Outgoing leader of Scottish Episcopal Church 'not leaving poisoned chalice'

Bishop David Chillingworth Image copyright Esme Allen

The head of the Scottish Episcopal Church has announced he will step down.

Primus, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, is to retire in July after nine years at the helm.

His departure will take place one month after the Church Synod - its ruling body - holds a vote on whether to allow same-sex marriage within the Church.

Bishop Chillingworth, who supports the concept of gay marriage, denied that he was leaving a "poisoned chalice" for his successor.

If the Scottish Episcopal Church votes in favour of same-sex marriage, the move would leave the Scottish church at odds with the Church of England and most of the 85 million strong Anglican Communion.

'Expression of views'

US Episcopalians have already been ostracised over their support for gay marriage.

Bishop Chillingworth, who is also Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that clergy in his church who were opposed to same-sex marriage would be able to opt out under a conscience clause.

He said: "Nobody should take for granted what the outcome of that vote will be."

However, the 66-year-old, who has served with the ministry for 41 years, said Scotland has moved on as a society and it was time for the Church to do the same.

When asked if his the vacancy left by his retirement was a poisoned chalice, the Primus said: "I have felt that it was proper to remain in office until we reached the point where that decision was made.

"Getting to that point has involved a lengthy process of conversation and exploration and expression of views and people sharing with one and other right across the life of the church, and I have been with others providing the leadership to make that happen.

"If we can come to a decision in the summer, which makes clear where we are, but also makes clear that in our diversity we remain a unified community of faith, I shall go into retirement content leaving the next generation of leadership to work out what that means in practice."

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