16 Aug. 1721, a schism took place (1718) among the English nonjurors on the subject of the ‘usages’ advocated by Jeremy Collier [q. v.] Both parties appealed for advice to the Scottish bishops, Alexander Rose or Ross [q. v.] and John Falconer, who employed Rattray in drawing up a paper designed to heal the schism. In 1723 he appeared as a controversialist in opposition to an injunction against certain of the ‘usages,’ especially the mixed chalice and prayers for the dead, issued (12 Feb. 1723) by a majority of the Scottish episcopal college (six bishops resident in Edinburgh). Rattray protested against government by a college of bishops (a plan adopted for political reasons), and maintained the need of diocesan episcopacy [see Gadderar, James]. At what date he took orders is unknown, but it was in mature life, and certainly not later than 1724.
On 25 July 1724 Robert Norrie was consecrated a bishop, and it was proposed by the college to appoint him to the superintendence of the district of Angus and Mearns and part of Perthshire, subject to the consent of the episcopal clergy and laity within those bounds. A majority of the clergy and a considerable proportion of the gentry opposed the appointment of Norrie, wishing to have Rattray as their bishop. At a meeting of the episcopal college, held late in 1724, Rattray appeared as representative of the remonstrant clergy; Harry Maule, titular earl of Panmure [q. v.], representing the remonstrant laity. An altercation took place between Maule and George Lockhart (1673–1731) [q. v.] of Carnwath, agent for the Jacobite succession, the latter pleading that the right of nominating bishops lay with James III. Gadderar and Rattray supported Maule in the contention that the approbation of the laity was essential to an episcopal appointment. Ultimately Norrie was appointed by a majority of the episcopal college, who disallowed the votes of some of the remonstrant clergy. Rattray protested, and many of the clergy and laity disowned Norrie's authority. The dissension alarmed the Jacobites; James intimated to John Fullarton, bishop of Edinburgh and primus, that in future he should be consulted through his agents before the appointment of bishops.
Norrie died in March 1727, whereupon the clergy of his district chose Rattray as their ordinary. Fullarton's death (April 1727) produced an open rupture between the ‘collegers’ and ‘usagers.’ The Edinburgh clergy elected Arthur Millar, one of the episcopal college (consecrated 22 Oct. 1718), as their bishop, and he was acknowledged as primus and metropolitan by Gadderar, bishop of Aberdeen, and Andrew Cant, another of the college. The remaining four college bishops held aloof, ignored the election, and continued to act together. Rattray was consecrated at Edinburgh on 4 June 1727 by Millar, Gadderar, and Cant, and took the title of bishop of Brechin. On 18 June he joined Millar and Gadderar in consecrating William Dunbar (d. 1746), elected by the clergy of Moray and Ross, and Robert Keith (1681–1757) [q. v.], appointed coadjutor to Millar. Immediately afterwards, Millar, Gadderar, Rattray, and Dunbar held an episcopal synod at Edinburgh, and agreed upon six canons, which form ‘the groundwork of the code by which the Scottish episcopal church is still governed’ (Grub). These canons forbid, save in urgent necessity, the consecrating of ‘bishops at large;’ they give great authority to the bishop of Edinburgh as metropolitan, and it is remarkable, considering the previous attitude of Rattray and Gadderar, that they entirely ignore the voice of the laity in episcopal appointments.
The diocesan bishops now addressed to the episcopal college a proposal for accommodation. They were willing to admit ‘bishops at large’ to give advice in their synods; but not to vote, until regularly put in charge of dioceses. The college replied by pronouncing the elections of Millar, Rattray, and Dunbar null and void; Millar they suspended, the two latter they declared to be no bishops of the Scottish church, as being uncanonically consecrated, nor to be sustained in their functions until they renounced the ‘usages.’ On 22 June they consecrated John Gillan and Robert Ranken as additions to the episcopal college. Millar died on 9 Oct. 1727; Andrew Lumsden (d. June 1733) was elected his successor on 19 Oct., and consecrated at Edinburgh on 2 Nov. by Rattray, Cant, and Keith. Lumsden tried to mediate between parties; he declined on the day after his consecration to sign the canons of June, being unwilling to offend the college bishops by the assumption of metropolitan powers. At length an understanding was arrived at by conferences between Keith and Gillan. In December 1731 ‘articles of agreement’ were drawn up, the obnoxious ‘usages’ were to be forborne, the office of metropolitan was dropped, a primus was to be elected ‘for convocating and presiding only,’ David Freebairn was to be primus; to each bishop was assigned a diocese. On 22 May 1732 these articles were signed by all the bishops, Lumsden excepting from his signature the articles relating to the primus. James rati-