There was no episcopal residence, and the bishop, after leaving Glenalmond, moved from place to place before settling down finally at Perth, first at Pitcullen Bank (Easter 1856 to 1858), and then at the Feu House (1858 to October 1876). He was thus brought into close connection with the cathedral of St. Ninian, a venture supported chiefly by two gentlemen who had little or no connection with the diocese (Lord Forbes and G. F. Boyle, afterwards earl of Glasgow), and manned chiefly by highchurchmen from England. He felt it a costly experiment for a poorly endowed diocese, but in many respects he sympathised with it. His wise treatment of its affairs in his first synods conciliated his opponents. But when he came to reside permanently in Perth, and tried to make St. Ninians his own church, a fundamental divergence between himself and Provost Fortescue and Precentor Humble showed itself. Unfortunately the eucharistic controversy was introduced in an acute form into Scotland by Alexander Penrose Forbes [q. v.], bishop of Brechin, in his ‘primary charge,’ delivered in 1857. Not only was high doctrine taught, but it was taught ex cathedra, and with rigorous logic, as necessary truth, and scant regard was shown for the traditional teaching of the Scottish church, which on the whole was that of a Presence of ‘virtue and efficacy.’ Agitation followed, and the storm was further intensified by the publication, in January 1858, of ‘Six Sermons on the Doctrine of the Most Holy Eucharist’ by the Rev. P. Cheyne, of St. John's, Aberdeen; Cheyne went further than Forbes, and put the same kind of doctrines in a more provocative and more nearly Roman form. In the result Forbes's charge was censured in a ‘pastoral letter,’ drafted by Wordsworth (27 May 1858), in which all the six remaining bishops concurred. This was followed by the suspension of Cheyne by the bishop of Aberdeen (5 Aug.) and by the issue of Wordsworth's very valuable ‘Notes to assist towards a right Judgment on the Eucharistic Controversy’ (4to, September 1858), with ‘Supplement’ dated Advent. These ‘Notes’ were never published, but circulated privately, especially among the clergy. He took part in the subsequent proceedings which issued in the declaration by the bishops that Cheyne was no longer a clergyman of the episcopal church (9 Nov. 1859). On 3 Oct. 1859 proceedings were formally instituted against Bishop Forbes. The same year saw an open breach between Wordsworth and the cathedral clergy. The points at issue were the attempt to reopen the cathedral school, the ‘cathedral declaration’ on the Eucharist, and certain ritual matters, such as celebration with one communicant only. He left the cathedral, and did not return to it except to perform some necessary episcopal acts, such as confirmation, for more than twelve years (1859−1872). He did his best, however, to stave off proceedings in Bishop Forbes's case, and published anonymously some ‘Proposals for Peace.’ The trial took place in February and March 1860, and Wordsworth delivered an ‘opinion’ which had previously been approved by George Forbes, the bishop's brother. The court unanimously censured and admonished Bishop Forbes, but with the least possible severity. Cheyne later on tendered some explanations, and was restored in 1863. Wordsworth's attitude in the controversy was one of reserve, working for united action, and refraining from public demonstrations on his own part. But he set himself most strenuously to form a thorough and correct judgment on it. He criticised Forbes's and Cheyne's teaching not not only as unauthorised but as disturbing the proportions of the faith. His collections of authorities, especially Anglican and Scottish, are of permanent importance.
The restoration of peace and the simultaneous revival experienced by the episcopal and presbyterian communions gave an opening for that reunion work which Wordsworth had deeply at heart. His powerful synodal and other addresses in these years brought the question well forward, and at one time an important conference was in prospect. His most popular contribution was a sermon on ‘Euodias and Syntyche,’ preached in 1867 (published 1869). Wordsworth attempted to use the opportunities of changes in popular education by suggesting that episcopalians and presbyterians might unite to some extent in a common catechism, but little came of the suggestion at the time. After the Lambeth conference of 1867 he suspended his efforts for fifteen years. His part in that conference was generally on the side of Bishop Robert Gray [q. v.] of Cape Town, but tempered with a fear of disestablishment principles.
The foundation of a school chapel at Perth in 1866, of which the bishop was practically incumbent, was a relief to him in his disappointments as to the cathedral. An important and successful conference of clergy and laity was also held at Perth in 1868, and the bishop had hopes of getting the question of the admission of laymen to church synods sympathetically treated by the general synod. By the friendly generosity of Bishop W. K. Hamilton a sum of