Thursday, 13 October 2011

more on same sex marriage in Scotland

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has now written on this subject.

See his article in the Scotsman The Most Rev David Chillingworth: A secular state should be prepared to defend religious freedom and his article on Thinking Aloud Church, state and the secular society.

…The suggestion has been made that the Scottish Government does not have a mandate to introduce legislation which is of such fundamental significance for our society. The implication is that these are “non-negotiable” areas. If the Scottish Government was proposing to legislate to enshrine in law discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, colour or race, I would publicly oppose their moral right to do so. But that is not the nature of these consultation proposals.

So what does this say about the relationship of church and state in modern society? I have often said that I am a supporter of the secular state because it sustains a proper separation between legislature, judiciary and church.

In my Irish background, I have experienced both the confessional state which was the Irish Republic in my childhood and the Northern Irish mirror image – the sabbatarian “lock up the playgrounds on Sunday” society. Neither was healthy. A secular state should defend religious freedom – but it will not make any assumptions about religious faith nor defer to it.

If, following the consultation period, the Scottish Government and parliament feel that they should legislate in this way, I believe that it is their right to do so. It is clear that there would be an “opt-out” protection for those who cannot accept this. Churches and faith groups would have to decide whether they wished to use or to stand outside the provisions of such legislation…

This has been reported also in the news columns of the Scotsman as Gay marriages backed by Episcopal Church* which is a most perverse interpretation of what the Primus has said. Which was this:

IN THE Scottish Episcopal Church, we’re thinking about our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage and other related issues. The definition of marriage set out in our Canons is that, “marriage is a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman”. That is the position of our church. It’s a difficult issue for us – as it is for all churches and faith groups. We have among our membership people who feel passionately that change is needed – and those who feel equally strongly that we should resist any attempt to broaden society’s understanding of marriage. The consultation period is very short. Among the things we shall say will be that if – and it’s a big “if” – we were to consider changing our canonical definition of marriage, that would require a two-year process in our General Synod, the outcome of which could not be predicted with any certainty.

We haven’t got involved in public debate about this. We’ve been asked for our view and we shall give it in a considered manner – believing that the time for public debate comes later…

* The Scotsman later changed its online headline to read Episcopal Church considers changing stance on gay marriages. Which is less of a stretch.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 13 October 2011 at 11:35am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Scottish Episcopal Church | equality legislation

I thought +David made a most calm and thoughtful contribution to the debate, where, by his very position, it would not be appropriate to take sides, but where he is right to encourage the debate to take thoughtful paths, rather than knee-jerk reactions.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 13 October 2011 at 12:42pm BST

The problem with the Scottish Episcopal Church is that it is a shadow of a shade and has less than no influence in Scotland. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, now has an enormous constituency, far exceeding the Church of Scotland or any other denomination. The Piskies fell to pieces when they abandoned their Tractarian roots.

Posted by: John Bowles on Thursday, 13 October 2011 at 5:58pm BST

With less than one percent of Scots being communicant his opinion of any real value?

Posted by: Robert ian williams on Thursday, 13 October 2011 at 10:29pm BST

The Scotsman has published a letter criticising its headline:
Published on Friday 14 October 2011 00:10

It is difficult to see how your headline, “Gay marriages backed by Episcopal Church” (13 October), can in any way be justified by a fair reading of the article by our Primus, the Most Reverend David Chillingworth, “A Secular State Should be Prepared to Defend Religious Freedom”.

Read it all at

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 14 October 2011 at 9:33am BST

I cannot agree with John Bowles. I have lived since 2001 in Scotland, and in that time have seen an increase not only in membership, but a much more lively and alive church; that is increasing, attracting new members, and certainly taking the middle gound.
As a tractarian in the past, I thank God that we have moved from our narrow vision, to a church that is alive to the needs of the people of Scotland. Inclusive, and certainly following the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by His Grace.
We are well Blessed in our Primus, who has seen a change in the House of Bishops over the last couple of years.
I may be retired, but have Hope in our Province, and see it growing in always in the future

Fr John Harris-White

Posted by: Fr John on Friday, 14 October 2011 at 11:49am BST

Jesus too, had a tiny following of (mainly) no-marks during his public ministry as depicted in the Gospels.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 14 October 2011 at 1:54pm BST

Certainly the last two 'Piskie churches of which I was/am a member were growing and lively. And the Provost of Glasgow Cathedral does not have much trouble making his voice heard, which is a good thing.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 14 October 2011 at 3:33pm BST

For those who are interested, the 'Piskies have many roots and traditions. Recent research by Rodger Edwards on the congregation at Glasgow's 'Piskie cathedral suggests that political motivation was high especially in the 1700s. The indefatigable Dean Hood in Argyll and the Isles in the mid 1800s was an Evangelical. As to the present colour of congregations you will find everything from Evangelical through Liberal Catholic to FiF somewhere in the church.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 14 October 2011 at 3:49pm BST

One should remember that the Scottish Episcopal Church was actively persecuted by the British government for a significant period of time. Episcopal clergy and worshiper were subject to a series of restrictions the last of which were finally removed only a few decades ago.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Saturday, 15 October 2011 at 2:12am BST
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