Primus opens General Synod with call to speak out against those who cause turmoil and suffering

A call to be heralds of peace at a time of turmoil and suffering was at the heart of the charge given by the Primus as the 2024 General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church opened in Edinburgh this morning.

During the Opening Eucharist, the Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church said to Synod members that it was right to call out damaging actions that go against the teaching, life and example of Christ.

“There are always those who worry whenever we put our heads above the parapet, and I understand that, yet there are many occasions may I suggest that this is exactly what we are supposed to do,” said the Primus, the Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness.

“If we do not call out when we are aware of turmoil and suffering caused by actions that go against the teaching, life and example of Christ, then we are in danger of ignoring our call. Yes, sometimes we will be criticised, sometimes we will see people storming off in disagreement, but do we believe people join us because of our silence … or because of our action?

“In this past year we have witnessed appalling events in the land of the Holy One, and politically we have seen leaders tip-toe around the issue for fear of upsetting others. Yet we are witnessing the death and injury of whole families on all sides, people who are simply trying to survive another day. What does our faith tell us? That we call out that which is wrong and wicked. As peacemakers we need to talk of peace, not ignore the conflict.

“As heralds of peace we need also to work our way through those matters which are affecting us directly.”

The Primus looked to the agenda ahead, and highlighted what he believes is an “outward-looking agenda”.

He said: “We have issues before us on overseas links, nuclear armaments, how to prevent and repair harm being done to the planet, and our relationship with people we have damaged due to our history. We will be challenged on our relationship with young people, and how we respond to world issues. But we will also address those issues which are closer to home, as we look at statistics and take heed of the Census findings regarding religion. Do our own statistics tell us enough about our links with those on the margins of our church?

“The question I want to ask is: Why do we do this?

“The Old Testament reading we have heard today talked of the wisdom of understanding who we are: It is in understanding this church that we can fill it with the treasures of God. We need to know how things are so that we can check our progress, decide on our future paths and discover what we should do to fulfil out commission to care for the weak, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked. We need wisdom to see what might need changing and what should remain.

“Our continual inspection of our church makes sense if it is so that we can align the gifts we have with the tasks we are called to perform. If we only allow the negative narratives to be heard when there are so many good news stories, then anxiety and sometimes despondency may occur. Yet are not people filled with the Spirit of God? Pentecost people trusting in Christ and trusting in salvation.

“When I listen to the list of gifts in 1Corinthians and then look out across this Synod, well here we are the body of Christ ready, I pray, for the work of God.”

He continued: “In our own Church we have an on-going Canon 54 process with a hearing scheduled before the Clergy Discipline Tribunal in September this year. We must all respect the process taking place, and no further comment on the current situation should take place at Synod.

“And as we approach a General Election we continue to experience the clashing of political differences. Please pray for those involved in this electoral campaign and pray for honest and generous debate.

“To be people of faith we need to have courage and conviction, to face matters both good and bad, and to turn that experience into means of telling our story of faith. Tell each other about the time you fed the hungry, gave a drink to the thirsty, visited the prisoner, shared your gifts, walked alongside the downcast and filled with the Spirit gave thanks and praise to God.”

Synod members gathered at St Paul’s & St George’s Episcopal Church for the three-day meeting of General Synod, which returns to a fully in-person gathering for the first time since before the Covid pandemic.

Synod opened with the Eucharist. The offering taken as part of the Eucharist will be donated to Friends of the Holy Land and will be taken online here.

The first day’s business will involve sessions on the Church’s Net Zero strategy and the work of the Provincial Youth Committee, as well as a presentation from the College of Bishops on church membership statistics and an update on the SEC’s pension fund.

Many Synod members have dressed in black to show support for the Thursdays In Black campaign, a global movement urging an end to violence against women.