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

When the Spirit sails freely

The Rev Kate Reynolds of Old St Paul’s has written a beautiful post on her blog: something is quickening here

It is well worth reading in full, but here is a taster:

At heart, I am a reconciler and a pastor. I don’t shy away from conflict, but I do shy away from division. I want to listen to what hurts. To heal what is wounded. To bind up the brokenhearted, as the psalmist puts it.

I think the recent statement from the bishops on the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Act 2014 has done a lot of harm, regardless of whether that was its intent or not. Plenty has been written about it elsewhere (Changing Attitudes has a good overview), and, though I do not agree with all that has been written, I have little to say that has not already been said.

But, ironically, I have hope that a lot of good may come from this.

It’s the kind of good that only happens when the Spirit sails freely above the constraints of the institution, stretching Her wings widely as She suddenly takes full flight.

The past week has been full of difficult conversations, conversations which have kept me awake at night, conversations which have forced me to my knees in prayer, conversations that have left me in tears with frustration and confusion. But they have been the best kind of conversations because they have been so honest: they have shattered assumptions, bridged divisions, and some have unexpectedly been suffused with gentleness and grace.

But what gives me real hope is that I hear people talking again about what drew us to the SEC in the first place, the kind of leadership that has inspired us, the prophets who challenged us, the ministry we felt called to, the prayer that roots us.

There is work still to be done. So much work. Hard work. Without a doubt. There will be more difficult conversations. And more division will likely come before reconciliation.

As I was reminded on that pre-ordination retreat, the Church is Christ’s. And Christ loves the Church, his bride. He loves her despite all her flaws and foibles. He loves her despite her wandering eye and her repeated affairs with power and worldly recognition. And he calls her again and again back to himself and the pure love he has to offer.

I want to renew that promise I made before I was ordained to do everything I can to ensure that we are able to solemnise all marriages in Scottish Episcopal churches, irrespective of the sex of the two persons involved.

I will still listen. I will still try to heal. I will still try to reconcile. But friends, I will no longer silently stand by and do nothing as I watch the hearts of those I love be broken.

Herald newspaper report

There’s a news story in the Herald newspaper today:

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.

Prominent SEC figures have now condemned their hierarchy, claiming there had been no expectation the bishops would make demands of the private lives of their clergy.

One source said the stance amounted to “direct discrimination” which remained lawful due to churches have exemptions from equalities legislation.

Read the full thing here: http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/news/home-news/church-faces-backlash-after-banning-gay-clergy-from-marrying.114724446

Beth Routledge: It’s time to build a cairn

In a further comment on the Bishops’ December 2014 Statement, General Synod member and convener of Changing Attitude Scotland, Dr Beth Routledge has said on 15 December:

The last seven days have been difficult ones. I know that I speak for a lot of people in the Scottish Episcopal Church when I say that we have been made to feel angry and ashamed. I stand in sorrow and solidarity with my LGBT friends who are called to ministerial vocations in the Church and who in this last week have been made to feel threatened. We are all left asking questions about what kind of church we are, what kind of church we want to be, and what kind of church we want to belong to.

I suspect that the answer is: not one that behaves like this.

It is clear that for those of us in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the fight is far from over.

But that’s for tomorrow, because marriage equality will become the law of our land at midnight tonight and that is a thing for which we must be joyful and celebrate. It has been a long journey and one that I am and will always be proud to have been on.

Through the ages, people on great journeys have stopped at important places and at decisive moments to build cairns at the roadside to which they and others can always return…

The whole thing can be read here:https://wanderingmedic.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/its-time-to-build-a-cairn/

Two more responses to the Bishops’ December 2014 Statement

Two more responses have been published to the Bishops’ December 2014 Statement.

Firstly, Christine McIntosh has On Rage and Prophetic Leadership

The first is to apologise to anyone, gay or straight, within the church or – more likely – outside it and looking on incredulously, and to tell them not to write off all Christians, all Episcopalians, as being firmly stuck in the ignorant past and willing to sacrifice the wonderful gift of life in all its fullness on the altar of a variety of respectability and prejudice that was common in the 1950s. Some of us are raging because the church we love has turned its back on people we love and value – people who also love the church and want to play a full and joyful part in it.

And the raging brings me to the second thing. Rage in debate is seldom helpful, but sometimes it leads one to a vision of what leadership is all about. John the Baptist certainly didn’t mince his words, and Jesus had a less than temperate way with those who ground down the poor, the outsider – the ones who didn’t conform. We’ve had prophetic leadership in the SEC in the past, and we’ve seen that it’s never easy for such leaders. But I long for such leadership…

And the Dean of Argyll and The Isles, the Very Rev Andrew Swift has a more satirical response – A message from over the sea

As things stand, a clergyperson or lay reader who chooses to don a Christmas jumper for public services will put themselves in a position outwith the BRC’s doctrinal understanding of vesture as expressed in Canon 34. While the BRC’s doctrinal understanding remains as currently expressed, the expectation of the presbyteries is that clergy and lay readers will not don a Christmas jumper for public services and that anyone considering such a step will consult their presbytery moderator.

Similarly, a candidate in the recruitment and selection process for ordination or lay readership who has donned, or is intending to don, a Christmas jumper for public services would be unable to promise obedience to the Canons. The presbyteries likewise expect candidates not to don a Christmas jumper for public services in the current situation and that any candidate considering such a step will consult their presbytery moderator.

Have a very merry Christmas

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.