Today, the House of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church produced a document containing guidance for clergy and lay readers relating to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, which comes into force in just over three weeks time on Hogmanay.
The key passages are:
Relating to the Blessing of Same Sex Marriages / Civil Partnerships
“The SEC has no liturgical rites for the blessing of a same-sex civil partnership or marriage, and the College is of the view that it would not be appropriate to use SEC marriage liturgies for this purpose.”
“The Church cannot give official sanction to informal blessings […] each Bishop would nevertheless expect to be consulted by clergy prior to the carrying out of any informal blesing of same-sex marriage or civil partnership in his diocese.”
Relating to Clergy Entering Same-Sex Marriage
“The College recognises that once the 2014 Act comes into force, the possibility of entering into a same-sex marriage exists as much for clergy and lay readers as for any other member of the population.” […] “As things stand, a clergyperson or lay reader who chooses to enter a same-sex marriage will put themselves in a position outwith the SEC’s doctrinal understanding of marriage as expressed in Canon 31 […] the expectation of the Bishops is that clergy and lay readers will not enter into a same-sex marriage.”
Relating to Recruitment and Selection [of Ordinands]
“[…] a candidate in the recruitment and selection process for ordination or lay readership who has entered or is intending to enter a same-sex marriage would be unable to promise obedience to the Canons. The Bishops likewise expect candidates not to enter into a same-sex marriage in the current situation.”
I think it is important that this is read and disseminated widely. I may have additional commentary to offer on it in a day or two, but for now I am so filled with rage that I lack the erudition to do it properly. I simply leave it here, and I note:
1) That these questions are not hypothetical ones, but are real questions about real people and their lives and their loves. I think in light of the specific things that have been said today it must be noted that this is particularly true of people who are called to ministry within the Church.
2) That the answers and guidance given by the House of Bishops are regressive, and that we are further away from justice and equality today than we were even a decade ago,
3) That if we stopped allowing anyone in ministry or seeking to enter ministry within the Church to get married to anyone until this question was settled, we would have had a proper answer a year ago.
The full text of the guidelines are here as a PDF: College of Bishops Guidance re Marriage 2014
A response from Changing Attitude Scotland is available here: re: December 2014 Statement from the College of Bishops