Thinking Anglicans

SEC General Synod gives first reading to changes to its Marriage Canon

Updated during the day

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has today passed a first reading of a change to its Canon on marriage (Canon 31). The change is to remove from the Canon the doctrinal statement regarding marriage that marriage is to be understood as a union “of one man and one woman.”

At this stage a simple majority in each house was required for the motion to be passed. At second reading in 2017 a two thirds majority in each house will be required, and it will be noted that today’s motion received such majorities.

There is an official summary of the whole of Friday’s business here.

Scroll down for press reports.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has issued this statement.

Statement following the passing of Motion 14

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has today passed a first reading of a change to its Canon on marriage (Canon 31). The change is to remove from the Canon the doctrinal statement regarding marriage that marriage is to be understood as a union “of one man and one woman.”

A first reading of the change is the first step in a process and does not represent a final decision. The proposed change now passes from the General Synod to the Church’s seven dioceses for discussion and comment in their Diocesan Synods in the coming year. The opinions from the dioceses will then be relayed back to the General Synod which will be invited to give a second reading of the Canon in June 2017. At that stage, for a second reading to be passed, it must achieve a majority of two thirds in the “houses” of bishops, clergy and laity within the General Synod. The change to the canon would include a conscience clause ensuring that clergy opposed to the change are not required to marry people of the same sex.

Commenting on the first reading today, the Rt Rev Dr Gregor Duncan, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway and Acting Convener of the Church’s Faith and Order Board, said:

“General Synod last year engaged in extensive debate in relation to possible changes to our Canon on marriage. It asked the Board to bring forward canonical legislation this year to remove from the Canon any doctrinal statement regarding marriage. That would pave the way for clergy of the Church who wish to be able to solemnise weddings between people of the same sex. Synod has this year accepted the proposals brought forward by the Board by giving a first reading to the canonical change. The process will now continue and not be completed until General Synod 2017. If second reading is agreed at that stage, the change to the Canon will take effect.

The Synod’s decision this year is important because it represents the beginning of a formal process of canonical change. The Church has been engaged in recent years in a series of discussions at all levels. The current process will enable the Church come to a formal decision on the matter. Views within the Church are, of course, wide and diverse. The passing of the first reading today will bring great joy to some; for others it will be matter of great difficulty. The wording of the proposed change recognises that there are differing views of marriage within our Church and we have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to sustain our unity in the midst of our diversity.”

Results of ballot

  For Against Abstentions     Total Votes
(including abstentions)    
Total Votes
(excluding abstentions)    
  Number     % of votes cast     Number     % of votes cast          
Bishops     5 71.4 2 28.6 0 7 7
Clergy 43 69.4 19 30.6 0 62 62
Laity 49 80.3 12 19.7 3 64 * 61

* This figure was originally misprinted on the SEC website as 69.

Press reports

BBC News Scottish Episcopal Church takes gay marriage step

Andrew Page KaleidoScot Scottish Episcopal Church takes step towards approving same-sex marriages

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Scottish Episcopal church leaps towards allowing gay marriage

Harry Farley Christian Today Scottish Episcopal Church votes in favour of same-sex marriage

Anglican Communion News Service Scottish Episcopal Church takes first step towards same sex marriage

John Bingham The Telegraph Scottish Anglicans take first step towards gay marriage


SEC General Synod – day one


The 2016 meeting of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church opened today, and there is an official summary of the day’s business here.

In addition there are the texts of the Primus Charge and the Primus’s report from January’s Primates’ Meeting. The latter includes this passage, with reference to the ‘consequences’ which that meeting decided to impose on The Episcopal Church of the United States,

Two weeks ago, I went to London and met with Archbishop Justin specifically to ask the question, ‘Will this also apply to us if we complete the process of Canonical change in 2017?’ The answer is that it will. Most directly, I will be removed from the role of Anglican Co-Chair of the International Anglican-Reformed Dialogue. But other effects are limited. Our bishops will be present and fully involved in the Lambeth Conference planned for 2020. We shall continue to be actively involved in our network of Diocesan Companionships and in the Anglican Networks.

and this

I believe that the Primates Meeting has acted beyond its powers.

but do read it all.


Comment by Kelvin Holdsworth On Being Threatened
and by Beth Routledge Speaking Truth To Power – Sanctions Threatened Against Scottish Episcopal Church


SEC General Synod 9-11 June 2016

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church is meeting in Edinburgh later this week from 9-11 June. There are papers and other information here. In particular the agenda and papers are all in this document.

The SEC press office has released this very helpful summary of the business before the Synod. As it states there:

What is likely to attract most attention at this year’s General Synod is the first reading of a proposed alteration to the Church’s Canon on Marriage. This proposal would remove the doctrinal clause which states that marriage is between a man and a woman and would add a conscience clause for those who would want to exercise their right not to conduct a same-sex marriage. If the proposal is approved in 2016 there will be a further debate in 2017 when a two thirds majority in each ‘House’ of Bishops, Clergy and Laity would be required.

This business is scheduled for Friday morning. For readers’ convenience I have copied the current text of Canon 31 (the marriage canon) and the proposed amendments below the fold.



Liverpool and Akure

We linked in the previous article to a statement The Diocese of Liverpool and the Anglican Communion from Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool. He wrote:

…Over a year ago, as part of this walking together, I asked the Suffragan bishop of Virginia, the Rt Revd Susan Goff, whether she would become one of our honorary assistant bishops (or “assisting bishops” as they call this sort of arrangement in TEC). She kindly accepted this invitation and, again last year, we secured the necessary permissions for her to minister here. As +Susan is an overseas bishop, these permissions do not extend to the conducting of ordinations. I remain delighted that our ministry here will be enriched by what +Susan will bring to us as a teacher, pastor and disciple. She will also be able to hear and to engage with the wide range of views in our Diocese on the way the Gospel is understood in these days.

It seems that this invitation has caused the Diocese of Akure, Nigeria, which has been another of our link dioceses, to issue a statement indicating that they no longer wish to be in a link-relationship with Liverpool. I regret this. I would prefer to walk together with Akure as well as with Virginia, within the one Communion whose life we share.

I have not yet received formal notification directly from the Bishop of Akure, but as and when I do I shall write to him expressing this regret. If our partners choose to close this door, this is a matter of sorrow for us but of course we respect their decision as free partners in a free relationship.

At one time this link was three-way and provided wonderful opportunities for sharing and mutual learning, though my colleagues tell me that five years ago, in 2011, the then Bishop of Akure formally indicated that his Diocese did not feel able to remain in such a three-way relationship…

Ruth Gledhill has now published an article Nigeria diocese severs link with Liverpool over same-sex blessings bishop.

This in turn links to a statement from the Bishop of Akure, Simeon Borokini. In which he says:

…Peace of the Lord be with you and all yours in Jesus name. I received a message from our Primate in Nigeria, who is currently the Chairman of GAFCON today about a partnership that is in the Western news. That there is a three way Diocesan partnership between the Diocese of Liverpool, England, the Diocese of Akure, Nigeria and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in the United States.

Also, that recently, the Diocese of Liverpool made the assisting Bishop of Virginia, Susan Goff, an assisting Bishop in Liverpool. Susan Goff is in favour of blessing same sex unions and this has been a part of the litigation against the orthodox in Virginia.

Therefore, in view of the above and being aware of the fact that Nigeria does not support same sex marriage, we in Akure Diocese cannot have any link with Liverpool Diocese…

There is also a letter from the GAFCON Chairman, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, in which he writes:

…In the beginning, the focus of our concern was North America and we thank God that he has raised up the Anglican Church North America as a new wineskin in that continent. Now our concern is increasingly with the British Isles. A line has been crossed in the Church of England itself with the appointment of Bishop Susan Goff, of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, as an Assisting Bishop of Liverpool. The false teaching of the American Episcopal Church has been normalised in England and this divisive act has meant that the Church of Nigeria’s Akure Diocese has had no alternative but to end its partnership link with Liverpool Diocese.

At our recent Primates Council meeting in Nairobi we reaffirmed our solidarity with the leaders of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and the Anglican Mission in England at this testing time…


Opinion – 4 June 2016

Mike Stuchbery The Bartholomew Declaration — a manifesto on why more churches need to open as places of education.

Bosco Peters Giving Holy Communion to Infants

Theo Hobson The Spectator Church attendance isn’t everything. It’s authenticity that counts

Paul Bayes The Diocese of Liverpool and the Anglican Communion

Philip Jones Ecclesiastical Law What did the Ornaments Rubric Mean?


Church of England Ministry Statistics 2012-2015

Updated Sunday morning

The Church of England has today released new Ministry Statistics giving trends in ministry over the period between 2012 and 2015: Ministry Statistics 2012-2015. There is also a short commentary provided by the Venerable Julian Hubbard, Director of Ministry, and detailed Diocesan tables in a separate excel file. There is also a press release, copied below.

Press coverage includes:

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian C of E in ageing clergy crisis with 25% of ministers aged over 60

Aaron James Premier Church of England: We need to Rev up clergy numbers

Rose Hudson-Wilkin and Peter Ould were interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (starting at 1hr 21min).

Ian Paul and Peter Ould write about the figures here: Do we have enough vicars?


Jeremy Fletcher has written The Church of England’s Middle Aged Spread.

David Keen has written The Leading of the 5,000 part 2 – vocations and canaries.

Church of England press release

Church of England releases new Ministry Statistics

The Church of England has released new Ministry Statistics giving trends in ministry over the period between 2012 and 2015.

The statistics show that total ordained ministry over the last 4 years has remained stable, with over 20,000 ordained people serving the church in various roles.

The number of stipendiary clergy has fallen from 8,300 to 8,000 between 2012 and 2015.

The proportion of stipendiary clergy who are women increased from 24% in 2012 to 27% in 2015. And 19% of senior staff in 2015 were women, up from 12% in 2012.

Nationally, 13% of parish clergy are aged under 40, while a quarter are 60 and over.

There was an increase in stipendiary clergy from Black and Minority Ethnic communities from 3% in 2012 to 3.4% in 2015.

In his commentary, the Church of England Director of Ministry, Julian Hubbard, writes: “While the number of stipendiary ordinations showed a welcome increase between 2012 and 2015, this is not sufficient to redress the gathering effect of clergy retirements predicted over the next ten years.”

“The statistics on the age and ethnicity of clergy show that we still have some way to go to ensure that the whole cohort fully reflects the demographics of the wider community.”

“The good news is that there is a growing readiness to meet these challenges.”

Mike Eastwood, Director of Renewal and Reform, the Church of England’s major response to falling church attendance, said: “These figures support what we have been saying about the need for renewal and reform in the Church of England.”

“Renewal and Reform is about a message of hope, through changed lives and transformed communities, as people discover their vocation to love God and serve others.

“Renewal and Reform is not a top-down project to fix the church, but a narrative of local hope in God shared throughout the church.”

“As part of Renewal and Reform, we are currently consulting on how we better release the gifts of all Christian leaders in church and wider society, whether ordained or not.”

Notes for editors

The last Ministry Statistics paper was published by the Church of England in 2012. The implementation of a new clergy payroll system in 2012 initially made it more difficult to extract data for ministry statistics.

The Ministry Statistics paper and Commentary are available here.

The Church of England’s Renewal and Reform Facebook page is here.