History of the Diocese

Jedburgh stonework
King Charles I established the Diocese of Edinburgh
Pilgrimage at the 7th century well at St Mary's, Stow
Duns stained glass
Richard Holloway, Scottish writer and broadcaster, and former Bishop of Edinburgh

The Diocese was created fairly recently relative to the other Scottish Episcopal sees, being founded in 1633 by King Charles I. William Forbes was consecrated in St Giles Cathedral as its first bishop on 23 January 1634 though he died later that year.

The General Assembly of 1638 deposed Bishop David Lindsay and all the other bishops, so the next, George Wishart, was consecrated in 1662 after the Restoration. In 1690 it was Bishop Alexander Rose (1687-1720) whose unwelcome reply to King William II (King William III of England) led to the disestablishment of the Scottish Episcopalians as Jacobite sympathisers, and it was he who led his congregation from St Giles to a former wool store as their meeting house.

After the repeal of the penal laws in 1792 and the reuniting of Episcopal and 'Qualified' congregations, the Diocese grew under the leadership of Bishops Daniel Sandford, James Walker, Charles Terrot and Henry Cotterill. The Borders (formerly part of the Diocese of Glasgow) were transferred to Edinburgh in 1888. The high point of the 19th Century was probably the consecration of St Marys Cathedral in 1879 with its many mission congregations.

The twentieth century witnessed a continued growth in numbers, which peaked around 1960.  New congregations were founded in the suburbs of Edinburgh and elsewhere in the Diocese to meet the needs of changing population patterns. Anglican chaplaincies were established at universities and colleges, but the many church schools which had existed in the Diocese were virtually all closed.

Ecumenical links, not least in Livingston, liturgical experimentation and renewal, and the development of new types of ministry (including non-stipendiary and sector ministries) have all been characteristic of the last fifty years; while synodical government has allowed the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Diocese to be remarkably flexible in their mission.

Since 1961 the Bishops have been Kenneth Carey (1961-75), Alistair Haggart (1975-85), Richard Holloway (1985-2000), Brian Smith (2001-2011) and John Armes (2012-onwards).

Further details

For further details of the history of the Diocese, and the wider Scottish Episcopal Church, please see A History of the Scottish Episcopal Church on the Provincial website, based on ‘A Church for Scotland’ by Gerald Stranraer-Mull.

Past Bishops

A timeline of all past (and present) Bishops of the Diocese of Edinburgh :