The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning

At about 4.30 this morning I found myself awake, wide awake in my hotel room in Edinburgh. The sun was streaming into the room despite the curtains trying to block it out. And my first thought was words that we sang at morning prayer yesterday in the General Synod meeting.

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

And I realised for the first time the impact of what happened during the synod meeting yesterday.

What we did was set out the pathway that we are on to be able to have the chance of allowing same-sex couples to be married in church.

I’m delighted, of course that we achieved that. No one would expect me to say anything else. But it was a day of much more than getting what I wanted – it was a day when those who disagree with me were kind and generous. People who were hurting were unfailingly godly and I see in them the love of Christ.

It was perhaps the first day I’ve spent at any synod when I couldn’t predict what would happen. There were many speeches that surprised me. Several folk whom I expected to speak against what I hoped for, spoke about their journey to a new understanding of sexuality. We witnessed one almost damascene conversion.  And one of the most prominent people in the church came out as a settled married bisexual whom though now married to his wife had previously loved a man. And the thing was, that wasn’t the most talked about thing of the day.  It was just something we learned that we didn’t already know.

At the end of the day, we made some strikingly clear decisions.  We are moving towards removing the doctrinal definition of marriage from Canon Law that was placed there in 1980. This will then allow a move to enable the church to nominate those, and only those, who wish to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples to be able to do so. This may now happen in summer 2017.

It seems glacial to those of us who want change. It will seem terrifyingly fast to those who don’t.

But the glacier is moving. That is now undeniable. The vote to instruct the Faith and Order Board to prepare the new legislation was 110 in favour to 9 against.

Along the way we also decided not to go down the route of allowing Civil Partnerships to be registered in church.  We’re going for marriage being possible for gay and lesbian couples.

Once upon a time I’d have leapt at the chance of getting Civil Partnerships in church.  Now I hope for something immeasurably better.

There was drama yesterday at synod. There was passion and there was pain.  But there was also love.

Within minutes of the vote being announced I saw someone predicting on a US website that three of our churches would leave the Scottish Episcopal Church over this and take 40% of our membership with them. It will be news for those churches that they represent that proportion of the membership of the SEC. Notwithstanding the strength of those particular churches they don’t represent anything near that percentage.

In any case, one of those churches which is near where I live is simply not of one mind about these things.  The rector of another told us of the gay folk in his congregation and how clear it was that they were welcome to marriage preparation classes.  The rectors of those churches tried to bring in the possibility of opening marriage to same-sex couples by a different route to the one we eventually chose.  That was costly and generous of them all.

Today I awake to a new church. I believe what I believed yesterday morning – that it is the love of Christ that can hold Christians together much more effectively than a definition of marriage.

Yesterday though, I saw it happen.

For all Your goodness I’ll keep on singing,
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.
Bless the Lord,  O my soul, O my soul,
Worship God’s holy name.
Sing like never before, O my soul.
I’ll worship Your holy name.

Comments

  1. Dave McCarthy says:

    Obviously that 40% figure is way wrong. However, up and down the land, there will be a response – we saw that this morning when the presenter of the Investments Committee information, emailed to say that in all conscience following yesterday’s decisions, he couldn’t do so. That kind of response will happen and the bishops’ letter boxes will get some correspondence on this.

    You are right, there are people in the bigger evangelical churches who would agree with you. Just as there are people in the congregation you serve who will disagree with you on this. I think you’ll find the new leadership at your friendly neighbourhood evangelical church will not agree with you on this. The spin that evangelicals will cave-in on this is only partially true. Some will, but most won’t.

    A compromise was offered that would have cost us dearly, but allowed your conscience the space to do what is right in your eyes. This was rejected and I suspect in the long term that will be seen to have been a mistake. It would have held us together. But no, now we go headlong into what you have wanted all along. I’ve asked you many times, “Is this a situation where you need 100% victory or can you compromise?”. There has been no compromise (even the rule 10 motion this morning was a continued push – you might have let the wounds of yesterday stop bleeding!).

    Kelvin, you will get what you want, but the Scottish Episcopal Church will not in the end be richer for it. I don’t think you or the bishops appreciate what damage has been done, nor what the consequences, big and small, will be. A new day is dawning, sure enough, and God is doing a new thing, but it’s not quite what you think it is.

    • Thanks Dave. I think people who were at the synod had the opportunity to decide for themselves from what I said in my speech yesterday afternoon whether or not I need 100% victory or whether I can compromise.

      You are mistaken to think that the compromise option that was offered would have allowed me the space to do what is right in my eyes. Not at all. I’m surprised no-one bothered to ask me before the synod whether it would have done. It would have been a useful conversation to have had. But in any case, this synod showed me that it isn’t about what I think any more. A few years ago I chose to put my energies into changing the way society looks at this believing that a change in society would bring about a change in the churches too.

      I think that’s what we’re now seeing.

      For what it is worth, I don’t think that I’d describe what is happening as Evangelicals caving. I’d describe it as Evangelicals starting to have the same debates that have been taking place in some other parts of the church for a little longer.

      With regard to the rule 10 from this morning, you need to remember that some of us are dealing with people who are actually being denied ministerial training right now.

    • Surely what was passed at Synod was a compromise? There will be no statement defining marriage in a way that offends conservative sensibilities, and conservatives will be able to opt-out of marrying same-sex couples. It seems to me that this is a far bigger compromise than the attempt to make out that people still think marriage is between a man and a woman outside of a few fringe types like Fr Kelvin. The compromise is that no-one will be required to marry same-sex couples, and no-one required to support a definition of marriage they don’t agree with. That’s as generous as the church can be without endorsing injustice.

      • It was an enormous compromise, yes.

        If we follow this path, we are choosing not to require one another to assent to statements we don’t all agree with.

        And that’s why the so-called compromise motion that is referred to above fell so decisively, I think. It required people to assent to something that not everyone can assent to.

        • Susan Russell says:

          And your Episcopal cousins across the pond applaud both the process and product of the work of the Holy Spirit in your General Synod — as we prepare for our General Convention just 12 days away. The prophetic voice of the Church in Scotland will go a long way in rebuttal to those who will be telling us that moving ahead with equal marriage for same-sex couples will mean that the American church will be “unilaterally rending the fabric of the Anglican Communion.” (And yes, that’s rhetoric from the aforementioned US website with its dire predictions.) So prayers ascending for the good work accomplished in your corner of the kingdom — and prayers coveted as we begin our own legislative process on June 25th. Onward and upward!

          The Reverend Canon Susan Russell
          Diocese of Los Angeles

    • “you will get what you want, but the Scottish Episcopal Church will not in the end be richer for it”

      “in the end”: while the Lord tarry, you mean?

      Well, in THIS Vale of Tears, some more of those tears will be of WEDDING JOY, that weren’t there before: I suspect your estimation, Dave, underestimates their extravagant richness.

    • Markus Dünzkofer says:

      Dear Dave,
      I am sorry you are hurting… really am.

      Markus

  2. Elizabeth Anderson says:

    Thank you for these words Kelvin, as well as for your words at synod yesterday (between fussy nap-refusing baby and iffy internet I managed to hear some of it!). Thank you to Susan Russell, I will be praying for our American brothers and sisters.

  3. Thank you, Father Kelvin, for your deep personal reflection,on your experience of your SEC General Synod. My prayers are for a fruitful outcome. Agape, FR? Ron Smith, ACANZP

  4. Thanks be to God! 😀

    “Within minutes of the vote being announced I saw someone predicting on a US website”: Oy vey, once again I feel compelled to apologize for my countrymen (I’m assuming men?)

  5. robert ian williams says:

    The evangelical congregations within SEC were always semi-detached. For over a century and a half they resisted merger with SEC because of their dislike of high church ritualism.Strange that they are very liberal on divorce, those who would defend marriage.

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