Category Archives: News

Digest of responses made online about College of Bishops’ Statement

Beth Routledge has this post on her blog which includes the following:

1) …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) … the answers and guidance given by the House of Bishops, and that we are further away from justice and equality today than we were even a decade ago,

3) … 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.

Ekklesia has a long post called No rejoicing here: Scottish Episcopal Church’s marriage guidance which includes the following:

…institutional churches need to provide pastoral care to those who feel called to pledge their love publicly to their life-partner, as well as those opposed.

There is little sense of this in the Scottish Episcopal Church’s College of Bishops’ Guidance for Clergy and Lay Readers in the light of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. This document is perhaps even more grim and threatening than the Church of England bishops’ February 2014 ‘pastoral’ guidance.

and also:

The bishops could have issued a very different document recognising the variety of views and experiences within the church while highlighting the legal situation, an advising clergy that some congregations might react negatively if they were married. That they did not do so perhaps reflects a habit of fear of those most opposed to inclusion combined with pastoral insensitivity to those in favour.

Pouring a bucket of cold water over couples in love, their families and friends is not the best approach to mission and ministry. Once again, Christians seeking a more just and welcoming church will be left with the challenge of trying to limit the damage done by official statements.

The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow said in a blog post:

I’m appalled by its contents and in particular appalled at the way the Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church are treating gay clergy and lay readers in the church. The homophobic bullying of candidates for ministry – ordinands and candidates for lay readership is particularly unpleasant.

The Rev Kirstin Freeman, Rector of All Saints’, Bearsden and St Andrew’s, Milngavie also had a blog post – Advent Sorrow. This included the following striking statement:

The SEC is part of who I am and never before have I felt ashamed to be a Pisky. While I do not agree with the views contained within the Bishop’s statement yesterday… I am part of the SEC and so I feel I must apologise to all those who have been hurt by the words that have been used and the tone in which it has been delivered. They are not my words nor indeed my sentiments, but for many people I know I am the face of the SEC, so I am sorry for what has been said. To those of you who happen to be LTBG, regardless of whether you have any connections with the the SEC, I want to apologise for the times when maybe I could have done more and pledge to you that I will do all I can to ensure that justice and equality for everyone is not a past for dream but remains an achievable reality. Despite the sorrow and anger I currently feel I am not going to loose the promise of Advent which is for all people. You are special, you are precious, you are equal, you are valued in my eyes and in my heart. What is more I believe, with every fiber of my being, that with God it is even greater than that, for God is love.

Thinking Anglicans had a post linking to the original document and noting that the guidelines appear little different from those of the Church of England. There is also some discussion in the comments on this article including one saying that the document “Surpasses even the English bishops’ Valentine’s Day statement in spreading unseasonal gloom.”

There has also been considerable comment on social media. Some of this can be seen by searching for #pisky or @secsynod on twitter.

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.