Scotland: A response from the College of Bishops to submissions made as a result of discussion of the publication of Human Sexuality: a Study Guide

In 2001, the [Scottish] General Synod received Human Sexuality: A Study Guide and resolved “that the Study Guide produced by the Working Party on Human Sexuality be received by the General Synod and that its use be commended to those congregations who wished to explore the issues addressed by it”. Subsequently, 31st December 2003 was fixed as the deadline for receiving feedback on the Study Guide.

Approximately 25 responses were received and a synopsis of these, commissioned on behalf of the College of Bishops, was prepared by the Rev Christopher Smith, the Chaplain to the Archbishop of Wales. As undertaken in Human Sexuality: A Study Guide, the synopsis is now being made available to Boards and Committees of the General Synod as a way of informing them of the views received. The College of Bishops is grateful to individuals and to congregations for the various submissions sent to it.

The College is conscious that during the period of that consultation a number of divisive issues concerning homosexuality have arisen within the life of the Anglican Communion, and within the legislative programme of the Scottish Executive. The College recognises that, in the Scottish Episcopal Church, strongly held, and intelligently articulated, views are being put forward by a whole range of interested persons and parties, each trying to understand what God might be saying to the Church and to the world.

The College therefore:

– Is convinced that, within the Scottish Episcopal Church, open debate, a deeper mutual understanding, and an agreed way ahead in our life together, will ultimately best be achieved by working to maintain the strong bonds of trust and respect which already exist among those who disagree with each other.

– Recognises that significant debate on sexuality is taking place both inside and outside the church, and that this can cause puzzlement to some and pain to others.

– Believes that differences over matters concerning sexuality, though important, are generally “second-order” disagreements, which should be capable of being handled within the life of our Communion, and are not ones that should cause a major fracture in it.

– Believes that in this area the Church is called to set an example to the world as to how debate on matters involving deep disagreement and sincerely held conviction could be conducted.

– Recognises that the Primates of the Anglican Communion have called for a period of mutual listening, and of reflection on documents such as those produced by the Lambeth Conference and by the meetings of Primates. To enable this to happen the College does not, in this area, propose any change in current policy, or alterations to the Canons or Liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Rather, it expresses the hope that within existing provision, clergy and laity will be able to minister sensitively and pastorally to each other regardless of issues of sexuality or gender.

February 2004

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