On The Eve of General Synod, Some Thoughts on Love and Marriage

Tonight, I am preparing myself for the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church which begins tomorrow in Edinburgh.

This is the long awaited Synod in which we may well make equal marriage a reality for those in the Church who choose it, but it is also the Synod in which the Church may equally well choose not to do that. If we were to believe the headlines in the mainstream and Christian press over the last week, we would be forgiven for thinking that it is hardly even up for debate. This is not true. A two thirds majority is a high bar to clear, and the debate in our last two Synods has been robust and thorough, and I am certain that this Synod will be no exception.

But there are things that I am certain of.

There was a time — and it wasn’t that long ago — that to be a gay person in the Scottish Episcopal Church meant listening to other people talk about issues of LGBT equality as if there were no gay people in the room. There was a time when I struggled to believe that the wider Scottish Episcopal Church would ever wrap its head around equal personhood for LGBT people, let alone equal marriage. And the idea that I would ever hear straight people making speeches in favour of marriage equality in the Church did not exist even in my wildest dreams.

I am certain that those things are not true anymore.

This is a campaign that has changed the Scottish Episcopal Church for the better.

I will believe that, no matter what happens tomorrow.

The headlines are not saying that either. No doubt it doesn’t make such a good story as the one that says we’re on the point of schism, but the version that is being printed simply isn’t the case.

I have made no secret of where my allegiances lie. You know how I want this to go.

I’ve said a lot of things over the last five years, and I have mostly talked about the bigger issues. I’ve said a lot about why I believe this is important for the world and why it is important for the Church, and those things are all true and no doubt I’ll say them again before we’re done here.

Tonight, I want to put my cards on the table and talk about why it’s important to me.

The presumption is that if you are campaigning for marriage equality, you must have someone who you actually intend to marry once you are able to do so.

I have a job that lends itself to odd hours and strange dinner conversation, a cathedral that lends itself to more odd hours and even stranger dinner conversation, and a rather wonderful life that is no less wonderful simply because it does not happen to feature a partner.

And yet — this is something that is important to me anyway.

I already know that God loves me.

I know it because I happened to stumble into a cathedral that would become home, and a few weeks later I happened to hear a sermon that would change my life and change my faith. A sermon that told of the Gospel truth of a God who loves everyone.

That is the business of the Church. To proclaim that God loves everyone.

But here’s the thing:

You can’t just say it.

You have to live it.

My coming out story isn’t particularly unusual, nor did it go particularly badly, or, at least, not in the larger picture of what happens when people come out and it really does go badly, but I did grow up knowing that what I would come to understand was my sexuality was something that wasn’t quite okay, wasn’t quite normal, and put me on the outside.

This is why civil partnership and then equal marriage legislation has been so significant. The wave of equality and love that seemed to sweep across parts of the globe over the last decade. The day they passed equal marriage in England and Wales. The interns running across the steps of the Supreme Court. The day the parliament in New Zealand broke out into a Maori love song, a moment so profound that I still cry when I watch it. The day it passed in Holyrood and the man who was trying to sell me a car while I watched the vote on a cracked iPhone screen thought it was all wonderful but also utterly unremarkable, and that it was that, the fact that he thought it was unremarkable, that was absolutely astonishing to me and more than anything else made me realise how far we had come.

These things are important not only because they legitimise our relationships, but because they legitimise who we are.

Tomorrow, that’s what Synod will be saying to me if we pass this.

That you, and you, and you, and me, are exactly who God intended us to be.

That you, and you, and you, and me, are included in the circle of all that is holy.

That the Scottish Episcopal Church is open for business, and that that business is telling everyone that they are loved by God.

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2 comments

  1. Thank you, Beth, for this and the way you have prepared the way for today’s vote in Synod. My thoughts and prayers are with you all, no matter which side people are on.

    Daniel


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