The Vestry met on Monday evening and in the course of its business discussed how to respond to the Scottish Government Consultation on Civil Partnerships and Same-Sex Marriage. The full response is available here.
This is the way in which the first question on Religious Civil Partnerships was answered:
Question: Do you agree that legislation should be changed so that civil partnerships could be registered through religious ceremonies?
Answer: Yes. St Maryâ€™s Cathedral congregation contains significant variety in its views and this response, on behalf of the Vestry, will reflect that variety. However, the Cathedral sees its basic mission as one of reflecting Godâ€™s love for all people and to promote that by being â€œopen, inclusive and welcomingâ€ to all. A significant number of our members are in long term caring and loving same sex relationships. Some of them who have registered a civil partnership speak of the hurt and exclusion they felt because their civil partnership ceremony specifically excluded any religious component. One member of our congregation summed this up as follows: â€œWhile those of different faith backgrounds may struggle to find a minister willing to marry them, they can still have a civil ceremony that involves religious elements because and only because they are of the opposite sex. I am denied this because and only because I am gay.â€
We believe that the majority of our congregation would support the proposal addressed in this question, while recognising that some of our members remain unhappy at linking same sex partnerships to a religious service.
With regards to Same-Sex Marriage, the response is as follows:
Question: Do you agree that the law in Scotland should be changed to allow same sex marriage?
Inevitably, there is a range of views within our congregation on this matter.
Marriage as an institution has evolved over time, both in civil society and within the church. For example, the current wording of our marriage liturgy is very different from that used in the past, recognising equality of both partners within the marriage rather than the older view of subservience of the wife to her husband.
Many of us believe that the settled and loving relationship of a same sex couple can, and from our experience does, reflect and show forth Godâ€™s grace, just as an opposite sex relationship or marriage can. On that basis, as the union of those individuals has the sacramental characteristic of showing Godâ€™s love, marriage should be open to those same sex couples who wish to have marriage. We believe that is a majority view in our congregation.
Others amongst us, while not necessarily disagreeing that Godâ€™s grace can be manifest in a same sex relationship, take a more traditional view of what constitutes marriage. They hold, for example, that it is the mystical union of a man and woman with a necessary link to the potential procreation of children. Those members of our congregation, therefore, believe that marriage is an inappropriate term for the formal union of same sex couples. Many of those who hold this view, have no objection to a religious ceremony to mark a same sex union so long as it is not called marriage.
The Vestry also made this comment in connection with Transgendered people
We hope that if same sex marriage is introduced this will resolve the cruel dilemma currently faced by a married couple when one of the partners has gender reassignment. Not infrequently, such couples decide to continue as a partnership, supporting one another before, through and after the reassignment, yet they have to divorce one another before the gender change is legally recognised.
In other news, the Scottish Episcopal Church’s formal response from the Faith and Order Board was published earlier today. I may well blog about it later.
I would encourage everyone who cares about this issue to make a personal response to the Scottish Government – there are only a couple of days left to do so. You can do so by using the simple form at the Equal Marriage website.