History of St Silas

St Silas has always had a unique and strong identity as an independent Anglican congregation. We celebrated our 150th anniversary in 2014.

St Silas was founded in 1864 as an independent Anglican congregation. A prominent plaque in the church building commemorates that their intention was, "to provide a place of worship for all time where the services of the Church of England might be conducted in their simple and protestant form and the gospel of the grace of God be preached."

The church was planted in the rapidly developing West End of Glasgow by members of St Jude's English Episcopal Church in St Vincent St. St Jude's was one of a group of English Episcopal Churches in Scotland. Since 1843 these congregations had operated independently of the Scottish Episcopal Church, using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (the Church of England prayer book) rather than the Scorrish Prayer Book, and with a Protestant view of the Holy Communion service.

St. Silas Church, Glasgow

The founders of St Silas included Sir George Burns, one of the founders of the Cunard Company, William Burnley, who owned much of the land on which the sea-side resort of Dunoon was then being developed, and Sir Archibald Campbell of Blythswood. These men provided much of the £7000 needed to buy the land and build the church, and they became the first Trustees of the church.

Later in the 1860’s, St Silas established a mission church in Hayburn St in Partick. The work of this mission grew, and a further mission hall was built in Ardery St, Partick, in 1910. These mission centres ran Sunday Schools which at their peak were attended by over 400 children. Numbers declined during and after the second world war, and the mission closed in 1951, the remaining members transferring to St Silas.

From its foundation until the end of the nineteenth century, St Silas maintained its distinctively bible-based, evangelical ministry, independent of the Scottish Bishops. In 1906, an arrangement was reached with the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway which brought St Silas into communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church. Under this arrangement, the Bishop licensed the Rector of St Silas and carried out confirmations. The church maintained its independent constitution and its freedom to worship as previously.

For over a century, all services were conducted using the 1662 Prayer Book. For most of that time, this liturgy was regarded as central to the maintenance of the church’s distinctive evangelical doctrine. However, in the 1970’s the church decided that, while its theology remained unchanged, liturgies in modern English were also needed. This was a decision with significant financial consequences, since it involved relinquishing a significant source of income, the Blythswood bequest.

In 1986, St Silas joined the Scottish Episcopal Church as a “Private Chapel”, and participated in the wider life of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway, while retaining independence in its worship and governance. However, as time went on, it emerged that the Scottish Episcopal Church was moving away from historic Anglican convictions about the place and authority of the Bible at the heart of the Christian faith. At the same time, in 2008 a movement was launched within the Anglican Communion, known as Gafcon (the Global Anglican Future Conference), seeking the reform and renewal of the global communion around the gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Scriptures.

In 2019, St Silas left the Scottish Episcopal Church to join Gafcon’s alternative “Anglican Network in Europe”, under the oversight of Gafcon’s “missionary bishop for Europe”, Andy Lines. St Silas Church retains its status as a “Private Chapel”, and through its membership of Gafcon, it is connected with other Anglican churches and church plants in Europe that are no longer part of the historical structures. As well as rejoicing in these connections, this global network of churches represents the large majority of Anglicans worldwide.

The Anglican Network in Europe is divided into two sub-groups – the Anglican Mission in England, and the Anglican Convocation for Europe and St Silas has been part of this latter group, ACE, since it was formally launched in February 2021.