Love, Marriage, Synod

I am travelling to Edinburgh tomorrow for the opening of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church. For three days, the laity and clergy and bishops of our Church will all gather together to do our year’s business.

In the last few weeks, headlines from a number of media outlets have suggested that what we are going to be doing in Edinburgh is legalising marriage equality within the Church. This is (a) not our only item of business, and (b) not true (yet).

When it met in 2015, a significant majority of General Synod asked our legislative committee to prepare material that would make room in our laws to recognise the already reality that in this Church we have different understandings of marriage. The material that has been produced would remove a doctrinal statement of marriage from Canon 31, the law that governs marriage within the Church, and replace it with the following:

“In light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience. Any marriage which is to be conducted by a cleric shall be solemnised strictly in accordance with the civil law of Scotland for the time being in force and provided said cleric is satisfied, after appropriate enquiries, that the parties have complied with the necessary preliminaries as set forth in civil law. No cleric shall perform the Marriage Service, nor permit it to be performed in Church, for parties who are within the forbidden degrees as specified in Appendix 26. No cleric shall solemnise a marriage between persons of the same sex unless said cleric shall have been nominated on behalf of the Church to the Registrar General for Scotland.” 

General Synod will be asked to vote on this on Friday morning. If a majority of Synod agrees, the material will be presented to Diocesan Synods early next year for debate and discussion at a regional level and will then come to the General Synod of 2017 for a final vote.

I know, believe me, I know, that this seems like a slow process. There have been days and weeks and years when it has felt like pushing a lorry uphill in the snow barefoot — and every once in a while the lorry rolls backwards and squishes your toes.

But I also know that it is less than ten years since I thought that civil marriage equality was a nice daydream, maybe.

The world has come a long long way.

I will be very proud to vote for this amendment.

It says that this is a Church where we have a long and deep and faithful tradition of not always agreeing with each other. It says that the ability of this body of Christ to accept more than one idea is something that we are righteously proud of. It says that having different opinions is okay, and more than that: it is the thing that makes us fabulous.

If we remove our doctrinal understanding of marriage from canon law (and it is a legislative peculiarity that it has ever been there, to be honest), then it reverts to what we can find in the marriage liturgy. The marriage liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church is a beautiful thing, and there are many different understandings of marriage to be found within it; things that I agree with and identify with and want for myself, and things that I recoil from. I am sure that the same thing is true of those of my sisters and brothers who disagree with me. There is room here for all of us.

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Letting Streams Of Living Justice Flow Down Upon The Earth

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States begins on Thursday morning — their equivalent of the General Synod that I was at a couple of weeks ago and that I’ve spent much of the couple of weeks since mulling over.

In the liturgy that I’ve witnessed, in the music that I’ve heard, in a trip to Edinburgh Pride this past weekend with fellow Episcopalians. A spark of optimism is there that burns brighter than it did before. It says that we can do this, and that we can do it while still all doing that most simple and complex thing of loving each other.

As part of their business over the next nine days the Episcopal Church of the United States will be considering an amendment to Canon I.18, which is their marriage Canon. The proposed changes are mainly based in the removal of doctrinal statements, and in that sense are similar to those which the Scottish Episcopal Church has just agreed to consider.

In my mulling over of the business that was done here in Scotland, I am still struck by the atmosphere of constructivity and generosity that I experienced in those three days in Edinburgh. At the time, I was struck by how hard people were willing to work to ensure that a satisfactory process was embarked upon. I was struck by the determination of people on all sides of the conversation to look for a compromise and an answer that we could all live with. I was moved then and am still by the willingness of people to be vulnerable, to talk about their lack of certainty, to lay their lives and their journeys bare, to show us all the deepest corners of their faith.

We in the Scottish Episcopal Church credit ourselves with having birthed the Episcopal Church of the USA when we consecrated Samuel Seabury in 1784 against the wishes of the Church of England.

It is my prayer for our sisters and brothers in the United States that they encounter as much love in their General Convention as we did in Edinburgh, and that Scotland will once again have lit for them a beacon of hope.

General Synod 2015: Going Forward In Diversity

Tonight, at the service of Evening Prayer with which we close each day’s business at Synod, I found myself in tears.

Not the tears that I wept at General Synod last year, when I had to make an escape from the building to have a few moments of quiet with a friend in my anger and my frustration. No, I said to those who came to me when worship was over. No, these are the good kind, these are the tears of joy. The weeping that I do today is the weeping of Easter Sunday.

The motion put to Synod before lunch today was whether we wished to proceed to debate the options for potential change to Canon 31, which is the canon the deals with how we marry people in the Church.

Section 1 of Canon 31 states that:

The Doctrine of this Church is that Marriage is a physical, spiritual, and mystical union of one man and one woman, created by their mutual consent of heart, mind, and will thereto, and is a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God.

Having decided that we did want to vote on some form of change to that Canon, the options we were choosing between were as is written here.

74% of Synod voted for Option A as their first preference. We have asked the Committee on Canons to prepare canonical material removing Section 1 in its entirety from Canon 31. If that passes through subsequent Synodical procedures, the result will be that Canon Law in the Scottish Episcopal Church is silent on the doctrinal nature of marriage and that our doctrinal understanding reverts to that which is found in the liturgies of the Church.

And to save you looking it up: The liturgies of this Church as they already exist allow for many possible understandings of marriage, including that which is between two people of the same gender.

I voted for Option A. I dithered, and I considered voting for Option C (altering “one man and one woman” so that it instead read “two persons”) which would have produced something that I could have joyfully lived with. I chose instead to put it as my second preference.

Because it isn’t just about me, is it?

It used to be about me. This conversation used to be a conversation that was being had only amongst people like me and people who agreed with us. But if anything has become clear over the last two days, it has been that this is now a conversation that is being had by the whole Church, willingly and intelligently and diversely and overflowing with love.

That has been a wonderful thing to witness.

And so I voted for the option that I think allows us to go forward together, loving one another in our diversity and our difference and our disagreement. I think that that is the kind of Church that we are, and it is the kind of Church that I want us to be.

Now, the work is not done.

To change Canon Law as has been requested in principle by General Synod today will require two years worth of procedures. The canonical material which has been requested will be brought for first reading at General Synod 2016, requiring a simple majority. If passed, that will go to the Diocesan Synods of 2017 for further discussion before being brought for second reading to General Synod 2017 where in order to pass and to actually become Canon Law it will require a two thirds majority from each of the House of Laity, the House of Clergy, and the House of Bishops.

No, the work is not nearly done.

But the things that have happened today have been good things, marvellous things, things that if you had asked me two years ago I would have said that I didn’t know if they would ever happen at all.

And as the words of Psalm 40 were read, I wept for joy and for gladness:

I waited patiently for God
and God bent down to hear me.
God lifted me from a murky pit
and set me firmly on a rock
where I can stand confidently.

God put a new song on my lips,
a song of praise to my Maker;
many will look on in wonder
and put their trust in God.

Countless are your wonders, O God;
in goodness you have no equal.
We would proclaim all your works
were they not too many to number.

General Synod 2015: Sit Rep on Day 1

I am in Edinburgh, where the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has reached the close of business for Day 1.

There is a significant amount of business to be conducted in this Synod, and a lot of it is about marriage and about Canon 31. The motions that came on Thursday were largely procedural in nature, relating to whether Synod wished to adopt the process that had been suggested by the Faith and Order Board. It required a two thirds majority of Synod voting in one House.

The motion passed with the following amendments as I understand them:

  • A procedural motion will be taken following the substantive debate as to whether Synod should move to a vote on it (and, by implication, whether Synod is of a mind to have any change to the Canon)
  • If so moved, the vote will be by what has been described as single transferable vote, rather than by the allocation of points as had been suggested originally by the Faith and Order Board.
  • If so moved, the vote will be on Options A / C / E as writ in the Synod Papers (1 / 3 / 5 in the linked blog post). There will then be a separate motion as to whether a conscience clause should be added.

A further amendment was proposed, suggesting a further option for the ballot that Canon 31, Section 1 should be maintained in its present form and that a conscience clause should be added allowing individual ministers to solemnise marriages between individuals of the same sex. That amendment did not achieve a majority of Synod and so that option has not been added to the ballot: it is my view that that was a right and proper decision by Synod, as it would not have been an option that could not possibly have resulted in a competent Canon but instead might have led to the Church having a Canon Law that contradicted itself.

Now, that is all procedure. It is all preamble. It is not yet the substance of the thing, but it seems to me that it has been significant nonetheless and that Synod has had important conversations amongst itself today and done work that it was necessary to do. It seems to me particularly important that Synod did not choose to merely follow along with the process presented to it or indeed merely to vote down the whole thing, but chose to do that hard work that it felt was needed to make that process better. I think — or hope, at least — that that represents a willingness to engage.

Tomorrow, we move to substance.

There is a vote before lunch on whether we go on to debate. If we do vote for that debate, that will take place after lunch on the canonical options as listed, and, if it is agreed to move to a vote, a vote on those options by ballot. If voted on, we will then be able to choose whether to ask the Faith and Order Board to instruct the Committee on Canons to prepare canonical material for first reading in 2016 in line with that vote. The final piece of business tomorrow will be to discuss whether the Committee on Canons should prepare a new Canon which if agreed to would enable the registration of civil partnerships in the Scottish Episcopal Church — it is worth noting that that piece of business is not contingent on anything that has gone before it.

There is a live audio stream available on the Provincial website for anyone who wishes to follow along at home, and the public gallery at St Paul’s and St George’s where we are meeting is open to the public for all debates.

Marriage and the General Synod

Next week, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church meets in Edinburgh to do its annual business. A significant chunk of our agenda this year is to talk about marriage: what we believe about it, what we say about it, and what steps (if any) we as a Church want to take to recognise the lives and loves of couples who happen to be of the same sex.

It is my view that we should be recognising those lives and loves in precisely the same way as we recognise those of couples within the Church who happen to be of opposite sexes – and it is not only my view. The most profound social change in the last decade has not been the rewriting of old laws and the enacting of new ones. It has been the basic truth that society no longer thinks I am being radical when I say that in life and law and linguistics there should be no difference between gay couples and straight couples.

But it is the truth and beauty of the Scottish Episcopal Church that we are not all of the same view, and that we are not all required to share a single view. It is right and proper that we have this conversation and that the matter is given due process in accordance with the procedures of the Church.

It is proposed that the Synodical debate this year will be based on six options drawn up by the Faith and Order Board for changing Canon 31, or a separate option for no change.

For avoidance of doubt, Section 1 of Canon 31 states:

The Doctrine of this Church is that Marriage is a physical, spiritual, and mystical union of one man and one woman, created by their mutual consent of heart, mind, and will thereto, and is a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God.

Also for the avoidance of doubt, Clause 1 was written into Canon Law for the express purpose of clarifying the Church’s position on the then newly enacted divorce laws.

The options laid out by the Faith and Order Board are:

  1. Removal of Section 1
  2. Removal of Section 1, with the addition of a conscience clause stating that no cleric is obliged to solemnise a marriage against their conscience.
  3. Alteration of Section 1 to render it non-gender specific, e.g. by replacing “one man and one woman” with “two persons”.
  4. Alteration of Section 1 as in (3), with the addition of a conscience clause.
  5. Alteration of Section 1 to include two expressions of marriage, i.e. to state that there are two expressions of marriage in the Scottish Episcopal Church: one between a man and a woman and one between two persons of either gender.
  6. Alteration of Section 1 as in (5), with the addition of a conscience clause.

We are told that in order to debate these options, a two-thirds majority of voting members will need to agree to do so. If the Synod agrees to the debate, the Faith and Order Board ask that the subsequent voting be conducted by a ballot and we are told that that voting mechanism will also need to be agreed to by a two-thirds majority of voting members.

I think that it needs to be understood that the requirement for one at this stage in the conversation means that Episcopalians who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender are being required to meet a higher standard just to get in the door. I am not scared of the requirement, but it must be distinctly understood that to require it at this point is not just.

The proposal for the voting mechanism is that representatives will be asked to give six points to their most preferred option, and five points to their second most preferred option, and so on. After the points are added together, Synod will be declared to have expressed a preference and will then be asked to vote on whether the Committee on Canons should be asked to prepare canonical material relating to that preference. That vote requires a simple majority of 51%, not voting in houses. The canonical material would be presented to the General Synod of 2016 for first reading.

The agenda and papers for General Synod 2015 have been made available on the Provincial website. The relevant points are the motions themselves on pages 1-10, and the process paper from the Faith and Order Board  on pages 46-50. The Doctrine Committee have produced a paper on the theology of marriage, which is also available on the Provincial website and which I believe is intended to inform the debate.

In addition to the material on same-sex marriage, the Faith and Order Board have proposed a separate motion relating to whether the Scottish Episcopal Church wishes to undertake the registration of civil partnerships. There is an ongoing discussion about this on Kelvin’s blog, which is worth reading and joining in with. I have not been able to answer his question and I’m not convinced anyone knows the answer, including those who proposed the motion. I am against that motion, and I think it must be clear in everyone’s mind before we get to Synod that this should not be a question of either/or — I do not believe we are looking for religious civil partnerships, and as I said some weeks ago we are certainly not looking for them as a consolation prize.

I urge members of Synod to read and digest the material that is in the Synod papers — there is a lot of it. I also urge people within the Church who are not on Synod to read the material — if you have an opinion on this, talk to your clergy or your lay representative or any member of Synod and make your views known.

Separate Is Not Equal

Today, members of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church were sent a paper on “the theology of marriage as currently articulated through the Canons and Liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and exploring whether there is a case for change based on tradition, scripture, and reason”.

This has been sent out in advance of the bulk of the Synod papers, and we have been asked to devote some time to reading and digesting it in preparation for what is suggested will be substantive debates at Synod in June. It clearly represents an enormous amount of work by the Doctrine Committee, and they are to be praised for their commitment to it. I believe it has the potential to be a very useful document, both in framing and informing such debate. The purpose of this document is not to take a position, but to outline all the positions and the arguments for and against them. It starts by suggesting cases for no change and for change to Canon 31 (which it calls Options A and B, and, recognising that those arguments tend to be in direct opposition to one another, lays them out as far as possible in parallel. At the end, it suggests a case for what it calls an Option C, which represents the argument to allow recognition and blessing of same-sex partnerships but not to allow them to be called marriage.

It is this last part that is my concern.

And let me be very clear: I am not criticising the Doctrine Committee for fulfilling their stated purpose and outlining all possible options. I do not think that this option was dreamed up by the Committee; I think that it represents a position that exists and has been thought of already by many people and was always going to be proposed in one form or another.

As an option that has now been articulated and put out there into the world, I think it is important that we talk about it.

Because let me also be very clear: Option C is not a real option.

In an effort to be clear about their meaning, the Doctrine Committee explain that what this suggests is ‘a rite equivalent to marriage for same-sex partnerships but called something else’. Again, this is not language peculiar to the Doctrine Committee; it is an explanation that I have heard in synods and committees and Cascade Conversations for the last three years from well-meaning people who have never read Animal Farm.

In the world before civil partnerships, Option C was something that we might have grabbed with both hands. In a world where I had never campaigned for marriage equality, I would have said that this was the best we would get and more than I had ever dared hope for. I know now that that is not true. The world has changed, and will keep on changing. I live now a country where marriage is just marriage, where equal means equal, and where I know that we can believe in and fight for better.

During the House of Commons debate on marriage equality in England and Wales, in a speech that will go down alongside Martin Luther King in the history of great human rights speeches, David Lammy said, “Separate but equal is a fraud. Separate but equal is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. […] It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationists and the racists. It is the same statement, the same ideas, and the same delusion that we borrowed in this country to say that women could vote — but not until they were 30. […] It entrenched who we were, who our friends could be, and what our lives could become. This was not ‘separate but equal’ but separate and discriminated, separate and oppressed, separate and browbeaten, separate and subjugated. Separate is not equal, so let us be rid of it.”

If an Option C is passed by the Scottish Episcopal Church, it will achieve something that is not fair or just or right and that pleases no one. Option C will alienate couples who are married out there in the world and are… what, when they walk through the doors of a church? Option C will not guarantee an end to homophobic and separatist policies such as the ones enumerated in the Bishops’ Guidelines in December. Option C will stall the fight for real equality as we live through a decade or more where people like me will be expected to sit down and shut up because we will be thought to have won. Option C is something people will expect me to say thank you for.

No.

The lie of separate but equal is one that sustained apartheid in South Africa and segregation in America. It is a lie that today allows a political campaign to flourish in Britain through the language of hate, and that in the Church aims to make us all believe that the struggle for gender equality in Lambeth Palace has been won and is over when nothing could be further from the truth. It is the language used by those who believe that men are better than women, that black people are inferior to white people, and that gay people are deserving of less than straight people, but who do not have the guts to say any of it out loud in a world that knows how wrong they are. It is a lie that has no place in a civilised society, and it is one that I will never vote for.

Bishops’ Response to Letter of Concern Regarding Guidelines on Same-Sex Marriage

The following letter was received shortly before Christmas from the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend David Chillingworth. This was in response to the letter of concern which was signed by over fifty clergy and lay readers in the Province following the publication of the College of Bishops’ guidelines on same-sex marriage.

I have an exam tomorrow and so I will most likely have more to say about this at another time, but for now I think it probably goes without saying that this is not a satisfactory response to the concerns that were expressed.

*

22 December 2014

I am responding to your letter which has been passed to me by our Secretary General. My response has been agreed with the other members of the College of Bishops. I would be grateful if you would circulate this response to the other signatories of your letter.

The situation in which we and other churches find ourselves is one of considerable challenge and we are grateful to you for your recognition of that and your support for us in our ministry. It is not within the experience of any of us that we find our church out of step with the provisions of Civil Law with respect to marriage. We are aware that a substantial section of our church would wish to bring the practice of our church into line with the Civil Law as soon as possible. Others, of course, wish to continue to uphold a more traditional position.

As bishops, we are acutely aware that the issues which are part of the wider discussion of human sexuality and are touched on in the Guidance issued by the College are not abstract matters of policy. They affect deeply the lives and relationships of members of our church, both clergy and laity. It is regrettable, therefore, that some have been upset by the style and tone of our Guidance document; this was not our intention. We are aware that what we say should be expressed in a way which is compassionate and which honours the depth of the feelings involved.

The Guidance offered by the College of Bishops was not intended to pre-empt any future discussion or synodical decision. It was issued at this point because of the need to bring clarity as the new Marriage Act becomes effective in Scotland. This is where we are at the moment. Our document is not seeking to defend the status quo but rather to preserve a space in which both the Cascade and Synodical processes might be allowed to work themselves through to a point where we can discern the mind of the church on this matter. We feel that for a diversity of practice to arise before we have done this will neither contribute to the unity of our church nor ultimately will it assist us as we try to move forward together.

I know that many who signed your letter are committed to the Cascade process. It is a process which, in a number of forms, has been followed by many churches. It seeks to provide an opportunity for honest conversation across difference and to foster a sense of belonging to one another in Christ. Whilst it did not achieve universal acceptance, we were greatly encouraged by the Pitlochry Conference and by expressions of the process at other levels. The purpose of the Cascade process has not been primarily to seek a resolution of these issues – rather it offers a way in which we can respond to our diversity and thereby create an environment in which resolution may be possible.

Ultimately, this resolution must come through General Synod. The process for doing so in 2015 will be the subject of debate by the Faith and Order Board at its meeting in March. This may lead to a full debate at General Synod in 2015 on the Theology of Marriage in response to a paper to be prepared by our Doctrine Committee. We also expect a debate which gives General Synod members the opportunity of expressing a considered view on a number of options for canonical and other changes. The College trusts that our Cascade Conversations will mean that votes on the floor of General Synod – when they come – will give expression to a deeper unity and catholicity which our church has sought in honest conversation, mutual respect for diversity and prayer.

The question of the authority of the Canons is of particular difficulty. It affects clergy and all who hold a licence for ministry in our church. Whether or not a priest or a deacon can promise obedience to the Canons is ultimately a matter of personal and ministerial integrity. But, because we are an episcopal church, it also involves the bishop before whom such declarations are made.

There are of course wider issues involved here – about the nature of the Scottish Episcopal Church and its place in Scotland today. Many people in and beyond our church would recognize that we have, over the years, bravely represented and advocated gospel-inspired positions on social, moral and justice issues. We honour that history and our tradition of openness and compassion. The challenge we now face is to be open and courageous about engaging with our own theological diversity – honourably resolving difficult questions in a way that strengthens and deepens our oneness in Christ. I believe that we are not only capable of doing this for ourselves but of offering it as an example to others.

Thank you again for your letter. I know that it arises from the deeply held feelings of many people within our church and I hope that this response helps to answer some of their concerns.
With kind regards,
+David
The Most Rev’d David Chillingworth

Here Comes The Sun

Today is the Winter Solstice.

It is the mid-point of winter, the darkest and longest of these dark days and long nights. It is the time of year when all the major religions of the world celebrate, in their own way, the coming of the light into this dark world. It is the moment when everyone on Earth stops and tells each other that we have come halfway out of the darkness.

We have had some terribly dark days, these last few weeks. We have had days when I have thought that that Advent God for whom we wait must look at his church with dismay and believe us to have abandoned all that he lived and died for.

On this final Sunday of Advent, we turn our eyes to Bethlehem, to the star that has appeared in the East, and to the promise that dark days give way to light and that, yes, yes, the age of miracles is not yet past.

For from these days of darkness has emerged a new dawn of hope, in the will and testament and action of the ordinary and now extraordinary people of God. They are people who work for the promise of that Advent God; of the bravery of Mary and the compassion of Joseph and of all that that child in the manger might yet do.

It isn’t simple. It won’t be easy. It’s not anywhere near done yet.

But as we look into that light, it becomes just a little easier than it was last week to believe that we will get there in the end.

Stir up in us O long-awaited God the will to join your revolution, to change your world, and to be in word and deed your living Body and the rock on which your Church can be rebuilt.

Letter from Clergy and Lay Readers to the SEC College of Bishops

The following letter has been sent to the College of Bishops in response to the guidelines on same-sex marriage which were sent out last Tuesday to clergy and lay readers. It was organised by clergy of the Diocese of Edinburgh, and it has been signed by some fifty or so clergy and lay readers from across the Province whose names appear below.

To every single one of them: Thank you.

*

Dear Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church,

We read with dismay the Guidance for Clergy and Lay Readers in the light of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

We appreciate that we are bound by the law, and that until our canons are changed, we cannot legally perform same-sex marriages. However, we are disappointed by both the timing and the tone of the document. We have been urged by you to enter into ‘cascade conversations’ in a spirit of open and sensitive listening with people of all views on this matter. This document only makes this process much harder for us, even impossible for some. Far from acknowledging the reality of differing experience and views in the church, it gives the impression of a definitive answer to the question we have yet to discuss or debate. The document ought to make it clear that the restrictions it describes may be temporary, if the church decides to change its canons. Because of the confusion created by this document, we now believe that such canonical change should be decided in Synod as soon as possible.

But we were especially dismayed by the section of the document which refers to clergy, lay readers, and ordinands, should they be in a same-sex relationship and wish to be married. In particular, we find the warnings to ordinands, both currently training and those who might be training in the future, to be unrepresentative of the generous and communal characteristics of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Even though our church has not yet agreed to solemnise same-sex marriages, they will nevertheless become a civil institution which we will recognise like everyone else under the law. It is our firm belief therefore that any prohibition on obtaining a civil marriage is outwith the moral and canonical authority of a bishop.

We acknowledge that this process is one which creates anxiety for all church leaders, and bishops in particular. We empathise with the difficult situation that you as bishops are in, and reaffirm our desire to support you in your leadership of our church, and as fellow members of it.

Nevertheless, some of us are now uncomfortable about solemnising marriages at all until such time as all can be treated equally, and all of us will continue to feel morally compromised in our ministries, and wish to make clear our continuing commitment to affirm and support all people in our church, and to recognise and rejoice in all marriages, of whatever sexual orientation, as true signs of the love of God in Christ.

Yours sincerely,

Revd Carrie Applegath
Revd Philip Blackledge
Revd Maurice Houston
Revd Canon John McLuckie
Revd Canon Ian Paton
Revd Kate Reynolds
Revd Martin Robson,
Revd Malcolm Aldcroft
Dr Darlene Bird (Lay Reader)
Revd Jim Benton-Evans
Revd Cedric L. Blakey
Revd Andrew Bowyer
Revd Canon Bill Brockie
Revd Tony Bryer
Revd Steve Butler
Revd Christine Barclay
Revd Lynsay M Downes
Revd Markus Düntzkopfer
Revd Canon Anne Dyer
Revd Janet Dyer
Revd Jennifer Edie
Revd John L Evans
Revd Samantha Ferguson
The Revd Canon Zachary Fleetwood
Kennedy Fraser (Lay Reader)
Revd Kirstin Freeman
Revd Frances Forshaw
Revd Ruth Green
Revd Bob Gould
Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth
Revd Ruth Innes
Revd Ken Webb
Rev’d Canon Mel Langille
Revd Kenny Macaulay
Revd Simon Mackenzie
Revd Duncan MacLaren
Very Revd Nikki McNelly
Very Revd Jim Mein
Revd Nicola Moll
Revd Bryan Owen
Revd Canon Clifford Piper
Revd Donald Reid
Revd Colin Reed
Revd Canon John Richardson
Revd Malcolm Richardson
Revd Gareth J M Saunders
Very Revd Alison J Simpson
Very Revd Andrew Swift
Kate Sainsbury (Lay Reader)
Patsy Thomson (Lay Reader)
Revd Prof Annalu Waller

Guidance from SEC House of Bishops on Same-Sex Marriage

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.”

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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.

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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