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College of Bishops Statement – November 2013

The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church have issued this statement which was sent to clergy in an online mailing on 29 November 2013.

Blessing of Civil Partnerships

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 2012 agreed not to adopt the Anglican Covenant. Since then, and within our own context, the College of Bishops has, on a number of occasions, considered how our church should best engage with those underlying questions of human sexuality which had given rise to the original idea of a Covenant. The College looks forward to the Church undertaking discussion of such matters as part of the process currently being designed by a group set up for that purpose by the provincial Mission and Ministry Board. The College in no way intends to pre-empt the outcome of those discussions. At the same time it recognises that the entering into of civil partnerships is a regular occurrence in Scottish society today.

In a previous statement the College indicated that it was the practice of the individual Bishops at that time neither to give official sanction to blessings of civil partnerships, nor to attend them personally. The Church does not give official sanction to informal blessings but each Bishop would nevertheless expect to be consulted by clergy prior to the carrying out of any informal blessing of a civil partnership in his diocese. The College is of the view that a decision as to whether or not to attend such an informal blessing should be a personal decision of the individual Bishop in question.
College of Bishops
November 2013

Episcopalians at Glasgow Pride

Meet at the fountain opposite the People’s Palace at 10.30 am on 10 August 2013

All Scottish Episopalians and ecumenical friends welcome.

Episcopalians at Pride will have a stall in the marketplace as well as joining the march.

Straight allies particularly welcome!

Clergy: clerical collars, please.

Wallet cards

Legislation in England

Changing Attitude Scotland rejoices with campaigners in England as legislation which will allow same-sex couples to get married completes its path through the House of Lords. Though the legislation falls a long way short of the core ideal for Equal Marriage which we long for, it is a huge step along the way towards equality.

As this legislation for England and Wales passes through the both Houses of Parliament in London as it makes its way for Royal Assent, the focus now turns towards the Scottish Parliament. Changing Attitude Scotland notes that the Scottish legislation allows for the possibility that the Scottish Episcopal Church at some time will be able to opt into the legislation and is working to hasten that day.

For now though, we celebrate alongside campaigners in England in full knowledge that marriage is changing and becoming a more whole and wholesome institution in jurisdictions all around the world.

Anglican Bishop Authorises Clergy to perform Same-Sex Marriages

The Rt Rev Marc Andrus the Bishop of California has licensed clergy in that diocese to perform same-sex marriages following the US Supreme Court’s decision to allow such marriages in California to recommence.

In a statement he said:

I celebrate with LGBT sisters and brothers this Pride weekend as their personhood has been more fully recognized by the state, and I give thanks to God for the ways that they not only bless and are blessings to one another, but how they bless the full life of the Church.

Full details here

Equal Marriage Video

Changing Attitude Scotland is pleased to see a number of Scottish Episcopalians in this video produced to support the Equal Marriage campaign. Parts of the video were filmed in one of our Scottish Episcopal cathedrals.

House of Lords Debate

The Archbishop of York has taken a strong and disappointing lead in opposing Equal Marriage legislation in the House of Lords.

Speaking in the debate, he said acknowledged that the Church of England readily blesses inanimate objects but has not yet come to a point where it can bless loving relationships between gay Christians.

What do you do with people in same-sex relationships that are committed, loving and Christian? Would you rather bless a sheep and a tree, and not them? However, that is a big question, to which we are going to come. I am afraid that now is not the moment.

Writing in the Guardian, Andrew Brown has a powerful critique of the influence of Archbishops John Sentamu and Rowan Williams:

…they failed to listen to the weak because they thought the noisy bullies mattered more.

When civil partnerships came in, the two archbishops fought hard, along with the rest of the Church of England, to ensure that they had no religious or spiritual content at all. This was a monumentally stupid position for an established church to take, and the nation duly went ahead and injected its own spiritual contents, leaving the church looking like a whitewashed tomb.



Intrusive Questions

It is reported in the Daily Telegraph that gay candidates being considered for appointment as bishops in England will be subject to prurient questions about their private lives.

Openly gay clerics will be questioned about the intimate detail of their sex life on behalf of the Archbishops of Canterbury or York before they can be considered to be a bishop, the Church of England has disclosed.

Changing Attitude Scotland is pleased that there are no reports of such intrusive and inappropriate questions becoming part of the process for episcopal appointments in Scotland and notes that it is not the policy of the Scottish Episcopal Church to require celibacy for gay people being considered for the diaconate or the priesthood either.

Primus on Anglican Moratoria

In a debate at the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church on Friday 7 June 2013, Beth Routledge questioned whether the rejection of the Anglican Covenant by the Scottish Episcopal Church now meant that the Anglican moratoria did not apply in Scotland.

In responding to the debate, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev David Chillingworth said:

The Anglican Communion Moratoria were established, I think, I’m now speaking from memory, by the Primates Meeting at its meeting in Dar-es -Salaam. And there were three Anglican Communion moratoria which were that we were asked not to elect or consecrate a bishop in a long-term same-sex relationship; not to establish authorised rites for the blessing of same-sex unions and not to take part in cross border incursions. Now the question really was whether the Anglican Covenant was seen as being what took the place of the Moratoria and nobody every answered that question. I have always had great uncertainty about moratoria – it goes back to my Irish past – of living with ceasefires. The problem with ceasefires is this: you establish a break in the conflict in order to stop the parties doing more damage to one another and that is an entirely understandable and laudable aim. But by doing that, you remove the urgency about resolving the issue. So having established the moratorium, everybody sits back because the need to resolve the issue is no longer there. And I think we’ve had too much of that. I don’t think there has been clarity about the link between the Anglican Communion Moratoria and the Anglican Covenant and I do not think at this moment there is clarity about the status of the Moratoria. My personal view is that the authority of such provisions ebbs away slowly as time passes and I don’t think that there is much authority left. And in the recent pronouncements of the Church of England, for example, the Anglican Communion Moratoria were not mentioned. So clearly they don’t seem now to be authoritative in our life and I don’t think they are a major factor in any consideration we give.

Later in the synod, the Primus was asked whether it would be possible for the College of Bishops to clarify after its next meeting whether the moratoria still applied in Scotland and also whether the uniquely Scottish moratorium about Bishops attending civil partnership ceremonies was still regarded by the Bishops as being in force.

The Primus replied:

Firstly on the specific question of whether bishops attend civil partnerships, we [the College of Bishops] have discussed that question and I think that we need to discuss it further at our next meeting before we finalise a view because it is a complex many layered question. The question about the Moratoria to be honest I thought I had answered in the sense that I made clear that no answer in my view was going to come from the Anglican Communion as to whether the Anglican Communion Moratoria were still in place. And the reason for that, I think, is that it would be very difficult for such a thing to happen. Why? Because the nature of the Primates’ Meeting has changed and the Primates’ Meeting I think, in the initial phases of the great difficulties which the Anglican Communion has passed through, went through a phase in which it tried to take decisions and hold the Communion to those decisions. When I attended the meeting of the Anglican Primates in Dublin in 2011 that meeting made a very definite decision to return to what it regarded as its core role as a place of prayer and consultation. Therefore it regarded the period in which the Primates’ Meeting had attempted to take authoritative decisions as being something of an aberration. So we are now left with a situation where a meeting functioning, a part of the Anglican Communion, functioning in one mode has left us with a set of provisions which it probably isn’t able to undo. But there’s another strand to that, because we obviously can ourselves decide that inasmuch as the Anglican Communion Moratoria are in existence we feel ourselves no longer bound by them. But it seems to me that is a question analogous to what happens if you decide not to adopt the Anglican Covenant. Because if you have decided that you are not going to be bound by, shall we say, the external discipline of the Communion you have to decide what your internal, what your self-discipline is, which bounds your actions. Now the process on human sexuality which we have been discussing, it seems to me, represents our response to what happens when we decide not to adopt the Anglican Covenant and I think that the situation about the Anglican Communion Moratoria is rather simpler but is analogous to that. It’s not actually our moratoria it’s the Primates’ Meeting’s moratoria. So it’s up to them to decide that they no longer bind the Communion. I don’t think they are able to do that. So we end up in a rather difficult hiatus but not, I think, one that need impede our life because what we are doing is establishing through our various processes what our position will be, and we are trying to honour the presence of the Communion; to be Communion sensitive and Communion responsive by involving partners from other parts of the Communion. We’re honouring the sense that we are not entirely on our own but actually in the end the decisions are ours to be taken with full knowledge and recognition of the sensitivities of those decisions in the Communion context.

Sorry if that’s complex and it’s deeply unsatisfactory to be honest, but I think that’s where it is. I hope that I’ve been as open as I can be.

Response to Government Consultation

The following comments form part of the Changing Attitude Scotland submission to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on Civil Partnership and Same-Sex Marriage

We are aware of the disappointing response made by the Faith and Order Board of the Scottish Episcopal Church to this consultation. We believe that response to be an inadequate one in that whilst it acknowledges that there is some diversity of opinion in the church over these questions the response itself does not model that diversity nor represent the views of many members of the church. We do not believe that this response has been approved by the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church and believe that it does have the force of the authority of the General Synod behind it.

We believe that it is impossible to say what the Scottish Episcopal Church thinks about the possibility of opening marriage to same-sex couples on the basis of current Canon Law. Such a determination could only be made by General Synod considering the question directly. When the current Canon on marriage was formulated it was inconceivable that a Scottish Government could be proposing these changes to the law of the land. For that reason, it is completely unreasonable of the Faith and Order Board to reply that the Scottish Episcopal Church is not in favour of change. A much more appropriate response would have been to say that the Church does not know and in the course of this consultation had no opportunity to come to a view.

The response that the Faith and Order Board has made has no internal logic to it as it relies solely on the definition of marriage in Canon 31 of the Scottish Episcopal Canons. (‘a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and as a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God), yet the church regularly marries people whose lives are not reflected in this definition. So long as the church marries divorcees, it is hypocritical to say that it is by definition against the opening up of marriage to same-sex couples on the basis of Canon 31 alone.

We note that, despite their reliance on marriage as currently defined by Canon 31, the Faith and Order Board has recognised within its response that there is a process within the Scottish Episcopal Church for changing Canon Law when it is appropriate to do so. We would welcome the opportunity to work for this change in the knowledge that marriage equality within the Church would be reflected by marriage equality under the law.

It is striking that the response of the Faith and Order Board makes almost no mention of the liturgies of the Church. We believe that our faith and doctrine are taught in our liturgical life. It is there that faith is formed. It is there that our doctrine finds life.

It is certainly possible to say that some Scottish Episcopalians are against same-sex marriage. It is not credible to assert that the church as a whole is opposed to this move. We know gay people who work at every level in the church. We know gay and lesbian people, many of whom are in partnerships, who live holy, fulfilled lives in congregations throughout Scotland. We know that many people are disappointed by the Response of the Faith and Order Board. We know many people in the Scottish Episcopal Church who are longing for the law to change and who will work to ensure that the Church is able to take advantage of the change in the law when it comes.

We are shocked that the Faith and Order Board chose to respond to this consultation without apparently meeting with any out gay or out lesbian people. We are also shocked that there does not seem to have been any out gay or lesbian person involved in formulating the response. We belong to a church with competent gay and lesbian clergy, some of whom are in partnerships which have been blessed in church and a church which includes several skilled theologians who happen to be gay or lesbian.

It is inconceivable that the Scottish Episcopal Church can find a way to remain united and focussed on its mission to bring good news to the people of Scotland whilst ignoring, silencing and marginalising the voices of its LGBT members.

We believe that there is only one answer to the threat of schism in the Scottish Episcopal Church over the question of how to deal with LGBT issues. The resolution to these problems will only be found when those of differing views agree to live with that difference and agree that they will live together without punishing one another for their different readings of the Bible. We are convinced that our unity will only be found as the church as a group of diverse people look together towards Jesus Christ.

The more that church committees and structures insist that there can only be one view for all Anglicans on matters of human sexuality the more vulnerable and impoverished those committees and structures become. Our unity will not be found in covenants, belief tests, proof texts from the Bible, the opinions of bishops or the posturing of Archbishops. Our unity will only ever be found in Christ.

It is in the name of Christ that we declare ourselves to be in favour of opening marriage to same-sex couples. It is precisely because we are Christians with a love of the Bible, a desire for justice and a passion for the mission of the church that we seek to support this change. We believe that many in the Scottish Episcopal Church share our convictions.