The annual meeting of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church opened yesterday in Palmerston Place Church in Edinburgh with the election of a new Primus one of the key issues on its agenda.
The Church is a small but significant part of the 77 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion. It has around 53,000 members and a reputation for strong social involvement and for a generally progressive outlook.
Ecumenism - working with others, both in the churches and beyond - has also been a key concern for many in the Church.
Representatives from Episcopal parishes across Scotland are attending the three day meeting, where matters ranging from church policy to a variety of pressing social issues will be discussed.
Highlights of this year’s Synod agenda include a debate on what the mission of the Scottish Episcopal Church is in 2009 and the approval of a partnership statement on working together with the Methodist and United Reformed Churches in Scotland.
For the first time in the history of General Synod, members will witness the election of a new Primus. This will take place on the morning of Saturday 13 June 2009, where all seven bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church will elect a new leader following the retirement of the Most Rev Dr Idris Jones.
The role of Primus, which is taken from the Latin ‘primus inter pares’ – meaning ‘first among equals’ is to preside over the College of Bishops and to represent them and the wider Church at home and throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion.
Dr Idris Jones delivered his final 'Charge' (address and call) during a Eucharistic Service marking the official opening of the General Synod.
Speaking earlier this week he commented: “Although this Synod may not be described as groundbreaking, it will certainly be ground-clearing, preparing the way for new and exciting developments for the next few years. This will be done within the context of significant financial pressures facing the Church at this time."
Another former Primus, Dr Richard Holloway, former Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh, has remained prominent in Scottish life since his retirement through his work in politics and, especially, the arts.
The largest Christian churches in Scotland are the Church of Scotland (which is Presbyterian) and the Roman Catholic Church.