Scots Piscie chief says churches have positive role in open secular society

By staff writers
June 14, 2009

Bishop David Chillingworth was yesterday (13 June 2009) elected Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church during the annual meeting of its General Synod. He was the single nominee and his election was supported by all the other six bishops.

The new incumbent said that an open and secular society was one in which smaller churches like the Scottish Episcopal Church could make a distinct and constructive contribution.

Chillingworth has been Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane since 2005 and succeeds the Most Rev Dr Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, who stepped down as Primus (first-among-equals) on 12 June following his recent announcement of retirement from the office of diocesan bishop.

The Primus presides over the College of Bishops, representing them and the wider Church at home and throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion.

The Scottish Episcopal Church is not large, but it is a significant member of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The largest Christian churches in Scotland are the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop Chillingworth replied to his election by declaring “We are living in an increasingly open and secular society. This is not an easy place for churches. But it is the kind of society in which small churches like the Scottish Episcopal Church can make a special contribution in mission and service. Our debate on ‘The Mission of the Scottish Episcopal Church’ during General Synod showed that we have a new vision for mission."

He continued: “We face other challenges. Economic recession brings difficulties for business life and for families. It affects the Church too. We have some very difficult decisions to make about how we can sustain our life and work with less resources available.”

Bishop Chillingworth is widely known as a communicator. He is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Thought for the Day’. He writes a blog at and believes that bishops should use today’s means of communication to carry the message of the Church.

Born in Dublin in 1951, Bishop Chillingworth grew up in Northern Ireland. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin and Oriel College, Oxford.

His training for ministry in the Church of England was undertaken at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. Ordained in Belfast in 1976, much of his working life has been spent at the heart of the Northern Ireland conflict. His work in parish ministry was consistently focused on the challenge of reconciliation and the problems of sectarianism. He also served as Church of Ireland Youth Officer from 1979-1983. Before moving to Scotland in 2005, he was Rector of Seagoe Parish Church in Portadown and Archdeacon of Dromore for 19 years .

Since coming to the Diocese of St Andrews, Bishop Chillingworth worked with clergy and others to carry out a major review of the life of the diocese and its congregations. This led to the 'Casting the Net' initiative which was launched in every church of the diocese on Pentecost Sunday, 31 May. Casting the Net encourages clergy and people to reach out into the communities in which they live.

Bishop David Chillingworth is married to Alison, a social worker who specialises in fostering and adoption. They have three grown-up children, Anna, Simon and Mark.

More on the Scottish Episcopal Church here:

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