Scottish Episcopal Church

The roots of Christianity in Scotland go back to St Ninian in the 4th century and St Columba in the 6th. The Scottish Episcopal Church was formerly the Established Church of Scotland. It was disestablished and disendowed in 1689 by King William III who, almost entirely on political grounds, set up the Presbyterian Church in its place. The disestablished Scottish Episcopal Church continued strongly until 1746 when, again for political reasons after the Jacobite rebellion, severe penal statutes were imposed upon all Episcopalians. These laws made it illegal for them to possess any churches or chapels; all public services were forbidden and Episcopalian clergy were not allowed to minister to more than five persons at a time, under penalty of imprisonment or banishment.

The Synod of Laurencekirk in 1804 saw a reverse in this trend as the church agreed to accept the prayer book and an oath of allegiance and this started the move towards the repeal of the penal laws. The church then grew rapidly during the 19th century. The Scottish Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican communion. Indeed, the action of the Scottish bishops in consecrating the bishop of Connecticut in 1784 is seen as the moment when the Anglican communion was founded.

Being part of the Anglican communion means that the distinctive beliefs of the Scottish Episcopal Church are based on the historic creeds and are expressed in its liturgy. The church retains the three-fold orders of bishop, priest and deacon. Besides the 184 stipendiary priests there are 311 non-stipendiary priests. The Scottish Episcopal Church has seven dioceses, each with its own diocesan bishop. The bishops are elected by the clergy and laity within each diocese. The chair of the college of bishops is the primus who is also one of the diocesan bishops. The church is governed by a general synod made up of the college of bishops, a house of clergy and a house of laity. These houses are elected by the respective diocesan synods to represent the various dioceses.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has a number of authorized liturgies for worship. The traditional services of morning, evening and evening prayer are followed but there is increasing emphasis on the eucharist as the central Sunday service.