Next stop General Synod in June 2017

Changing Attitude Scotland warmly welcomes the results of voting at the Diocesan Synods of the Scottish Episcopal Church that has taken place across Scotland in March 2017.

Proposals to make changes to Canon 31 of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s canons have now been discussed by all the diocesan synods. A very clear majority of the synods voted in favour of change – 6 dioceses voted in favour, whilst one (Aberdeen and Orkney) voted against change.

The changes that are proposed would allow some clergy to be nominated to be able to conduct marriages for same-sex couples. If the changes are approved they would also remove the ban on clergy and lay readers entering into same-sex marriages themselves.

The changes proposed in the Scottish Episcopal Church are deliberately aimed at respecting the conscience of all in the church by not forcing anyone to affirm a doctrinal statement about marriage which they disagree with. Changing Attitude Scotland believes that this method of dealing with issues surrounding marriage is a model which other churches in the Anglican Communion might well explore in the future. We believe that there is room in the church for everyone to be able to exercise their conscience on this question – respecting those who do not wish to celebrate the marriages of same-sex couples and respecting those who do.

Speaking after the voting was concluded, Beth Routledge, convenor of Changing Attitude Scotland said, “We can now look forward to the final vote on these measures at General Synod in Edinburgh in June. It has been very moving to hear of so many speeches that have affirmed the wish for same-sex couples to be able to walk down the aisles in our churches. We are delighted at the positive votes cast that have supported this change to the Canon, and we hope that they point the way to this wish soon becoming the reality of the Church”

The final vote is expected to be taken in Edinburgh at General Synod which starts on – 8 June 2017

Diocesan Voting on Canon 31

Changing Attitude Scotland can report that a majority of Scottish dioceses have affirmed the proposed changes to Canon 31 that would allow some clergy to be nominated to conduct same-sex blessings:

Voting in favour:
Argyll and The Isles
Moray, Ross and Caithness
St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane

The following diocese has declined to affirm the changes:

Aberdeen and Orkney

Response to General Synod 2016

Changing Attitude Scotland welcomes wholeheartedly the successful passage of an amended Canon 31 through first reading at the recent General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The proposed amendment removes doctrinal statements about marriage from canon law, recognises the diversity of views that exist on marriage within the Scottish Episcopal Church, and makes explicit the right of all clergy to act in accordance with their conscience.

This vote required a simple majority in each House, and passed with 71% in favour in the House of Bishops, 69% in the House of Clergy, and 80% in the House of Laity (with three abstentions). We have seen the Church expressing an emphatic wish to go forward on a path that will lead to greater equality and greater inclusion.

We are encouraged by the statements of support made of the motion in the Synod debate. We are moved by the generous contributions made to it by those who hold different views. We recognise the enormous amount of work that has taken place to produce something that will enable the whole Church to remain together and walk together in all its glorious diversity. We rejoice and give thanks for the positive step that has been taken and the courage that has been shown.

In this as well as in the other business of General Synod, a message has gone out that the Church looks to act as a model for fellowship and a force for good in the world. In discussions on poverty, on climate change, on the refugee crisis, on gender equality, and on the education of our future church leaders, the Church has consistently expressed the view that it wants to be a place where the door is always open, for everyone.

The amendment to Canon 31 returns to the General Synod of 2017, when it will require a two thirds majority in each House. If passed at that stage we will expect to see the first marriages of same sex couples in the Church in late 2017.

We celebrate the work that has been done. We look forward to the work that now begins.

General Synod 2016

Changing Attitude Scotland supports Motion 14 – the motion which would remove the definition of marriage as being essentially between a man and a woman.

If the synod votes in favour of this motion, the next year will be a year of discussion within the church. Changing Attitude Scotland is happy to help any diocese, regional or area council or congregation who wishes to discuss these matters with those most directly affected.

A prayer for Synod:
Eternal God
May your holy spirit inspire and encourage
all those who deliberate, decide, debate and vote.
Bring courage to all those who seek justice.
For we pray in the company of those who have
taught us to work for a better world and a better church,
the saints of  the ages,
in the power of your Spirit and the name of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen

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


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.


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

In the name of God the Redeemer

In the name of God the Liberator

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.


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,
The Most Rev’d David Chillingworth