Bishop’s Charge to Synod

The Bishop has made a text copy of her sermon available.  A video copy will be made available later today.

It is shown below, a printable PDF copy is also available.


Bishop of the United Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney

Charge to Synod

Saturday 17 March 2018

Today I have an opportunity to tell you what my priorities are for the immediate future in my ministry as bishop with regard to this diocese, and to share with you some of my values, so that you might understand what I am doing and why.

  1. Episcopal Pastoral Ministry

My first priority is to lay the foundations of Episcopal pastoral ministry.

You will know that moving and change are disruptive of any person’s life with God, and so it is for me. I am looking to settle into a rhythm of prayer that sustains me in my own relationship with God, and also enables me to carry the needs of the people and churches of this diocese to God. I have to learn again what it means to feed, and feed with, God’s people not just in one church but in many, to rejoice in the rich diversity of fare offered by the traditions and places of Aberdeen and the Shires, Orkney and Shetland. I am looking forward to eating at your tables – in all the meanings of that phrase!

I want to meet as many folk as possible, to hear your stories and to begin to build relationships. I will encourage you to tell me what has been going on in your personal lives, as well as the shared life of faith in the churches. I will want to know what brings you joy and hope, as well of those things that you are struggling with as you pray.

And I want to pray not just for you but with you.

Through all of this (to borrow someone else’s phrase) I hope to ‘plant a staff of prayer in your midst’.

Make no mistake, who we are and what we do finds its life and meaning when we intentionally spend time with Jesus Christ. All begins with prayer.

  1. Support of clergy and authorized and licensed lay ministers.

The second priority will be to get to know the ordained, authorized and licensed ministers of the diocese, to find out how you are and to hear your presenting needs. It is very important indeed for me that we have in place a good system of review and care, that those that carry responsibility before God for others are themselves well looked after. This will mean moving to a diocesan-wide pattern of retreating, in-service training, and mutual support, that resources you for the challenging call to mission that we hear in the Gospel. We do not begin from scratch in this. Many of you have spoken of the longstanding and deep relationships that you have with one another and God. On these we can build together, both for the good of the church and those in the region.

Let me be clear, for a diocese to move forward in mission, clergy and church leaders need to have healthy and hopeful relationships with God which resource them for life and ministry. We cannot do anything new together without paying attention to how we are with God.

And in addition to this, I think we will find (as some of you know already) that we cannot begin our next chapter here without many more of the people of God trained and active in ministries of various kinds. I suspect that we will need to grow new forms of lay ministries that are easy to train for, and meet the variety of needs in local churches. I expect that some of you here, as well as many that are not, will be finding yourselves doing things that you never expected, in confidence as God gives you the gifts and encouragement you need to step forward in faith to a new calling. More of God’s people doing some service and ministry; this must be our aim.

  1. Preparing for mission planning

Thirdly, I will be laying the ground work for mission planning for the diocese. No one should make a plan without first having a good look at what is in place already, and so it will be for me.

This will involve hearing about what is going well in each place and what are the common challenges. We will be speaking together – locally, regionally and as a diocese – about what God might have next for us. We cannot do everything, so we will need to find out what God has next for us to do.

It will be important for me to assess where the resources for mission are located, for example, where are the ‘houses of prayer’, where are those with faith and courage, where are the financial and physical resources to be found?

You will know this already, but I do believe that if God calls us to something then the resources are there, somewhere. Our call is to be obedient, to search for what we need (not least the help of the Holy Spirit), and not worry so much about those things that God has not called us to give our attention to at this time.

  1. Networking beyond the churches

The fourth priority will be to network beyond the churches. The purpose here will be to establish relationships with key policy makers and resource holders. I will be on the lookout for those with whom we share values, looking for possible mission partnerships. A bishop’s network should involve ecumenical partners, national and local governments, the third sector (volunteers and charities), universities, businesses and private individuals.

This is a diocese rich in resources of all kinds, that in many places are already being deployed to establish and build the Kingdom of God. What more might be possible and available to us if we were to have renewed vision and faith?

I have been greatly heartened by the very warm welcome extended to me by so many of our partners beyond the Scottish Episcopal Church. The publicity around my election and consecration is opening many doors for me. I intend to use the opportunities that come my way as best as I can for the good of all, not just those who are present worshippers with us. I intend to use my public voice and influence as best I can – please pray that I do.

  1. Building trust after a troubled time

All of these things would be a challenge for any new bishop, but we must acknowledge that in some ways this episcopate has not got off to the best of starts. Many of you have been deeply troubled by the deficiencies of the process as set out in Canon 4. Even those who are convinced that God is in the outcome, as I am myself, have questions to ask. This brings us to a beginning together where relationships are fractious, and in some quarters there is a deficit of trust.

Through the last weeks, in private and in the press, it has often been commented that this is not personal. But let me tell you, when one is the centre of discord, and you are being discussed publically, it does feel very personal indeed. It also feels personal to those who believe that the institution has not listened to them, nor valued their many years of faithful service of God and this diocese. It feels personal when friends disagree. When things are personal, then the cost of moving on is significant.

So how can we move forward?

I think that this is a time of choice. We have to decide whether we, each of us, can move past what has gone on the last weeks to a fresh beginning. Certainly in doing this we do not want to loose what we have learnt about the election process, but offer it as informed comment and opinion as the Church reviews its processes. Certainly, I will be doing this at the College of Bishops, and in other meetings where these matters are discussed.

But there is something greater here, something more pressing. This diocese articulated clearly the need for a renewed approach to mission and ministry.

If we together are going to make the love of Christ known, and to serve our neighbours as best we can, then we need the resources and prayers of all of God’s people.

If we are to frame a plan, a strategy, serve to a shared vision, then we need the wisdom and expertise of all.

For me to be the best bishop that I can be for you and among you, I need your help – all of you.

Now is the time to decide what you can leave with God, in order to move forward into the next chapter of the life of this diocese. I ask you all, as your first priority, to pray about this, and to ask God for the grace to move forwards with me.

Let me say again – I am delighted to be your bishop. I am convinced that God has called me to this ministry. I am praying that I will love you and care for you. I am praying that I will lead you forward with courage. I am asking God for the faith and vision to do this.

In the name of Jesus Christ, I invite you to come with me.