SEC General Synod: Rule 10 Motion for Debate on Equal Marriage

I commented last week on my disappointment that the Standing Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church had chosen not to bring a motion that I had proposed to them. The motion proposed a framework for taking forward discussions about equal marriage within the Church. The text of that motion is available to read here.

There is a mechanism of Church law through which a motion can be brought outwith the usual way of it going on the agenda through Standing Committee. This is called a Rule 10. If the motion is supported by a proposer, a seconder, and twelve voting members of a Synod, it can be put to Synod in two stages. The first stage asks the Synod to choose, via a two thirds majority, whether or not they wish to take the motion forward to open debate.

That motion was put to Synod today through the first stage of the Rule 10 procedure and with the support of thirteen courageous people — men and women, clergy and laity, gay and straight, from all across Scotland.

The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney requested that the vote take place by secret ballot. The vote on the motion was 77 for and 55 against, which is a 58% majority. The motion will not be brought.

This is what I said to Synod this afternoon:

Chair, members of Synod.

There has been a conversation on same sex relationships in our church for the last year through the Design Group, and more recently through the Cascade Conversations which it has facilitated. The conversations that took place in Pitlochry were very positive experiences for many who were there, some of whom signed this motion.

Although many of you will think that we are already spending a lot of time during this Synod talking about this very issue, what we are not being given is the opportunity to do so in open debate. The discussion tomorrow is intended to be in the form of a presentation followed by table discussions only. If we agree to debate this on Saturday morning, it will give us our only opportunity this year to talk about this issue together as a whole Synod of this Church.

This motion will allow the whole Church to take forward the positive things to have come out of the Cascade process.

People have said to me: wait, be patient, the conversation will happen, next year, next year. But we did not start talking about this last year with the commissioning of the Design Group. And we started talking about it long before the Scottish Government began seeking legislation for equal marriage. We have been talking about this for years.

There are Episcopalians who have been waiting many years to be married, and some of them do not have a lot of “next years” left.

There are Episcopalians of deep faith and good conscience who take a different view to me, and who are frustrated and frightened by our inability to talk openly about what might happen and what it might mean for them.

I am one of the youngest members of this Synod, and I am not an Episcopalian by birth but by choice. I have been proud to join this Church and to call myself a member of it. Of this Church with its rich history of Synodical decision making, its long understanding that to accept more than one idea is to make us better and stronger, its deeply held tradition that all, all, are welcome in this place.

The motion was proposed by me and seconded by the Very Reverend Andrew Swift, Dean of Argyll and the Isles. It was endorsed in the Rule 10 process by:

  • The Very Reverend Nicola McNelly (Diocese of Argyll and the Isles)
  • The Reverend Canon Clifford Piper (Diocese of Moray, Ross, and Caithness)
  • The Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth (Convenor of the Information and Communication Board)
  • Rev Samantha Ferguson (Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney)
  • Rev Cedric Blakey (Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway)
  • Rev Daniel Gafvert (Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway)
  • Rev Ruth Innes (Diocese of Edinburgh)
  • Mrs Anne P Jones (General Synod Representative to Standing Committee)
  • Mr Matthew Pemble (Diocese of Edinburgh)
  • Mrs Christine McIntosh (Diocese of Argyll and the Isles)
  • Mrs Susan Ward (Diocese of Edinburgh)
  • Mr Graeme Hely (Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway)

I thank those who stood with me on this and the majority of Synod who wanted and voted for it to be debated. I believe we have demonstrated a clear will within the Scottish Episcopal Church to move forward on the issues.

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