A Prayer for Vocations Sunday

At the time that several different churches including the Scottish Episcopal Church marks Vocation Sunday, Changing Attitude Scotland offers this prayer for those denied a vocation in our church and across the world because of their sexuality.

Eternal God,
we pray for your church to thrive
though the imagination and vision of those whom you call to leadership roles.
We give thanks for the gifts and skills of all your people.
Hear us as we pray in solidarity with all
whose vocation has been denied because of their sexuality.
For candidates, partners, friends and their congregations.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Changing Attitude Scotland believes that the fastest way to increase the number of candidates for ministry in Scotland would be for the College of Bishops to revise their guidelines this year to allow those selected for ministry whose vocations have been put on hold because of being in a same-sex marriage to be able to begin training for ministry in the Scottish Episcopal Institute in autumn 2016. We also believe it is a matter of justice that those clergy who have been told by our bishops that they risk losing their vocation, livelihood and home if they get married to their partners should be able to marry freely according to the law of the land.

Statement on the Primates’ Meeting 2016 from Changing Attitude Scotland

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Changing Attitude Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment on the official statement from the Primates’ Meeting of the Anglican Communion in 2016.

It is a matter of regret that the US based Episcopal Church has been told it cannot represent the Anglican Communion on interfaith and ecumenical bodies and also that the US church cannot vote in deliberations within the communion for three years where matters of polity and doctrine are being discussed. This will particularly include the Anglican Consultative Council a body which only meets every two or three years. We note that very few motions are presented at the Anglican Consultative Council which actually deal with matters of doctrine or polity and whilst regretting the snub to the US based church believe that its involvement within the life of the Communion will remain substantial.

It appears that the Anglican Communion has applied sanctions to itself rather than to the US based Episcopal Church and there is little logic to be found in limiting in any way the ability of the Anglican Consultative Council to be consultative.

Rather than seeing the “sanctions” being applied to the US based Episcopal Church as that church being sent to the naughty step for three years, Changing Attitude Scotland believes that it is possible that in time this may be seen as the emergence of a group of provinces in which the full inclusion of LGBT people will be an unquestioned badge of honour. We will work for the Scottish Episcopal Church to join such a grouping. Over the last few years in Scotland we have seen public opinion change from being broadly suspicious of gay and lesbian people to public opinion being broadly supportive of gay and lesbian people. We believe that we see the same thing happening across the world and that this change is unstoppable. The acknowledgement that it was merely a majority of Primates who shared in reaffirming the definition of marriage as being exclusively between one man and one woman for life indicates that change is already present at every level within the Anglican Communion. The views that we have championed are now held by Anglican Primates.

At one time all Anglican Communion statements were predicated on the view that the only understanding of marriage was that it was exclusively between a man and a woman and that only that view could ever be held with integrity by godly Christians. In the statement from the Primates’ Meeting of 2016 this is suddenly acknowledged no longer to be the case.

We are pleased that all members of the Anglican Communion remain members of the Anglican Communion and note that the Primates have made no mention of the so-called Anglican Church of North America.

The Primates acknowledge that it is possible that other provinces may follow the US based Episcopal Church in allowing same-sex couples to marry in church. It is our hope that Scotland will become one of the first to do so and that many others will subsequently follow.

Prayers for the Primates’ Meeting 2016

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for Anglicans to pray during the meeting of Primates in Canterbury in January 2016.

Changing Attitude Scotland offers the following prayers as a resource for LGBT Christians and their friends seeking to pray at this time.

A LITANY AND COLLECT

In the name of God the Creator
let us make our prayer in confidence.

In the name of God the Redeemer
let us make our prayer in hope.

In the name of God the Liberator
let us make our prayer in love.

From closets of fear
O God deliver us.

From those who talk about us but do not talk with us
O God deliver us.

From those who use the bible to threaten and abuse
O God deliver us.

For the Anglican Primates and leaders of all the churches.
We pray to you O God.

For LGBT leaders in communities worldwide.
We pray to you O God.

For those who work to make equal marriage a reality around the world.
We pray to you O God.

For closeted bishops.
Fill them with love, courage and honesty.

For the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Fill him with love, patience and peace.

For those who wish us harm.
Fill them with love, joy and delight.

For all kinds of couples getting married.
We offer our thanks and praise.

For those who have mentored us and taught us.
We offer our thanks and gratitude.

For those who inspire us and challenge us.
We offer our thanks and blessings

For our young people.
We pray for a joyful future.

For all seeking a partner.
We pray with hope and expectation.

For all who are bereaved.
We pray with compassion and kindness.

In the name of God the Creator
Amen.

In the name of God the Redeemer
Amen.

In the name of God the Liberator
Amen.

Eternal God,
your wisdom inspires workers for justice,
your love encourages the downcast,
and your joy blesses our hearts.
Give grace to your servants who meet together in Canterbury.
May Christ be with them.
We pray in the name of the God
who loves us beyond all our expectations.
Amen.

 

Statement following General Synod 2015

Changing Attitude Scotland welcomes recent decisions taken by the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church to begin the process of exploring canonical change for marriage equality within the Church.

After fruitful and generous debate on the options for maintaining the status quo or making changes to the relevant Canon Law, members of General Synod expressed a clear preference for removing in its entirety the doctrinal definition of marriage which is presently contained within Canon 31 and which was inserted in 1980. The subsequent request to the Faith and Order Board to prepare the legislation was passed by 110 votes to 9 against. In doing so, the church has affirmed the principle that the doctrine of the Scottish Episcopal Church is better expressed in its liturgies than in canon law

Members of the General Synod also requested a conscience clause to be added into Canon 31, making explicit the position that no cleric would be obliged to solemnise any marriage that they felt was against their conscience.

In a press release on Friday, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, said: “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.”

The new legislation will be presented for first reading to General Synod 2016, with a second reading and a final vote requiring a two-thirds majority in each House at General Synod 2017.

There is work yet to be done, but we rejoice in the decisive step that has been taken and the change that we now see. We have witnessed the changing of hearts and minds, the bursting open of closet doors, and a strong will to celebrate our diversity and to be gracious and kind in the face of our disagreements. At every stage of this process, we have seen the Church make clear decisions that will guide it in the way of greater equality and justice whilst allowing space for those who disagree with one another.

Response from the College of Bishops to letter of concern from over 50 clergy and lay readers

The following Response from the College of Bishops was written by the Primus, the Most Rev David Chillingworth in response to a letter from more than 50 clergy and lay leaders who wrote expressing concern about their recent Guidelines relating to the changes in marriage law in Scotland. Bloggers may wish to repost this and comment on it on their own blogs.

22 December 2014

I am responding to your letter which has been passed to me by our Secretary General. My response has been agreed with the other members of the College of Bishops. I would be grateful if you would circulate this response to the other signatories of your letter.

The situation in which we and other churches find ourselves is one of considerable challenge and we are grateful to you for your recognition of that and your support for us in our ministry. It is not within the experience of any of us that we find our church out of step with the provisions of Civil Law with respect to marriage. We are aware that a substantial section of our church would wish to bring the practice of our church into line with the Civil Law as soon as possible. Others, of course, wish to continue to uphold a more traditional position.

As bishops, we are acutely aware that the issues which are part of the wider discussion of human sexuality and are touched on in the Guidance issued by the College are not abstract matters of policy. They affect deeply the lives and relationships of members of our church, both clergy and laity. It is regrettable, therefore, that some have been upset by the style and tone of our Guidance
document; this was not our intention. We are aware that what we say should be expressed in a way which is compassionate and which honours the depth of the feelings involved.

The Guidance offered by the College of Bishops was not intended to pre-empt any future discussion or synodical decision. It was issued at this point because of the need to bring clarity as the new Marriage Act becomes effective in Scotland. This is where we are at the moment. Our document is not seeking to defend the status quo but rather to preserve a space in which both the Cascade and Synodical processes might be allowed to work themselves through to a point where we can discern the mind of the church on this matter. We feel that for a diversity of practice to arise before we have done this will neither contribute to the unity of our church nor ultimately will it assist us as we try to move forward together.

I know that many who signed your letter are committed to the Cascade process. It is a process which, in a number of forms, has been followed by many churches. It seeks to provide an opportunity for honest conversation across difference and to foster a sense of belonging to one another in Christ. Whilst it did not achieve universal acceptance, we were greatly encouraged by the Pitlochry Conference and by expressions of the process at other levels. The purpose of the Cascade process has not been primarily to seek a resolution of these issues – rather it offers a way in which we can respond to our diversity and thereby create an environment in which resolution may be possible.

Ultimately, this resolution must come through General Synod. The process for doing so in 2015 will be the subject of debate by the Faith and Order Board at its meeting in March. This may lead to a full debate at General Synod in 2015 on the Theology of Marriage in response to a paper to be prepared by our Doctrine Committee. We also expect a debate which gives General Synod members the opportunity of expressing a considered view on a number of options for canonical and other changes. The College trusts that our Cascade Conversations will mean that votes on the floor of General Synod – when they come – will give expression to a deeper unity and catholicity which our church has sought in honest conversation, mutual respect for diversity and prayer.

The question of the authority of the Canons is of particular difficulty. It affects clergy and all who hold a licence for ministry in our church. Whether or not a priest or a deacon can promise obedience to the Canons is ultimately a matter of personal and ministerial integrity. But, because we are an episcopal church, it also involves the bishop before whom such declarations are made.

There are of course wider issues involved here – about the nature of the Scottish Episcopal Church and its place in Scotland today. Many people in and beyond our church would recognize that we have, over the years, bravely represented and advocated gospel-inspired positions on social, moral and justice issues. We honour that history and our tradition of openness and compassion. The challenge we now face is to be open and courageous about engaging with our own theological diversity – honourably resolving difficult questions in a way that strengthens and deepens our oneness in Christ. I believe that we are not only capable of doing this for ourselves but of offering it as an example to others.

Thank you again for your letter. I know that it arises from the deeply held feelings of many people within our church and I hope that this response helps to answer some of their concerns.
With kind regards,
+David
The Most Rev’d David Chillingworth

Christine McIntosh on the current “crisis”

Christine McIntosh has a new post on her blog: Crisis? What Crisis?

When I posted the letter here the other day, I said I was proud of the signatories. I’m still proud. And I’m proud to belong to a church that numbers such people among its leaders. I’m thrilled that suddenly we’re talking about the elephant in the room, and that conversations – real conversations, not this ridiculously neutered Cascade malarkey – are beginning to happen in real life, in churches, in sitting rooms, and not just on social media. We’re showing that our faith can actually inform our decisions, guide our words, make us brave. We’re showing that we can think for ourselves, as mature Christians who recognise that a great historical mistake is in danger of being perpetuated.

What I’m looking for now is some brave leadership from the top, from the Bishops who are supposed to provide a focus for this thoughtful and courageous process.

Read the whole thing here: http://blethers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/crisis-what-crisis.html

Crisis? What crisis?

The Dean of Argyll and The Isles, the Very Rev Andrew Swift has an interesting historical reflection on the current situation in the Scottish Episcopal Church – Identity & Authority

Well worth reading in full – includes this:

To me, it feels as if the SEC is doing what it does best: engaging with issues of the day, not accepting a stance that feels imbalanced or theologically skewed, and not blindly accepting a model of authority that does not feel Scottish Episcopalian.

Herald Newspaper: Unprecedented Insurrection over Gay Marriage Ban

The Herald newspaper has a new report on the situation relating to the Bishops’ December 2014 statement: Traditional Weddings Threat as Church Faces Unprecidented Insurrection Over Gay Marriage Ban

The report begins:

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.

It also includes a couple of quotes from outside the Scottish Episcopal Church.

From Ali Chesworth in Ipswich:

I was saddened and dismayed to read this guidance from a province which has in the past taught so much about an inclusivity unparalleled by the other Anglicans in the UK.

and from Fr Ron Smith in New Zealand:

A very brave, but also much-needed moral stance. Let’s hope your voices are heard by the bishops of SEC.

The story also reports comments from a senior source in the Scottish Episcopal Church:

One senior source said: “This is an unprecedented crisis in the Scottish Episcopalian Church. There is an urgent need for change of tone from the bishops and a new and accelerated timetable for resolving this matter.”

Dear Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church

The following letter has been signed by over 50 clergy and lay readers and sent to the members of the College of Bishops

Dear Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church,

We read with dismay the Guidance for Clergy and Lay Readers in the light of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

We appreciate that we are bound by the law, and that until our canons are changed, we cannot legally perform same-sex marriages. However, we are disappointed by both the timing and the tone of the document. We have been urged by you to enter into ‘cascade conversations’ in a spirit of open and sensitive listening with people of all views on this matter. This document only makes this process much harder for us, even impossible for some. Far from acknowledging the reality of differing experience and views in the church, it gives the impression of a definitive answer to the question we have yet to discuss or debate. The document ought to make it clear that the restrictions it describes may be temporary, if the church decides to change its canons. Because of the confusion created by this document, we now believe that such canonical change should be decided in Synod as soon as possible.

But we were especially dismayed by the section of the document which refers to clergy, lay readers, and ordinands, should they be in a same-sex relationship and wish to be married. In particular, we find the warnings to ordinands, both currently training and those who might be training in the future, to be unrepresentative of the generous and communal characteristics of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Even though our church has not yet agreed to solemnise same-sex marriages, they will nevertheless become a civil institution which we will recognise like everyone else under the law. It is our firm belief therefore that any prohibition on obtaining a civil marriage is outwith the moral and canonical authority of a bishop.

We acknowledge that this process is one which creates anxiety for all church leaders, and bishops in particular. We empathise with the difficult situation that you as bishops are in, and reaffirm our desire to support you in your leadership of our church, and as fellow members of it.

Nevertheless, some of us are now uncomfortable about solemnising marriages at all until such time as all can be treated equally, and all of us will continue to feel morally compromised in our ministries, and wish to make clear our continuing commitment to affirm and support all people in our church, and to recognise and rejoice in all marriages, of whatever sexual orientation, as true signs of the love of God in Christ.

Yours sincerely,
Revd Carrie Applegath,
Revd Philip Blackledge,
Revd Maurice Houston,
Revd Canon John McLuckie,
Revd Canon Ian Paton,
Revd Kate Reynolds,
Revd Martin Robson,
Revd Malcolm Aldcroft,
Dr Darlene Bird (lay reader),
Revd Jim Benton-Evans,
Revd Cedric L. Blakey,
Revd Andrew Bowyer,
Revd Canon Bill Brockie,
Revd Tony Bryer,
Revd Steve Butler,
Revd Christine Barclay,
Revd Lynsay M Downes,
Revd Markus Dünzkofer,
Revd Canon Anne Dyer,
Revd Janet Dyer,
Revd Jennifer Edie,
Revd John L Evans,
Revd Samantha Ferguson,
The Revd Canon Zachary Fleetwood,
Kennedy Fraser,
Revd Kirstin Freeman,
Revd Frances Forshaw,
Revd Ruth Green,
Revd Bob Gould,
Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth,
Revd Ruth Innes,
Revd Ken Webb,
Rev’d Canon Mel Langille,
Revd Kenny Macaulay,
Revd Simon Mackenzie,
Revd Duncan MacLaren,
Very Revd Nikki McNelly,
Very Revd Jim Mein,
Revd Nicola Moll,
Revd Bryan Owen,
Revd Canon Clifford Piper,
Revd Donald Reid,
Revd Colin Reed,
Revd Canon John Richardson,
Revd Malcolm Richardson,
The Revd Gareth J M Saunders,
Very Revd Alison J Simpson,
Very Revd Andrew Swift,
Kate Sainsbury (lay reader),
Patsy Thomson (lay reader),
Prof Revd Annalu Waller