Thursday, 8 June 2017

Scottish Episcopal Church: vote carried

The Scottish Episcopal Church has voted to make the changes in its canons.

The voting was:

Bishops 80% For 20% Against

Clergy 67.7 For 32.3% Against

Laity 80.6% For 19.4% Against

Official SEC Press Release:

Church votes to allow equal marriage

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church today voted in favour of altering the church’s Canon on Marriage to remove the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman, and add a new section that acknowledges that there are different understandings of marriage which now allows clergy to solemnise marriage between same sex couples as well as couples of the opposite sex. The revised canon also stipulates that no member of clergy will be required to solemnise a marriage against their conscience.

The voting was in three ‘houses’ of General Synod, namely Bishops, Clergy, Laity and required a two thirds majority to pass. The voting results were:

Bishops 4 - 80%
Clergy 42 - 67.7%
Laity 50 - 80.6%

Bishops 1 – 20%
Clergy 20 – 32.3%
Laity 12 – 19.4%

Responding to the voting outcome, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church said:
“This is the end of a long journey. There was the Cascade Process involving people across our church - the Doctrine Committee paper which explored whether a Christian understanding of marriage could extend to same sex couples. We have studied, thought and prayed.

“In the life of the church, end points are often also starting points. This is a momentous step. By removing gender from our marriage canon, our church now affirms that a same sex couple are not just married but are married in the sight of God. They can ‘leave and cleave’. They can express in marriage a commitment to lifelong faithfulness to one another and to the belief that a calling to marriage is for them too a calling to love, forgiveness, sacrifice, truth. A new chapter opens up - inclusion has taken a particular form. But this same decision is difficult and hurtful for others whose integrity in faith tells them that this decision is unscriptural and profoundly wrong. For them this new chapter will feel like an exclusion - as if their church has moved away from them.

“So the journey which we now begin must also be a journey of reconciliation.

“Every faith community must face the issues which are bound up with human sexuality - in their own way and in their own time. Others will arrive at answers different from ours. And the Anglican Communion, which is embedded in our history and to which we are passionately committed - the Anglican Communion will have to explore whether its historic commitment to unity in diversity can embrace this change.

“I have said this many times before: a vote in General Synod changes the canonical position of our church. But it cannot lay to rest the deep differences which this question exposes in this and every other faith community.

“The new Canon itself affirms that there are differing views of marriage in our church. Nobody will be compelled to do anything against their conscience. We affirm that we are a church of diversity and difference, bound together by our oneness in Christ. We shall carry forward in our life two honourable and historic understandings of marriage - one which sees the marriage of same sex couples as an expression of Christ-like acceptance and welcome - and another which says that the traditional view of marriage is God-ordained and scripturally defined.

“That is the journey. That is now the calling of this church. We must and we shall address it with truth, graciousness and acceptance of one another.”


The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church will now adopt pastoral guidelines and principles to enable clergy who so wish to be nominated to the Registrar General for authorisation to solemnize weddings of same sex couples.

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Categorised as: Scottish Episcopal Church

This is terrific news to me !

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Thursday, 8 June 2017 at 5:04pm BST

Alleluia. Praise God from whom all Blessings flow.

Now we can go forward together, each respecting each others view point. Be allowed in our own individual way and experience to express and show the Love of God revealed in Jesus Christ to our fellow human beings.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Thursday, 8 June 2017 at 5:22pm BST

Hear, hear Father John.

I'm with you !

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Thursday, 8 June 2017 at 5:45pm BST

Wonderful news. A true sign that God's Pentecost(al) spirit still breathes new life and energy into the Scottish Episcopal Church. Proud to be a Piskie today!

Posted by: Michael Paterson on Thursday, 8 June 2017 at 6:28pm BST

Just looking at the numbers. For a canon that purports to "let everyone do what is good in their own eyes" it is striking that a full third of clergy still voted against it. That means there is considerable division within the clerical ranks of the SEC. Even with their "conscience protected" they did not agree with it and voted against it.

Also, there must be two vacancies in the SEC HOB. Presumably +Bob Gillies in Aberdeen voted against it. But only five are noted as having voted for it.

Posted by: crs on Friday, 9 June 2017 at 7:49am BST

+Bob has already retired. One bishop abstained.

Posted by: Kennedy Fraser on Friday, 9 June 2017 at 9:53am BST

Thanks. Which Bishop voted No?

Posted by: crs on Friday, 9 June 2017 at 1:59pm BST

It was a secret ballot.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Friday, 9 June 2017 at 4:40pm BST

"It was a secret ballot."

Unremarkable, one supposes. So no one really knows? In such a tiny church context?

I believe there are around 1200 average Sunday attendance in the entire SEC. I welcome correction.

I would be curious about the number of parishes in the Anglican Network and their Sunday attendance.

Posted by: crs on Friday, 9 June 2017 at 5:37pm BST

Professor Seitz comments regularly on this and other sites about the 'tinyness' of the SEC. I don't know where his figure of 1200 comes from but given the fact the regular Sunday congregation at St Mary's cathedral in Edinburgh is about 100 I suspect it is a gross underestimate. But why is size relevant other than as a reason to dismiss the significance of the SEC's decision? And why cannot the secret ballot be respected? I was in the public gallery for the debate and I was most impressed by the gracious and respectful way in which it was conducted. If the SEC is in fact tiny, it is no way going to disappear.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Friday, 9 June 2017 at 11:08pm BST

+Bob has already retired. One bishop abstained.

Posted by: Kennedy Fraser on Saturday, 10 June 2017 at 7:34am BST

Daniel Lamont I mention it because 30% of clergy opposing this; and with several of the largest parishes ready to leave, affects the state of the SEC is very significant ways. It becomes very difficult to support a bishop, e.g., unless they have supplemental income from somewhere. I lived in St Andrews for nine years and am aware of the fragility of the situation.

I hope this clarifies. I take no delight in seeing an important province shrinking.

The numbers for Sunday attendance are available in SEC documents.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 10 June 2017 at 2:44pm BST

PS--I do think my number is too low. I have studied this in the past. 1200 is the figure for the ASA of the American 'diocese' in Europe.

I believe the total membership of the SEC is 28K. ASA could be 10K. The main point remains, however. When you are small splintering off is disproportionately felt.

Posted by: crs on Saturday, 10 June 2017 at 2:56pm BST

I note what Professor Seitz says and that Archbishop Idowu-Fearon thinks that the SEC yis in decline. I don't think that it is as simple as that: the causes are complex and there are suggestions that the decline has begun to be halted.

I am a glass half-full man and I see that 68% of the clergy and 80% of the laity voted for the change to the Canon. The requirements for a two-thirds majority in all three houses is a very high standard to meet and it was met. The Brexit vote with all its consequences only required 50% + 1. You cannot, I think, infer, from the bare fact alone that 30% of the clergy voted against will necessarily seek alternative oversight.

I write from the standpoint of someone who lives in Scotland and I am conscious of the immense changes taking place which I think you only really understand if you live here now rather than returning as a visitor, having lived here in the past. For example, three of the five leaders of the main Scottish parties are women and three of them are gay and it simply isn't an issue. Moreover, the Church of Scotland is having parallel discussions about equal marriage. These are huge cultural changes.

I also write as someone who witnessed the debate. It was a highly emotionally charged occasion.It is premature to draw conclusions about churches leaving. What is needed is for the participants, epecially the clergy, is to pray, reflect on the changes, speak to colleagues, their Vestries and congregations and allow time for the implications of the vote to sink in. There are very powerful 'conscience clauses'. This is no time for precipitate and hasty action. I was very interested to learn that ordinands coming from evangelical congregations were not necessarily hostile to equal marriage. I have read a certain amount of the literature on equal marriage and various commentaries in the social media. I am unable to understand why two integrities are acceptable on the issues of the ordination of women but are not acceptable on the issue of equal marrage.

A departure from the SEC would hurt both parties. A glance at the history of presbyterianism in Scotland is insurtuctive. I don't think that the constant schisms have been helpful to the wider church. See here

Dr Daniel Lamon

Posted by: Dr Daniel Lamont on Saturday, 10 June 2017 at 10:36pm BST

Dr Daniel Lamont

Thank you for your comment. For clarification, as blogs often overextend things.

I did not say that 32% of clergy would seek alternative oversight. I was noting that this is a high percentage given the assertion that the canonical change was anodyne and protects everyone's individual conscience. One might have assumed clergy would be reassured and would go ahead and vote OK.

Of the parishes in the Anglican Network, I don't think they have changed much from my leaving in 2007. P's and G's is pretty independent and may decide what happens in the SEC doesn't matter. St Thomas is another story as is Westhill and maybe St Silas.

I don't suspect those who leave think of themselves as a presyterian enclave as in your examples, but as connected to the Anglican Communion, for which there is no presbyterian analogy. It is the anglican communion which is reconfiguring, not cranky individual churches in the history of Scottish Christianity.

You have raised a topic I was not thinking about, in regard to the clergy voting No. I was obviously not present. If they rejected the conscience clause idea I wonder what they have in view?

Sunday blessings.

Posted by: crs on Sunday, 11 June 2017 at 8:16am BST

Apologies for typos. The combination of dodgy eyesight and using a tablet in poor light is not good.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Sunday, 11 June 2017 at 9:30am BST
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