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.