Thinking Anglicans

Scottish Episcopal Church to vote on marriage canon change

On Thursday 8 June, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church will open in Edinburgh.

The full details of this can be found in links from this page on the national church website, but oddly the main press release is not available as a web page, so is copied in full here, below the fold. The most newsworthy item in it is this:

The first key item of business on this year’s agenda is the second – and final – 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. The voting process on this proposed canonical change will require a two thirds majority in each ‘house’ of Bishops, Clergy and Laity. This session will be presented by the Church’s Faith and Order Board and will commence at approximately 2.30pm on Thursday 8 June, with the result of the voting ballot announced at approximately 4.20pm.

Law & Religion UK has reproduced the sections from the document 2017 General Synod which concern the voting procedures and the opinions from the dioceses. See Changing marriage doctrine in the SEC – voting procedures.

There is a vast amount of further detail about this in the main file of synod papers, including a lot in the minutes of the previous synod, and a DRAFT of a document titled College of Bishops Principles and Guidelines relating to Marriage which can all be found at this link.

Kelvin Holdsworth has written this explanation of what is going on: What the Scottish Episcopal Church is Voting On which I recommend reading in full. He writes:

…However, it is important to realise that the debate tomorrow is not being conducted in terms of a motion that will allow the Scottish Episcopal Church to vote either for or against the marriage of same-sex couples. I kind of wish that it was, but it resolutely isn’t.

The synod agreed a couple of years ago that the way that it wished to debate this was to see whether there was enough of a majority to remove the inherently heterosexual definition of marriage that had been placed in the Canons thirty odd years ago and replace it with a statement that acknowledged that Scottish Episcopalians believe different things about marriage and make proposals for allowing those who wish to marry same-sex couples to do so whilst protecting the conscience of those who do not wish to marry same-sex couples.

This is fundamentally a vote about what kind of church we want to be.

If we want to be a church that tries to respect people’s consciences on this issue then the thing to do is to vote in favour of motion 6. If we want to be a church which insists that everyone has to abide by the rules of a minority position then the right thing to do is vote against motion 6.

That’s the thing, you see. We can be pretty sure that there will be a majority in each of the houses of synod in favour of moving forward. That means that there will be a majority in each house, including in the house of Bishops voting against the current policy of the bishops.

Should this vote fail, we’ll be in a strange place. No doubt some reflection will be needed but what is certain is that the bishops can’t defend a position that they’ve just voted against.

Should the vote succeed then it is incumbent on all of us to abide by what it says and work to protect the conscience of those who don’t want to solemnise the marriages of same-sex couples. Scots law means that there’s no way anyone can be forced to do so anyway, but there must be no disparaging those who don’t want to take part in any way at all…

According to both the Church Times and Christian Today conservatives will announce a rival “missionary bishop” if this vote goes through. See Rival ‘missionary bishop’ to be announced by GAFCON as Scottish Anglicans fight off split and Scottish Anglicans will decide this week about same-sex weddings.



GAFCON communiqué mentions missionary bishop

Updated again Tuesday evening

This communiqué from the GAFCON primates, meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, has been issued. Here’s an extract:

A Missionary Bishop
During our meeting, we considered how best to respond to the voice of faithful Anglicans in some parts of the Global North who are in need of biblically faithful episcopal leadership. Of immediate concern is the reality that on 8th June 2017 the Scottish Episcopal Church is likely to formalize their rejection of Jesus’ teaching on marriage. If this were to happen, faithful Anglicans in Scotland will need appropriate pastoral care. In addition, within England there are churches that have, for reasons of conscience, been planted outside of the Church of England by the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE). These churches are growing, and are in need of episcopal leadership. Therefore, we have decided to consecrate a missionary bishop who will be tasked with providing episcopal leadership for those who are outside the structures of any Anglican province, especially in Europe.

A Word of Encouragement to Faithful Anglicans within European Provinces
We wish to reassure all faithful Anglicans in European provinces that they also have our prayers and our support. We are aware that some Christians within these provinces who are contending for the faith may at first perceive the news of a missionary bishop as a threat to their hopes for reform from within.

We believe that the complexity of the current situation in Europe does not admit of a single solution. Faithful Christians may be called to different courses of action. We bless those whose context and conscience have led them to remain and contend for the faith within the current structures. If you are successful, you will not need a missionary bishop; if you are not successful, an alternative is at hand. The only true failure would be to waste time through inaction.

We also pray for those who are not yet clear about what faithfulness requires. May God give you the wisdom and courage of the Reformers to stand firm wherever the Lord calls you to stand…

GAFCON UK has issued this statement in response to the [GAFCON] Primates’ Communique. Again, here’s an extract:

… The Primates go on to talk about the challenges in the Global North, “the increasing influence of materialism, secularism, and the loss of moral foundations” which are “spiritually dangerous”. We recognize the need to repent of our participation in a weak version of the Christian faith which has too often failed to point out these dangers or even made accommodation with them.

This accommodation and ‘cultural captivity’ is seen in the failure by many Anglican leaders in the UK to hold to the key principles of Holy Scripture as speaking clearly to God’s will for human flourishing, and of requiring unequivocal obedience whatever the cost. It is shown, for example, in unwillingness to be clear about the uniqueness of Jesus and the authority of the Bible, and rejection of clear biblical teaching God’s gift of sex and marriage, and of celibate singleness.

This has contributed to the increasing concern that many faithful clergy and lay people in the Church of England, the Episcopal Church of Scotland and the Church in Wales feel about the revisionist trajectory of these churches. As the Communique points out clearly, some Anglicans are already outside of these structures and need Episcopal oversight; others may do so soon.

So we warmly welcome the decision of the Primates to consecrate a missionary Bishop who will fulfil this function. We appreciate the way GAFCON has recognized that this intervention is giving global support to one of a number of initiatives being taken by biblically orthodox Anglicans in Britain; others include the work being done to strengthen the Free Church of England. Meanwhile the Primates have generously expressed respect for and continued warm fellowship with those who for the moment are choosing to remain within the official structures and contend for orthodox biblical faith there, while warning that inaction in the face of revisionist pressure is not a faithful option.

We understand that more will be revealed about the plans for the consecration in due course. We commit ourselves to prayer about this and invite all who hold to the historic and trustworthy teaching of our faith to join us.

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Chillingworth has responded, as follows:

“In June, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church will reach the final stage of consideration of changes which would make possible same-sex marriage in our churches. The news that GAFCON intends to send a missionary bishop to Britain is regrettable. The Anglican Communion functions as a global communion on the basis of respect for the territorial integrity of each province. This move is a breach of that understanding.

“The outcome of the synodical process which will take place in June is not a foregone conclusion. The voices of clergy and lay people from across Scotland will be heard both in debate and in the voting process. The Scottish Episcopal Church is working closely with those who find this proposal difficult to accept. Whatever the outcome may be, it is our intention to be and to remain a church which honours diversity.”

The former archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has been interviewed by Premier Radio. Read about the interview and listen to it in full here: ‘This isn’t an attempt to storm Lambeth Palace’: GAFCON not looking for split in Church.


Reflecting on the outcome of the EU Referendum

Updated again Monday afternoon

Following the initial flurry of statements from bishops, there have been several more reflective articles published by various people writing from a Christian perspective.

Anna Rowlands wrote The Fragility of Goodness: Brexit Viewed from the North East.

Nick Holtam wrote this on the Referendum Result.

Luke Bretherton wrote Brexit as Theodicy and Idolatry.

Angus Ritchie had Brexit: How can we reflect and respond?

Philip North has this in today’s Church Times: Northern foodbank Britain finds its voice

There is a lot more material in this week’s Church Times but it is behind the paywall. However, Andrew Lightbown discusses some of the points raised in his blog, entitled Bishop David Walker or Richard Lewis? Who is correct?

Michael Sadgrove has Brexit: An Open Letter to the Archbishops of the Church of England.

Earlier he had also written Brexit: how to go positively into exile and On Saying Farewell to the EU: the morning after.

Brian Castle wrote Brexit – Now is not the time for Reconciliation.


Martyn Percy has written a major essay which is summarised here: After Brexit – Can we find a broad and middle way? Senior cleric calls for new social-progressive political party and the full essay can be read by following that link.

Tanya Marlow has written Brexit, hate crime, fear: what’s the Christian response?

Bishops of the Lincoln diocese The EU Referendum: responding to the vote to leave


Church responses to the EU Referendum

Updated Friday evening, Saturday morning, Sunday morning

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint statement.

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union

The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage – being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe has written a message to the diocese, copied below, and has also published this further reflection.

“The UK referendum campaign has been a bruising one, and I hope very much that there will now be a period of reconciliation and healing between those on different sides of the debate.

“The news that a majority of those in the UK wishes to leave the UK does not lessen the fervent desire of the Church of England Diocese in Europe to work co-operatively with our brother and sister Christians in Europe.

“The vote will, however, have particular implications for some members of our diocese. Of course, the vote itself only signals the intent to launch a long process of negotiations with the European Council. It is only as that process gets underway that we will know exactly how UK citizens living in Europe will be affected. Meanwhile, I want to assure our ecumenical partners in Europe of our heartfelt and continuing commitment to them.”

The Suffragan Bishop in Europe has written: We remain a European Church which serves all people. Let us resolve to be even more faithful to this calling.


Scottish Primus

Archbishop of Dublin and Archbishop of Armagh

Church in Wales bishops

Bishop of Blackburn

Bishop of Coventry

Bishop of Leeds

Bishop of Liverpool

Bishop of London

Bishop of Newcastle

Bishop of Norwich

Bishop of St Albans

Bishop of Sheffield


SEC General Synod: statements in reaction to decision

A group named the Scottish Anglican Network has issued a statement Scottish Anglican Network statement on amendment of Scottish Episcopal Church’s marriage canon which is also copied in full below the fold.

The group’s website also has an About Us page which described how the group came into being in 2005 and how it has engaged in dialogue with SEC bishops more recently.

There is also a separate statement issued by Gafcon UK and signed by a number of retired bishops, “on behalf of the Panel of Bishops, Gafcon UK” offering to “provide alternative episcopal oversight, and thereby your recognition as faithful Anglicans by the worldwide Gafcon movement, which represents the majority of Anglicans worldwide.”



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.



Church of Scotland approves the Columba Declaration

Updated Wednesday evening

The Church of Scotland reports today: Historic ecumenical agreement with Church of England approved.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has unanimously backed a landmark agreement to enter into an historic ecumenical partnership with the Church of England.

The Columba Declaration represents a “significant step” between the two denominations and will open up new future possibilities of closer working together to develop God’s Church…

Other reports on the decision include:

Gavin Drake Anglican Communion News Service Anglo-Scottish ecumenical agreement approved by Church of Scotland

The General Assembly of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland has this morning approved the Columba Declaration – an ecumenical agreement between it and the Church of England; and – in identical terms approved by the C of E’s General Synod in February – instructed the creation of an ecumenical “contact group” which would include representatives of the two churches and also the Scottish Episcopal Church…

Harry Farley Christian Today Church of Scotland passes landmark unity pact with Church of England

BBC News Archbishop of Canterbury in Church of Scotland General Assembly first

The text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address to the Church of Scotland General Assembly includes this apology.

… First, for me at least, is an apology.

The Columba Declaration is one that I support strongly and I hope you will, but the handling of its announcement caused much consternation and deep hurt to the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC). That hurt is exclusively my responsibility and I want to put on the record to you and to them my apology. We know that the goal of unity envisaged in the Columba Declaration cannot be pursued by some churches in isolation from others, and in our context that must mean a particular place for the Scottish Episcopal Church as your Anglican partner in Scotland, and as our immediate neighbour in the Anglican Communion (we have many close links, including ordained ministers moving between our two churches, as we do with the Church in Wales). For this reason there is great importance in the motion at our Synod saying that the Contact Group to take the Columba Declaration forward should include an SEC representative, whom we ask to be a full participant…

Our report on the initial announcement of the Declaration (on Christmas Eve) is here, and there are later reports here, here, here, here and here.


Kelvin Holdsworth The Columba Declaration – where are we now?

Statement by the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church Growth in Communion, Partnership in Mission


Scottish Episcopalians consider equal marriage

While the [presbyterian] Church of Scotland is due to vote today on whether to allow its ministers to be in same-sex marriages, Harriet Sherwood also reports in the Guardian: Scottish churches push forward on gay rights that:

…The Scottish Episcopal Church is expected to take the first step in a two-stage process at its synod next month towards changing church law to allow same-sex weddings in church. If passed, a second vote would be required next year.

Such a move would invite de facto sanctions by the international Anglican Communion similar to the measures imposed on the US Episcopal Church earlier this year after it permitted clergy to perform same-sex weddings.

David Chillingworth, the primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: “The canonical change would make it possible for our clergy to conduct same-sex marriages and to be in same-sex marriages – that’s the direction in which we’re moving.”

However, he added, “there is also a significant group of people who regard it as wrong, contrary to scripture and the fundamental teachings of the church”. He said his job was “to preserve the unity of the church”.

If the change to church law passed next year, he said, “we’re aware we will probably find ourselves in the same position as the US Episcopal Church. These are difficult issues; we are all in transition.”

ACNS has a more detailed report on this by Gavin Drake: Scottish Episcopal Church to debate changes to marriage canon.

…The current Canon, C31, begins by defining marriage by stating: “The Doctrine of this Church is that Marriage is a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and is a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God.”

The proposed amendment to Canon C31 would replace that wording with a new clause which says: “In the light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this Church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience. . .”

The full text of the report by the Doctrine Committee on the Theology of Marriage which has led to this debate can be found here.

This page contains links to all the documents for the June meeting of the Scottish General Synod.

Fulcrum has published a lengthy critique of the doctrine committee’s proposals by Oliver O’Donovan available here, but also more conveniently as a PDF here.


The SEC Primus writes and talks about the Columba Declaration

David Chillingworth writes More about Columba.

…I watched the debate in which the Columba Declaration was approved by the Church of England with a sense of unreality. The Scottish Episcopal Church was like a ghost at the party – often referred to and talked about but not present. Concerns which have been voiced within the Scottish Episcopal Church about the Columba Declaration focus significantly on the Church of England. The Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church are partner-Provinces in the Anglican Communion. We are the presence of the Anglican Communion in Scotland and we expect the Church of England to respect that. The concerns are that the Columba Declaration places the Church of England in a compromised position in relation to the Scottish Episcopal Church…

John Beattie interviews the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church for BBC Scotland.

Kelvin Holdsworth writes about The Primus’s Radio Interview about the Columba Declaration.


The Columba Declaration and the Scottish Episcopal Church

The Scottish Episcopal Church issued this Statement re Columba Declaration and Growth in Communion – Partnership in Mission Report today.

Statement re Columba Declaration and Growth in Communion – Partnership in Mission Report
January 29, 2016

There was some publicity around Christmastime regarding the publication of the joint Columba Declaration by the Church of Scotland and Church of England. The provincial Faith and Order Board met recently and agreed that a short background note should be issued.

After the publication in 2010 of Our Fellowship in the Gospel by the Joint Study Group of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, a product of five year’s work, an invitation to join the Joint Study Group was issued to the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The Scottish Episcopal Church was then involved in those new talks up until 2013. At that point, the other two churches expressed a desire to enter into a deeper ecumenical arrangement. The Faith and Order Board considered the matter carefully but did not believe it was appropriate to enter a tripartite “ecumenical” agreement where one of the parties was the Church of England because the Scottish Episcopal Church is already in full communion with the Church of England. The Board suggested instead that the three-way talks might continue, aimed not at forming an ecumenical agreement but rather at enriching common life and mission across the three churches. Therefore, it suggested alternative ways of proceeding on a tripartite basis.

However, the other two churches were keen to move towards some form of ecumenical agreement. It was at this point that the Scottish Episcopal Church ceased to be a full participant in the talks, albeit we were invited to appoint an observer, and duly did so. The then Convener of Inter-Church Relations Committee took on that role with his last involvement being at the final bilateral meeting in late 2014 where a draft of the report was under discussion.

A joint statement by the Church of Scotland and Church of England setting out the Columba Declaration (which forms only the final part of the report) was unexpectedly issued just before Christmas 2015, in response to a press query, and we became aware of this on Christmas Eve. The final form of the full report, however, was embargoed until the 29th January 2016.

Since the issue of that statement, we have been in direct contact with both the Church of Scotland and Church of England and have obtained a copy of the final report Growth in Communion-Partnership in Mission. We have been able to ask a number of initial questions which have been helpfully answered jointly by the Church of Scotland and the Church of England.

In the report it is stated that a response from the Scottish Episcopal Church would be welcomed. The Faith and Order Board at its meeting on 21st January agreed to remit the Scottish Episcopal Church’s detailed examination of the report to the Inter-Church Relations Committee and to ask that Committee to formulate a response for consideration by the Faith and Order Board in September 2016 (which will be the first meeting of the Board after this year’s Church of England Synod and the Church of Scotland General Assembly). This will include consideration of the concerns which the publication of the Columba Declaration, without the benefit of the full report, had prompted before Christmas. The Board believes that publication of Growth in Communion-Partnership in Mission now provides an opportunity to build on the warm relations which the Scottish Episcopal Church already enjoys with the Church of Scotland and very much looks forward to continuing discussions. The Board similarly looks forward to strengthening our relationship and mutual regard with the Church of England.

The report of the Church of Scotland and Church of England Joint Study Group can be read here.

A press release issued today by the Church of Scotland can be read here.

Our earlier coverage of the Columba Declaration is here, here and here.

The Church of England released the Report on the Church of England-Church of Scotland Joint Study Group (GS 2016) today; the Columba Declaration comprises Chapter IV of the report.



Columba Declaration

We reported on the proposed agreement between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England set out in the Columba Declaration here and on the response of the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church here.

This week’s Church Times carries an article by Tim Wyatt on the agreement and the controversy it has provoked: Scottish Episcopalians query Columba Declaration. To this is attached an article by the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, who was the Church of England co-chair of the study group that produced the declaration. In it he sets out the background to the study group’s report and the declaration.

Dr Forster’s article is also available on the Church of England’s blog: Growth in communion, partnership in mission.


Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church comments on Columba Declaration

In response to the reported agreement between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, has written two articles, which need to be read together:

The Columba Declaration – ecumenical relationships in Scotland

…But the aspect of the Columba Declaration which will cause most concern to the Scottish Episcopal Church is the potential involvement of the Church of England in the ecclesiastical life of Scotland. The Church of England is not a Scottish Church nor does it have any jurisdiction in Scotland. The Anglican way is to recognise the territorial integrity of each province – they are autonomous but inter-dependent, The important question is whether, within that understanding of the relationship between provinces of the Anglican Communion, it is proper for the Church of England to enter into this agreement about ministry and ecclesiastical order in Scotland.. That is a matter which will have to be explored in future dialogue between the Scottish Episcopal Church and both the Church of Scotland and the Church of England.

Columba Declaration – time for a rethink

…The question here is not whether the development of ecumenical relationships is desirable – for of course it is. The question is about whether that development can take place respectfully and in good order. The Scottish Episcopal Church now seems to be faced with the possibility that Church of England clergy will minister in Scotland under the authorisation of the Church of Scotland and without reference to the Scottish Episcopal Church. Yet the Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church are partner members of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion in Scotland is expressed in the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The Church of Scotland and the Church of England seem to have decided that their commonality as National Churches justifies them in setting aside other ecumenical relationships and etiquette. What would really help this situation – mitigating the damage already done to long-established relationships and avoiding further damage – would be for the two churches to decide to delay publication of the full document to allow time for consultation.

I appeal to them to do so…


Scottish Episcopal Church – marriage vote


Yesterday the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to start a process that could allow same-sex couples to be married in church. It issued this press release.

Faith and Order Board – Marriage
June 12, 2015

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has today voted to begin a process for change in relation to its Canon on Marriage. It has therefore instructed the Church’s Faith and Order Board to begin the two year process which may lead towards canonical change. That change would potentially allow the marriage of same gendered couples in Church in late 2017. The option which Synod voted for states:

Removal of section 1 of Canon 31. This option would remove section 1 from Canon 31* in its entirety so that the Canon was silent on the question of a doctrine of marriage.

General Synod also decided to add a conscience clause that ensures that no cleric would be obliged to solemnise a marriage against their conscience.

Commenting on the decision by General Synod today, The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church says “Our General Synod has taken two important steps forward today. We have decided that we wish to consider possible change to our Marriage Canon. We have identified one possible expression of that change. This potentially creates a situation in which Same-Sex marriages could be celebrated in churches of the Scottish Episcopal Church. That would also allow our clergy to enter into same-sex marriages. It is important to realise that at this point this is an indicative decision only. Any change to the Canon will require the normal two year process and two thirds majorities will be required. That process will begin at General Synod 2016 and cannot be complete until General Synod 2017.”

*Canon 31, section 1 states The Doctrine of this Church is that Marriage is a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and is a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God.

A vote to instruct the Church’s Faith and Order Board to prepare canonical material to enable the registration of Civil Partnerships to be undertaken in the Scottish Episcopal Church, failed to pass.

David Chillingworth, the SEC primus, write this for Herald Scotland before the vote: Why our church is facing the challenge of same-sex marriage.

Reports and reactions to the vote include:

Andrew Page and Dan Littauer KaleidoScot Episcopal Church Scotland commits to same-sex marriage

Brian Donnelly Herald Scotland Change to doctrine on marriage could allow first gay church weddings in Scotland

Cameron Brooks The Press and Journal Church takes step closer to recognising gay marriage

Nick Duffy Pink News Scottish Episcopal Church passes initial vote in favour of same-sex marriage

Kelvin Holdsworth The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning

Beth Routledge General Synod 2015: Going Forward In Diversity and Difference

The agenda and papers for the whole synod meeting are available as a single pdf file.


Pat Ashworth has written this report on the debate for Church Times: Scottish Synod opens church door to same-sex weddings.

Changing Attitude Scotland has issued this Statement following General Synod 2015.

The statement from a group of episcopal clergy and laity in Professor Sietz’s comment below is online here: Responding to the Decisions on Marriage made by General Synod.

Savi Hensman Ekklesia Scottish Episcopal Church moves towards marrying same-sex couples


Churches Mutual Credit Union formally launched

The Archbishop of Canterbury and representatives of other member churches press the button to launch the Churches Mutual Credit Union

The Archbishop of Canterbury and representatives of other member churches press the button to launch the Churches Mutual Credit Union. (photograph by Peter Owen)

The Churches Mutual Credit Union was formally launched at Church House today.

Church House issued this press release to mark the occasion.

Churches Mutual Credit Union formally launched
11 February 2015

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s drive to promote access to responsible credit and savings receives a major boost today with the launch of the Churches Mutual Credit Union Ltd. (CMCU).

The Most Rev Justin Welby joined the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev John Chalmers and the President of the Methodist Conference, The Rev Ken Howcroft, at Church House, central London, to celebrate their respective churches’ collaboration in forming the flagship credit union.

The CMCU, which also includes the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in Wales, will offer a range of savings and loan products. Fairness will be at the heart of the CMCU’s values. Initially members will be able to invest in the ‘Founder Member’s Bond’ with ordinary savers accounts and loans becoming available in March. In due course CMCU will offer ISA savings accounts.

At least 60,000 individuals, notably ordained ministers, licensed lay ministers, elders, employees and trustees of churches (e.g. Parochial Church Council members) and church charities are eligible to join, along with churches and Anglican and Church of Scotland charities as corporate members.

Individuals can join CMCU from tomorrow (Thursday February 12).

Archbishop Justin said: “My congratulations go to all involved in establishing the Churches Mutual Credit Union as it is launched today.

“Credit unions have the potential to make a transformative contribution to our financial system and I am delighted that it will be possible for clergy, church employees and church trustees to belong to a credit union focused on supporting their particular financial needs.

“As the first supporter to sign CMCU’s application to the regulator in 2013 I am looking forward to being one of the first to sign up as a member when registration opens tomorrow.

“It is a notable strength of CMCU that it brings together churches from England, Scotland and Wales in this shared venture.

“I hope and expect that the experience of belonging to CMCU will encourage clergy and church workers to become increasingly effective advocates for credit unions in their communities.”

Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, CMCU President, and a former President of ABCUL (the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd) said: “After several years of development this is a great day for our churches and a great day for the British credit union sector.

“We recognise the strength of the credit union model and wish to offer that to our ministers and employees. Of immediate interest to many, especially ordained ministers, will be our plans to provide a competitive car loan scheme.

“The Church forms an obvious community with many shared interests and as such it has a natural fit with the idea of a credit union. The recycling of capital within the community, not least for mission, will be of benefit to all.”


The CMCU project began in 2008 and is supported by the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church and the Church in Wales.

The CMCU was given formal authorisation by the regulatory authorities in December, after a rigorous process undertaken by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme covers deposits up to £85,000.


Episcopal clergy respond to bishops guidance on marriage

Updated Sunday evening

Readers will recall that the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church recently issued Guidance on Marriage and Civil Partnership.

This week, a response from quite a number of clergy was published, see Dear Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church. As Kelvin Holdsworth explains:

Last weekend I signed the following letter which was sent to the Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church. It was organised by a group of clergy in the diocese of Edinburgh. The fifty or so signatories were those who happened to learn of this over a couple of days last weekend. There will no doubt be others who would have wanted to sign it who simply didn’t hear about it…

The full text of the letter is reproduced below the fold. Follow this link and scroll down for the list of signatories.

The Scottish newspaper The Herald has picked up this story, and run two articles about it. First on Wednesday they wrote Church faces backlash after banning gay clergy from marrying.

CLERGY in the Scottish Episcopal Church have been threatened with disciplinary action if they enter a same-sex marriage, sparking a fierce backlash amongst its ministry and membership.

An edict by Episcopalian bishops warns clerics already in a civil partnership that converting their relationships into marriage would put them “outwith doctrinal understanding”, a move sources say could effectively make them homeless or strip them of their livelihood.

People training to enter the clergy and in civil partnerships, accepted within the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), are also warned that if they marry they cannot be ordained. The ban also extends to ‘lay readers’, non-clergy trained to preach, teach and lead worship…

Then today, the same newspaper published this: Traditional weddings threat as church faces unprecedented insurrection over gay marriage ban.

CHURCH leaders are facing an unprecedented insurrection amongst their own ministry over their gay marriage ban, with signals some clergy will not carry out any weddings until the matter is resolved.

In what has been described as the biggest crisis to engulf it in living memory, over 50 Scottish Episcopalian Church (SEC) clergy – around one in six – have signed a letter condemning the stance of their bishops over same-sex marriage.

Amongst the signatories are some of the SEC’s most prominent figures, including current and former deans of three dioceses, essentially bishops’ deputies and the equivalent of an archdeacon in the Church of England, and two provosts, the senior priests in Episcopalian cathedrals.

While unhappy over the general stance of the SEC on gay marriage, the ire is focused primarily on the ban on the clergy and trainees turning their civil partnerships into marriage.

The letter also contains a veiled warning some members of the SEC clergy could refuse to conduct any weddings while the row rumbles on…

Andrew Swift has written Identity & Authority

Christine McIntosh has written Crisis? What crisis?



Scottish Episcopal Church: Guidance on Marriage and Civil Partnership

The Scottish Episcopal Church has issued guidance in relation to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. The substance of the guidance is very similar to that issued in February by the Church of England House of Bishops.


Later this month key parts of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 will come into force. Conscious that the Scottish Episcopal Church is currently in a period of discussion regarding its understanding of same-sex relationships, the College of Bishops has produced guidance to support and inform clergy and lay readers in the exercise of their ministries and in their provision of pastoral care.

A copy of the Guidance is attached

John Stuart
Secretary General

Earlier statements from the Scottish Episcopal Church can be found here.

A response from Changing Attitude Scotland can be found here.

Update Changing Attitude Scotland has this digest of responses.


Scottish Episcopal Church – General Synod

Updated twice Friday evening
Updated Saturday evening

The Scottish Episcopal Church is holding its annual General Synod from today until Saturday. The agenda and papers are available here.

There is an official report of today’s business – General Synod 2014 Day One – and these two news items:
Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church Introduces General Synod 2014
Launch of New Grosvenor Essay No.10 ‘The Church and Scottish Identity’.

There is a live audio feed here.


Here is the official report of the second day’s business: General Synod 2014 Day Two

The Primus addressed the synod following discussion on the subject of Same-Sex Relationships. The full text of his statement can be found here.

Not everybody shared his views, see:
Kelvin Holdsworth How not to have a synodical discussion
Beth Routledge Why I’m Still Not Convinced By The Cascade Conversations

More updates

Here is the official report of the third day’s business: General Synod 2014 Day Three.


New statement on Civil Partnerships from the Scottish College of Bishops

Kelvin Holdsworth draws our attention to this statement from the College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which was sent to clergy today as part of a regular electronic clergy mailing.

Blessing of Civil Partnerships

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 2012 agreed not to adopt the Anglican Covenant. Since then, and within our own context, the College of Bishops has, on a number of occasions, considered how our church should best engage with those underlying questions of human sexuality which had given rise to the original idea of a Covenant. The College looks forward to the Church undertaking discussion of such matters as part of the process currently being designed by a group set up for that purpose by the provincial Mission and Ministry Board. The College in no way intends to pre-empt the outcome of those discussions. At the same time it recognises that the entering into of civil partnerships is a regular occurrence in Scottish society today.

In a previous statement the College indicated that it was the practice of the individual Bishops at that time neither to give official sanction to blessings of civil partnerships, nor to attend them personally. The Church does not give official sanction to informal blessings but each Bishop would nevertheless expect to be consulted by clergy prior to the carrying out of any informal blessing of a civil partnership in his diocese. The College is of the view that a decision as to whether or not to attend such an informal blessing should be a personal decision of the individual Bishop in question.
College of Bishops

November 2013

Kelvin comments on its significance here, and contrasts it with what the Pilling report has to say to the Church of England.