William Skinner was born in Aberdeen. He was the second son of John Skinner, the Episcopalian Bishop of Aberdeen, who officiated at the Cathedral Church of St Andrew, Aberdeen. He was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen and at Wadham College, Oxford. Skinner was ordained as an Anglican priest by Bishop Samuel Horsley of St Asaph's in Wales in March 1802. Back in Aberdeen, he became a member of the clergy at St Andrew's Cathedral Church. Then, in 1816, he was elected to succeed his father as Bishop of Aberdeen.
The Scottish Episcopal Church is a member of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Like its sister-church south of the border, the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church is governed by Bishops. This is one of the things that distinguishes it from the much larger Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian Church governed by representatives of the congregation. This may not initially sound like a major difference, but it was King Charles I's efforts to impose government by Bishops on the Presbyterian Church of Scotland which led to 23 years of wide-ranging conflict that did not really end until the restoration of Charles II in 1660. Those days are, thankfully, long gone, but it helps to know that differences of opinion about church governance were once, quite literally, a matter of life and death.
Much of Skinner's work as bishop - and later as senior Episcopalian bishop in Scotland - was associated with consolidating the Scottish Episcopal Church as a serious religious presence in the country. One of his initiatives was to have the church's documents translated into Gaelic. He also oversaw the establishment of Glenalmond College, near Perth, as a place of training for potential ministers in the Episcopal Church. Skinner died in Aberdeen in 1857 and was buried in the Spital cemetery in the city.