I woke up this morning with a melody running through my head, the melody from the hymn that we sing at the beginning of our Easter Vigil every year. The hymn that we sing as a people who have gathered in the darkness that comes before dawn and who find that the light has broken back into the world.
Into this world, morning is breaking,
All of God’s people, lift up your voice.
Cry out with joy, tell out the story,
All of the world rejoice!
Yesterday, the Scottish Episcopal Church did an astonishing thing. A loving thing. A generous thing. A thing that has taken years of work and prayer and soul-searching.
A thing that I have dreamed of for so long that when I did get out of bed this morning, I had to check the news to make sure I hadn’t actually dreamt it.
The moment I think I will remember from yesterday afternoon was not one that took place in front of the cameras and microphones. I made my way back from the podium, having made a speech in which I told the great and good of the Church that love is love and that love will turn the world upside down, and having also given a heads up to my cathedral Director of Music that one day I am probably going to be asking him for the trumpets from the Verdi Requiem as a wedding processional. The ecumenical delegate who has been sitting next to me during this Synod removed my speech from my hands, turned the paper over, and wrote on the back, “You can’t have the Verdi trumpets, they’re too scary.” And after it was all over, leaned over and said, “You can have the Grand March from Aida instead.”
There was no questioning that I as a gay woman was going to someday walk down a church aisle to something operatic and over-the-top — but, perhaps not the Verdi, she said.
It’s just marriage now.
It is now the policy of this church that same-sex couples who choose to be married can be married in the eyes not only of the law but in the eyes of God and in the presence of his congregation.
It is the policy of this church that priests whose conscience and commitment to equality has meant that they felt unable to perform marriages in church for as long as they were constrained from performing them on an equal basis for all couples, whether gay or straight, can now say to everyone, yes, yes, we do do weddings here.
It is the policy of this church that anyone who is called by God to ordained or lay ministry can explore their vocation certain in the knowledge that it will not be denied on the grounds of their sexuality or marital status.
And it is also now the explicit policy of this church — always true, before never written — that the conscience of any priest who does not wish to marry anyone for any reason will be protected. And any attempt to circumvent or disparage the clergy for whom that is their decision, they will be defended as passionately as all the rest of this was fought for in the first place. A decision to respect religious freedom does not, after all, count for much unless our commitment is to respect all religious freedom.
We have changed the world.
We have changed the world by being a Church that has chosen to stay together over the issues of sexuality and same-sex marriage.
And we will do it again — the decades of squabbles over sexuality will surely still rage across other denominations and provinces, but we are a church that can change the world because we can start talking now about all the other things that are imperative to the world in which we live. I woke up this morning to news of political chaos, but, more significantly, to news that the tide of the alt-right is finally turning and that the values of social justice and radical common sense seem finally be making their way back to the Britain. It is time for the Church to start making its voice heard in areas of economic justice, climate change, and global peace; the protection of education, healthcare, and social care; the protection of the poor, the vulnerable, and those who come to these lands seeking refuge; and the business of building the city of heaven here on Earth.
We changed the world yesterday, and surely, surely, that means we can do it again.
On my way into Synod yesterday morning, wearing a badge that displays the Scottish Episcopal Church’s pub sign on the background of a Pride flag, someone said to me, “If this happens, what will we do if busloads of gay couples start arriving who want to get married?” Well, if busloads of gay couples want to start making their way to Scotland to make their marriage vows, they may come and with gladness in their hearts, and there I will be, waiting with the confetti and an open door, for in the Scottish Episcopal Church all are welcome at Christ’s table.
Christ be our light,
Shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness,
Christ be our light,
Shine in your Church gathered today.