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Further responses to the Bishops’ December 2014 Statement

There’s three further responses to the Bishops’ December 2014 statement to report today.

Rosemary Hannah, who is a member of staff of the Scottish Episcopal Institute which is responsible for training ordinands and lay-readers has written – Bishops against marriage

Here’s a taster of what she has to say:

These two latter matters, the marriage of current and prospective clergy, have not at any point been considered by General Synod, and there can be no warrant, at all, for this step. It is, of course, true that the bishops can (in our system) behave an a totally autocratic manner, but one does ask oneself just how wise it is for them to do it. How far they are willing to alienate the younger members of their church, not just by espousing discriminatory views which are anathema to most younger people, but by governing in a way which, frankly, simply turns the stomach. It is so totally undemocratic as to be nauseating.

Fr Pip Blackledge has also written – I never realised what it feels like to be gay

I was wrong to think I could know, or I did know how it felt to be gay. I can’t.

But the other thing I learned was that I could trust my gay friends to let me know. I could trust that they weren’t over-reacting, or being pushy in the way sometimes I and others are when we don’t get exactly what we want. They are generally the opposite of that – disliking conflict, because the conflict they engage with makes them feel isolated and rejected.

So I’m sorry, my gay friends, for taking so long to even get to the stage where I realised I don’t understand. I’m sorry so many of us don’t get it, can’t get it, and don’t realise it.

I’m sorry for all the times when “reasonable” liberal folk like me, who share your beliefs and aims, still made you feel isolated and alone.

I’m sorry, so sorry, for assuming my judgement was better than yours.

And I’m so very sorry that the letter from the Bishops has made you feel as though you don’t belong.

You do.

Meanwhile, The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth has a long post about the peace, unity and order of the Scottish Episcopal Church – the Peace and Unity and Order of the Church

I have to search for peace, unity and order in the church and my view is that we won’t have anything that looks like that until we have a church in which I can marry gay members of my congregation one unto another amidst great rejoicing whilst simultaneously defending the right of a sister or brother priest not to have to do so. And I have to hope that the desire to reach Scotland with the good news will allow colleagues who do disagree with me to search for the same peace that will allow us all a place to stand in order to reach out united to a world that needs the love of God.

I don’t believe and have never believed that the oaths to seek the peace, unity and order of the church are oaths involving any kind of conformity. And one of our troubles at the moment in my view is that our bishops have mistaken conformity for collegiality. The two are different. Collegiality is required of the College of Bishops. Collegiality is also required in a different way from the rest of us. Demands from any of us that look like conformity though do not look like the road to peace.

All the posts above are worth clicking through to read in full.

Digest of responses made online about College of Bishops’ Statement

Beth Routledge has this post on her blog which includes the following:

1) …these questions are not hypothetical ones, but are real questions about real people and their lives and their loves. I think in light of the specific things that have been said today it must be noted that this is particularly true of people who are called to ministry within the Church.

2) … the answers and guidance given by the House of Bishops, and that we are further away from justice and equality today than we were even a decade ago,

3) … if we stopped allowing anyone in ministry or seeking to enter ministry within the Church to get married to anyone until this question was settled, we would have had a proper answer a year ago.

Ekklesia has a long post called No rejoicing here: Scottish Episcopal Church’s marriage guidance which includes the following:

…institutional churches need to provide pastoral care to those who feel called to pledge their love publicly to their life-partner, as well as those opposed.

There is little sense of this in the Scottish Episcopal Church’s College of Bishops’ Guidance for Clergy and Lay Readers in the light of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. This document is perhaps even more grim and threatening than the Church of England bishops’ February 2014 ‘pastoral’ guidance.

and also:

The bishops could have issued a very different document recognising the variety of views and experiences within the church while highlighting the legal situation, an advising clergy that some congregations might react negatively if they were married. That they did not do so perhaps reflects a habit of fear of those most opposed to inclusion combined with pastoral insensitivity to those in favour.

Pouring a bucket of cold water over couples in love, their families and friends is not the best approach to mission and ministry. Once again, Christians seeking a more just and welcoming church will be left with the challenge of trying to limit the damage done by official statements.

The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow said in a blog post:

I’m appalled by its contents and in particular appalled at the way the Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church are treating gay clergy and lay readers in the church. The homophobic bullying of candidates for ministry – ordinands and candidates for lay readership is particularly unpleasant.

The Rev Kirstin Freeman, Rector of All Saints’, Bearsden and St Andrew’s, Milngavie also had a blog post – Advent Sorrow. This included the following striking statement:

The SEC is part of who I am and never before have I felt ashamed to be a Pisky. While I do not agree with the views contained within the Bishop’s statement yesterday… I am part of the SEC and so I feel I must apologise to all those who have been hurt by the words that have been used and the tone in which it has been delivered. They are not my words nor indeed my sentiments, but for many people I know I am the face of the SEC, so I am sorry for what has been said. To those of you who happen to be LTBG, regardless of whether you have any connections with the the SEC, I want to apologise for the times when maybe I could have done more and pledge to you that I will do all I can to ensure that justice and equality for everyone is not a past for dream but remains an achievable reality. Despite the sorrow and anger I currently feel I am not going to loose the promise of Advent which is for all people. You are special, you are precious, you are equal, you are valued in my eyes and in my heart. What is more I believe, with every fiber of my being, that with God it is even greater than that, for God is love.

Thinking Anglicans had a post linking to the original document and noting that the guidelines appear little different from those of the Church of England. There is also some discussion in the comments on this article including one saying that the document “Surpasses even the English bishops’ Valentine’s Day statement in spreading unseasonal gloom.”

There has also been considerable comment on social media. Some of this can be seen by searching for #pisky or @secsynod on twitter.

December 2014 Statement from College of Bishops – response from Changing Attitude Scotland

The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church has issued a statement on 9 December 2014 concerning same-sex marriage in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

This statement can be read here: College of Bishops Guidance re Marriage 2014

Changing Attitude Scotland is saddened at the threatening tone of this statement in connection with those clergy, lay readers, ordinands and candidates who are in same-sex partnerships who might be considering getting married or converting their civil partnerships to marriage. Changing Attitude Scotland believes that marriage is a human right and that the College of Bishops has over-reached its authority in this area. There is no agreement in the church that the Code of Canons should be used as a doctrinal statement of the Scottish Episcopal Church and in any case, as Canon 31 (which concerns marriage in the Scottish Episcopal Church) was drafted at a time when the marriage of same-sex couples was unimaginable, it forms a far from useful commentary on, or guide as to how the church should respond to, current legal developments.

Changing Attitude Scotland remains committed to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender people in the Scottish Episcopal Church and believes that whilst members of the church are threatened by the bishops for expressing their love in marriage, the whole body of Christ suffers.

College of Bishops Statement – November 2013

The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church have issued this statement which was sent to clergy in an online mailing on 29 November 2013.

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

Episcopalians at Glasgow Pride

Meet at the fountain opposite the People’s Palace at 10.30 am on 10 August 2013

All Scottish Episopalians and ecumenical friends welcome.

Episcopalians at Pride will have a stall in the marketplace as well as joining the march.

Straight allies particularly welcome!

Clergy: clerical collars, please.

Wallet cards

Legislation in England

Changing Attitude Scotland rejoices with campaigners in England as legislation which will allow same-sex couples to get married completes its path through the House of Lords. Though the legislation falls a long way short of the core ideal for Equal Marriage which we long for, it is a huge step along the way towards equality.

As this legislation for England and Wales passes through the both Houses of Parliament in London as it makes its way for Royal Assent, the focus now turns towards the Scottish Parliament. Changing Attitude Scotland notes that the Scottish legislation allows for the possibility that the Scottish Episcopal Church at some time will be able to opt into the legislation and is working to hasten that day.

For now though, we celebrate alongside campaigners in England in full knowledge that marriage is changing and becoming a more whole and wholesome institution in jurisdictions all around the world.

Anglican Bishop Authorises Clergy to perform Same-Sex Marriages

The Rt Rev Marc Andrus the Bishop of California has licensed clergy in that diocese to perform same-sex marriages following the US Supreme Court’s decision to allow such marriages in California to recommence.

In a statement he said:

I celebrate with LGBT sisters and brothers this Pride weekend as their personhood has been more fully recognized by the state, and I give thanks to God for the ways that they not only bless and are blessings to one another, but how they bless the full life of the Church.

Full details here

Equal Marriage Video

Changing Attitude Scotland is pleased to see a number of Scottish Episcopalians in this video produced to support the Equal Marriage campaign. Parts of the video were filmed in one of our Scottish Episcopal cathedrals.

House of Lords Debate

The Archbishop of York has taken a strong and disappointing lead in opposing Equal Marriage legislation in the House of Lords.

Speaking in the debate, he said acknowledged that the Church of England readily blesses inanimate objects but has not yet come to a point where it can bless loving relationships between gay Christians.

What do you do with people in same-sex relationships that are committed, loving and Christian? Would you rather bless a sheep and a tree, and not them? However, that is a big question, to which we are going to come. I am afraid that now is not the moment.

Writing in the Guardian, Andrew Brown has a powerful critique of the influence of Archbishops John Sentamu and Rowan Williams:

…they failed to listen to the weak because they thought the noisy bullies mattered more.

When civil partnerships came in, the two archbishops fought hard, along with the rest of the Church of England, to ensure that they had no religious or spiritual content at all. This was a monumentally stupid position for an established church to take, and the nation duly went ahead and injected its own spiritual contents, leaving the church looking like a whitewashed tomb.