episcopal Church of America which Scottish Episcopalians still cherish. Before, in 1766, the Scottish Episcopal Church had been reorganised, and had settled most of the sharp internal debates on the liturgy and practice. By 1792 it made its official peace with the Hanoverian government comma and emerged back into the light of day .

Since then it has played a small but significant part in national life, counting a number of distinguished sons and daughters in its ranks. It gained many new adherents in the 19th century. A more mobile population led to more English “settlers” in the north, supporting the anglican worship that they were used to. Many of the lairds and great houses returned openly to episcopacy, with which they had traditional sympathies. And many Scots were and are Episcopalian by deep conviction. Today the Episcopal Church takes its place with the Kirk and the Roman Catholics in ecumenical explorations and activities. Most of our churches are small and built in the 19th century. They served about 45,000 communicate members in the whole of Scotland. We have seven bishops, whom we elect ourselves, and they elect their Primus, who is Primus inter pares, first amongst equals and not an Archbishop. We are a small, in dependant, democratic and anglican church in Scotland, with our roots deep in the country's history. Our doors stand open. We welcome you.

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For those who would like to read more deeply about the history of Church life in Scotland, the following two books are available:

Scotland, church and nation through sixteen centuries
by Professor Gordon Donaldson
printed by the Scottish Academic Press

A Short History of the Episcopal Church in Scotland
by Frederic Goldie, Bishop of Glasgow
printed by St Andrews Press

The seven dioceses of the Episcopal Church are:
Aberdeen and Orkney. Cathedral at Aberdeen.
Argyll and the Isles. Cathedral at Oban. Cathedral of the Isles at Cumbrae.
Brechin. Cathedral at Dundee.
Edinburgh. Cathedral at Edinburgh.
Glasgow and Galloway. Cathedral at Glasgow.
Meray, Ross and Caithness. Cathedral at Inverness.
Saint Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane. Cathedral at Perth

The central administrative work of the Church is undertaken by the office of the representative church council, 21 Grosvenor Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 5EE

ISBN 0901741078

This text was transcribed from an old copy of the pamphlet bought from Amazon; sometimes copies appear for sale on that website.


Daily Prayer in the Scottish Episcopal Church is an important part of our spiritual life and can be followed here