It is Lent. For those of us in the Scottish Episcopal Church, part of our penitence is to attend our Diocesan Synods.
The United Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway met today in Dumfries, and on our agenda was a debate on whether to approve proposed changes to Canon 31. If you haven’t been paying attention, these are the changes that would allow those members of the clergy who wish to do so to celebrate marriages between same sex couples while also protecting the consciences of any member of the clergy who does not wish they celebrate any marriage for any reason. There are debates in all seven dioceses this month, and the outcomes will doubtless inform the debate when General Synod meets again in June for its definitive vote.
The Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway approved the proposals today with a 64% majority, voting as one House.
This is what I said to Diocesan Synod:
I would like to express my gratitude to both the Committee on Canons for their work in putting the proposed Canon together, and to the last two years of General Synods for the work they have done on it so far.
I want to be part of a Church that is for everyone.
I believe that the majority of people in the Scottish Episcopal Church want that too.
The thing I remember most about the process that we’ve gone through to get here is the day at General Synod in 2015 when we were first asked what it was that we wanted to say about marriage. We were given various options. On the one hand, we might have chosen to say something about marriage that was in many ways even more rigid than the current Canon 31, that would have left people who have broader ideas about marriage very much on the outside. I remember there being not much appetite for that. On the other hand, we might have chosen to explicitly define marriage as something that can be between two people of any gender. And I remember there being not much appetite for that, either. I remember that the overwhelming mood in Edinburgh that day was a real want to find some middle ground, to not only accept but celebrate the fact that ours is a Church where there are lots of different opinions and that that is one of the things that makes us a little bit wonderful.
I was so proud, that day.
In a lot of ways — and this isn’t what most of you will expect me to say — I think I was prouder than I would have been even if the whole of Synod had got out the rainbow feather boas and broken into a chorus of I Am What I Am.
The proposal for amending Canon 31 is a result of the decisions we made — decisions to be truthful about who we are and to go forward in a way that we can, I think, all live with.This process does not lead us to something that will end with winners and losers, but the hands of friendship extended and an outcome that will be better because we did it for everyone and we did it together.
Honest to God, this is what “good disagreement” should look like. We can be a model for good disagreement and mutual love for our sister provinces throughout the Anglican Communion.
Now, yes, I do look forward to the day when same-sex couples can walk down the aisle in my cathedral and be joined together in marriage. Of course I do.
But I want this to be a Church that is for everyone, and I believe that the proposed Canon is something that will allow us to be that Church.