Changing Attitude Scotland submission to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on Civil Partnership and Same-Sex Marriage

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.

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