It has been learned today that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has privately threatened to sack the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Chillingworth, from ecumenical dialogue if members of the church’s General Synod do not do as they are told with respect to same-sex marriage.
This will be an extension of the sanctions applied to the Episcopal Church of the United States of America by the Primates’ Meeting in January of this year, after ECUSA agreed to acceptance of marriage equality within their own province.
It is fair to say that this communication to our Primus came as a surprise to members of our own General Synod. There was a press conference immediately after that Primates’ Meeting in which Justin Welby was asked directly whether other provinces taking similar decisions would face the same sanctions as ECUSA, and at that time he said very clearly and very publicly that the answer to that question could not be known. A number of questions must therefore be asked. What has happened since January to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to unequivocally answer a question about a change to canon law that has not yet happened and cannot happen for at least another twelve months ? If something has happened, why have the public and the Communion not been told about it before now? And by whose authority does he make that threat? These are questions that I think deserve answers.
Bishop David has said before and he said again today at Synod that he believes that the Primates acted beyond their powers. He has said that there are times in the last six months and in the last two weeks when he has been upset and angry about what has happened. And, today, quoting Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, he has said that although this hurts, it will ultimately not change what we do.
In the Scottish Episcopal Church, our Primus is the first among equals in a province which through its long and proud history has been a leader in positive progress throughout the Anglican Communion. This has happened. I was tempted to be outraged, to greet this announcement with wailing and gnashing of teeth — but outrage is not a mission strategy.
The mission of the Scottish Episcopal Church must now be to speak truth to power.
“It will not change what we do, and maybe it is a price worth paying,” said Bishop David.
I was very proud of him when he said that, and I believe that he is right. If this is the price we pay for being on the side of the greater good, then bring it on.