JOHN DUNCAN SOMEWHERE TELLS of an election campaign meeting in the Scottish border country at which an unbriefed but resourceful speaker hit on a winning formula. “Will you have your daughters sold into simony?” he demanded of his startled rustic audience. “Will you have a chasuble set up in your market place?” In no time at all he had them crying, “No! No!”

Similar tactics are not unknown on the contemporary ecumenical scene in Scotland. Smoke screens originating in secondary or irrelevant issues have bedeviled Anglican-Presbyterian conversations in the past and continue to do so, making it incredibly difficult to follow and make sense of what is happening. Contributing to this situation is a Scottish newspaper of large circulation and dogmatic views, dedicated to the exposure of plottings designed at enslaving Scots again in the yoke of episcopacy loathed long since and lost awhile.

The paper does this partly by giving the impression that the purpose and sole topic of inter-church conversations is negotiation of the terms on which the Kirk would accept bishops. Whenever there is a further development in Presbyterian-Anglican relations, the publication in question (founded by Lord Beaverbrook, himself a son of the manse) sounds that come-to-the-battle note that stirs Auld Scotia’s pride. Even that section of the populace loosely identifiable as “Presbyterian atheists” rushes suitably outraged to the conflict at the sound of this uncertain trumpet. Viet Nam and Rhodesia are edged off the front page as religion becomes again big news in a land that can never quite forget John Knox. Mention bishops in Presbyterian Scotland (even “bishops-in-presbytery,” as recommended ...

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