Sermon – 16 February 2014

Here’s the sermon that I preached this week. I always like a difficult gospel to try to do something with. This week the gospel was Matthew 5: 21-37

This is one of those gospel passages that just makes some people groan and turn off. It seems at face value as though we serve a moralising Saviour who has values that none of us will be able to live up to.

You know that dreich gloom that pervades Scottish theological thinking – well it is based on passages like this. We’re all sinners. None of us deserve to be loved. We’re all at risk of getting it in the end. Don’t be angry for that is tantamount to murder. Don’t look fondly at someone you shouldn’t because that’s already adultery. Rip out your eyes and pull off your hands. We’re all miserable sinners anyway so we might as well be blind miserable sinners and if we are going to be blind miserable sinners we might as well be blind miserable sinners with no hands either. Maybe if we take such extreme measures we won’t commit adultery. No-one will have us if we’re ripping bits off ourselves anyway, but that’s alright because we don’t deserve much anyway.

There’s a sense of gloom in the local psyche. A maudlin way of understanding religion that is at its happiest being gloomy and knows that we’ll never live up to who we should be anyway.

Maybe it comes from the weather.

But it exhausts me.

Is that what religion is all about? Is that who we really, truly are?

The only thing that ever perks me up about preaching on this text is that it is another excuse to trot out the best theological one-liner in all of the Christian tradition – which is: never trust a two-eyed fundamentalist.

But let’s have a look at this gospel and try to reframe it a bit and see whether there’s some good news tucked away in there.

First of all, let’s list what we’ve got.

Jesus talked about murder, debt, hatred, adultery and telling lies.

What we’ve got here is the first five minutes of every episode of Eastenders. (Or Downton Abbey for those of you who live in Hyndland).

It’s funny, isn’t it. When we read it on a Sunday in church it seems terribly harsh stuff. Put it on the television and it becomes entertainment.

We mustn’t forget that going from preacher to preacher in those days was part of the entertainment of the day. And we mustn’t forget that soap operas with all their unlikely plots reflect human reality.

Now, they might be a bit far fetched. They might be a bit over the top. They might tend towards hyperbole in the way they help us make moral judgements about their characters. But then that’s Jesus’s way of teaching too. He and the other preachers of his day. Over the top illustrations. Hyperbole. Laying it on thick. These were the ways that preachers used to make an impact and get people to remember their teaching.

And with Jesus it worked. For we are still reading it now.

Part of what Jesus is doing is telling his hearers that motives matter as much as actions.

Now, we have to beware here. The black and white way that Matthew tells stories can tempt us down paths where we might be unwise to go. The Pharisees are wrong – Jesus is right! The letter of the law is bad – the spirit of the law is good! – Jewish Law bad! Christian freedom good!

And before we know where we are we’ve constructed a mindset that sees Christianity as better than Judaism. That sees Us as primarily better than Them. And it is on such ground that the weeds of anti-Semitism and discrimination and prejudice flourish and grow.

We need to tiptoe our way through this territory with more caution.

The truth is, Jesus was Jewish and both a keeper and an interpreter of the law. And to state the perfectly obvious, Jewish people were and Jewish people now are living lives that are full of freedom, grace, humour and joy.

What Jesus is doing in his teaching, and this is part of the sermon on the mount, don’t forget, is stepping right into the thick of the debates of his day and taking a stance.

I happen not to agree with all he says here about marriage and divorce and adultery. And I can say that freely from the pulpit because our church doesn’t agree with him. Years ago now we changed our marriage discipline because the church didn’t agree with Jesus in this passage. But he wouldn’t expect all his hearers to agree anyway. He is getting stuck into debates about the law that were an essential part of Judaism. He is engaging in contemporary controversies about marriage and divorce and arguing it all out in public. He is stating a view and taking a stand.

The big mistake is to read off these pages a hard-hearted morality for ourselves and try to live by it. If we do we’ll not just be sinners we’ll be particularly miserable ones.

Remember the big themes and apply them to the world around you and you won’t go wrong. He says it is about our motives after all.

Always remember when reading the Sermon on the Mount that it starts with a demand that we see life from the margins.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are we if we realise that we don’t have the power within us to live up to the narrowest of demands of any moral code.

Blessed are we if we grasp the bigger picture seeing life from the point of view of the marginalised and weak and try to live up to the task of building the common wealth of God’s kingdom rather than getting too muddled up in making morality into a religion.

It never was, you know. Not one that ever satisfied anyone anyway.

I don’t think it is correct to listen to this teaching about marriage and adultery and divorce and think it is merely a harsh set of rules for people to live by today that seems to be all judgement and no compassion.

I think it is correct to see Jesus getting stuck into the controversies of his day and remembering his example get stuck right into the controversies of our own.

Jesus argued about marriage in public. So must we.

That’s what has been going on in public for the last few years. And we have a new settlement. Our parliamentarians have decided that marriage is to be open to more couples than once it was.

I’ve been at the heart of that debate. And I have huge respect for all those who have made it happen. I’ve respect too for those who have taken different positions to mine in public. I respect those with whom I’ve been in public and feisty disagreement.

I have less respect for so many of our religious leaders who have sat on the fence over the questions facing us about marriage and who continue to try to do so. Sitting on the fence and hiding in the pack mentality of Episcopal collegiality.

Those who sit so firmly on the fence are at greatest risk of getting splinters where they least want splinters to be.

The bigger picture in all that debate is that fidelity, love, passion and delight are still what people hope marriage is all about.

And the bigger picture of the sermon on the mount is that God sees things from unexpected points of view.

Today, partly because of my advocacy of same-sex marriage I’m named in Scotland on Sunday as one of the people on a new Pink List of influential gay people in this land.

And I’m excited and thrilled to be recognised that way. And excited and thrilled to be listed with people who are so powerful.

But today I read from the sermon on the mount which always reminds me that it isn’t all about power at all. And it isn’t about Us and Them either. Life, true life starts when there is no such idea as a Them.

The message I take from this morning’s gospel is that Jesus engaged in his world and that gives us a mandate for engaging in our own.

And the bigger picture I take from the sermon on the mount is that justice, equality, liberty and love are the tools Jesus used to fashion his engagement with that world and they are all on offer still.

Justice, equality, liberty and love.

Try living life by those mandates this week. If you do, you’ll find yourself closer to that joyous kingdom of God than you’ll ever discover by any amount of gloomy religion at all.

In the name of the God, Creator, Redeemer and Holy Liberator. Amen

A Form of Benediction for Married Persons

Well, the change in the law last week makes quite a difference for clergy in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Oh, I know that you don’t think it makes any difference unless the Scottish Episcopal Church opts into the legislation to allow same-sex couples to get married but that’s where you are wrong.

You see, for quite some time, there have been couples entering into civil partnerships who have turned to sympathetic clergy in sympathetic congregations for services to mark their joy in getting hitched.

Now, in Scotland there has been no great demand for a new liturgy for blessing same-sex couples because we had a brilliant new marriage liturgy in 2007. One of the things that this service emphasised was the mutuality and equality of the couple – There was no giving away of brides, for example. In this service, the gender of the couple was not emphasised hugely and indeed one could perform the service without mentioning the gender of the couple even though until last week that was quite illegal under Scots law. (Oh yes, really!)

Now at the time that this service was introduced we were encouraged by the liturgy committee to see it as a resource for a number of different situations – for example, bits and bobs could be lifted out and used to make a splendid service for blessing a couple having a golden wedding ceremony. We were encouraged to experiment with it.

We were also encouraged when one of my colleagues helpfully pointed out that if one chose option A at every point then the service made no mention of the gender of the parties to the marriage whatsoever and that it was tantamount to being an ideal service for marrying a same-sex couple. (This version of the service has been known locally around here as the McCarthy version of the service ever since, in homage to my neighbour at St Silas who was the person who pointed it out).

Last year the bishops of the church formally acknowledged that these informal blessings were taking place. (Got that? I know it is difficult to make much sense of that but there you go). They effectively said that they didn’t want such services happening without their knowledge and that clergy were to let them know and work collaboratively with their bishops. They also said that bishops themselves were free to attend such informal services formally. Or was it that the bishops were informally able to attend these formally recognised services? I can’t for the life of me work it out any more. Anyway, the point is, the bishops knew that the services were taking place, wanted to know that they were taking place and said that they might or might not turn up to them but that this was a matter for each bishop.

Now the thing is, people were getting civil partnerships and we were using the marriage liturgy to put together an appropriate service which looked very much like a wedding. All you needed to do was substitute “Loving and lifelong partnership” instead of “lifelong marriage” for example and Bob’s your aunt – you had an appropriate service.

However, the wordings we have been using are not going to be appropriate for couples who are going to be getting married. You can’t have a couple getting married in the morning and then declaring they are entering into partnership in the afternoon in church. They are not entering into a partnership when they are already married. Neither can you simply recite the marriage liturgy over a couple who have been married earlier in the day because that would be naughty. Again, I have to admit that the reasons why this would be naughty escape me but I know naughty when it comes to liturgy and that would be it.

So, what to do?

One might hope for guidance from the church in this situation yet where is that to come from? I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has had a note from their bishop illuminating them as to what service to use for such couples. Yes that’s right – those services which the bishops have formally acknowledged happen informally (or informally acknowledged happen formally, I don’t know) and to which they might turn up. After all, one doesn’t want a bishop turning up to a service and getting sniffy about the liturgy. That would never do.

Fortunately, we have several sources of authority in the church. These include the liturgy and the Code of Canons.

The Code of Canons says this in Section 5 of Canon 31

A cleric may use the form of Benediction provided in the Scottish Book of Common Prayer (1929) to meet the case of those who ask for the benediction of the Church after an irregular marriage has been contracted or after a civil marriage has been legally entered into, provided only that the cleric be satisfied that the marriage is not contrary to Sections 3 and 4 of this Canon.

The point of this is that you can’t use the service of Benediction for a couple who are related to one another too closely and can’t do it if the marriage itself has been forbidden in church because if one party has been married before and a bishop has refused permission for a second marriage. (Refusal is possible but rare).

Thus – the canons seem to suggest that a form of Benediction is the right thing to be offering.

I don’t think that the letter of the law is very helpful suggesting that it be the service of Benediction from the Scottish Prayer Book 1929 but that service does have a very lovely prayer which I’ve rendered here in modern English:

God the Father,
God the Son,
God the Holy Spirit,
bless, preserve and keep you;
the Lord look upon you with favour and mercy
and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace,
that you may so live together in this life
that in the world to come you may have life everlasting.

This, it seems to me, is a wonderfully helpful resource in determining what to do with couples approaching the church for Benediction after a civil marriage ceremony. And all the more useful as the number of straight couples wanting this is surely destined to rise if the church forbids same-sex couples to wed in church. I expect that thoughtful straight couples will say, “Well, what’s good for the gander is good for the gander as the old gay proverb goes. If our gay friends get offered Benediction after getting married in a civil service then that’s what we want too.”

So, it seems apposite to look again at the modern marriage rite to see whether it has any useful resources that could flesh out a service of Benediction for Persons who are Married that would serve whatever the gender of the couple.

I’ve put this together for that purpose and hope that it is the beginnings of something useful for everyone.

I’d be interested in hearing feedback both on the content presented here and any use of this service by anyone in the future. Remember, this one is for straight people too.

You can download it here:
Service of Benediction

If you think I’ve made any mistakes and allowed the M word to remain in places where it would be naughty for the M word to be, do please let me know.

And if, in the future, we get to a situation whereby straight people can enter a civil partnership and then want that partnership blessed in church, you can be sure I will have just the thing right up my sleeve.

Are all these distinctions not becoming rather silly?

Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill Passes by 105 to 18!

The Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill has just passed in the Scottish Parliament by 105 votes to 18.

I’ve watched the debate all through this afternoon.

It is difficult to put into words what it feels like.

As I was growing up, I never knew what I never heard. You don’t know what you are missing sometimes. It is only as gay rights have been argued for, fought for and achieved that I’ve realised what it meant to grow up feeling, knowing, that society was inevitably going to treat me as someone who had less value and less opportunity than others. In short, I became an adult in a world which was silent about people like me. That’s why it is so shocking and emotional and staggering for that silence to be broken in public life, most notably by parliamentarians speaking up for LGBT people and gradually, progressively, legislating the old legal discriminations away.

Now, today, a huge thing has happened. I can now get married, should someone want to have me. Inevitably, my view of marriage and relationships has been coloured by being formed in a world where I was excluded from the possibility. I never got to think or dream about what I’d wear, where it would be or who I would be standing next to. I never got to imagine being with someone through thick and thin, for good and for bad, ’til death us do part. And I still can’t imagine what it would be like to hear and feel the full acceptance and love of the world around me should I ever be able to stand at an altar and declare that I want to be with someone forever.

For some of the silences still remain. For the last three years I’ve been named on the Pink List as one of the most influential gay people in the UK. Were I to achieve national recognition in any other area, I could probably expect my bishop and other leaders in the church to contact me privately, congratulate me publicly and the institution that I work for to be proud of me. Instead of that, at the moments when friends have been cheering me on as a national newspaper recognised some of what I’ve done, I’ve heard from the institution I work for that same silence that I know all too well.

However, I’m hopeful. I’ve seen the military change. I’ve seen the police change. I’ve seen newspapers change. I’m seeing schools change. And as it has happened, I’ve changed. I’ve become more of the person I really am. Like others who identify as gay or lesbian, I’ve become more whole.

Today is a great day. It is a day when things have changed forever.

I used to campaign quite actively for gay rights in the church. Some time ago I came to the conclusion that the right thing to do was to throw my efforts into changing the law. I was right to do so. Though many who love me greatly were sympathetic, many of them told me I was mad and that it would never happen in my lifetime. It hasn’t just happened in my lifetime. The possibility that I could marry has come in in time for there to be the possiblity that I might one day benefit from it. That great legal change is now accomplished.

Today is a joyful day for gay and lesbian couples in Scotland and for their supporters. The Scottish Parliament has now made it possible for same-sex couples to get married and no words can express how much I welcome that. It is a significant step towards Equal Marriage and will make it possible for many couples to celebrate the best day of their lives.

The campaign for marriage equality now moves into the churches in Scotland and those churches have a golden opportunity to show that they support equality, support gay and lesbian Christians and support the settled will of lawmakers. Increasingly, support for marriage equality is becoming the touchstone of moral behaviour for decent people.

I hope that it is not long before I can marry same-sex couples in St Mary’s Cathedral but we must remember that today the Scottish Parliament passed laws which make it difficult for many religious bodies to opt into the legislation. It will be the case that many same-sex couples will need to have a legal marriage at the local Registrar’s Office and then come to church for a religious ceremony. I look forward to celebrating many joyful nuptial masses for same-sex couples and in due course to conducting legal marriages.

In the Scottish Episcopal Church marriage service we ask a simple question not to the couple but to everyone present:
“Will all of you support and encourage N. and N. in their marriage?”

Let the word go out from Scotland: “WE WILL!”

It’s Time and It’s Today!

Huge excitement today as the Equal Marriage bill comes to the Scottish Parliament for a final vote.

I’ve been involved in this campaign pretty much from the beginning, speaking at Pride, marching, organising, listening, distributing materials, writing, cajoling, chatting on TV and Radio, preaching and generally getting people to think about it.

A hugely proud day for Scotland and a campaign and a movement that I’ll never forget.

One of the things that a lot of people won’t know is that many of the original signatures on the petition that kicked all this off came from students on campus at the University of Glasgow and many of them were gathered by members of the LGBT group at St Mary’s.

Well, the campaign is just about over. It’s time and it’s today!

This is a church for everybody

Yesterday I reposted the It’s Time video from the equality network which features a 1 second cameo of me waving a sign. They filmed that over a year ago and as they collected those sign-waving people – religious leaders, celebs, couples, politicians etc they also asked them in front of the camera why they were involved in the campaign.

They were aiming for just a couple of minutes so I had to think carefully about what to say.

Here are the main points

  • This isn’t a gay church its a church for everybody and that’s why people like coming here.
  • Churches have an ethical responsiblity to promote equality.
  • What needs to be heard is the message of respect and love and inclusion and I know hundreds of Christians who are putting that message out.
  • Church is a place where the message is that you are utterly loved.
  • Churches are changing these days and thank God they are.

Take a look:

I’ll  be posting just one more video from the campaign tomorrow, just ahead of the vote in parliament. If you want to join in and let Members of the Scottish Parliament know you want change, it just takes 2 minutes (the same length of time as this video) and you can find out how to do that here:

The Case for Same-Sex Marriage

The Equality Network has just published a great resource as part of the final push towards the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Scotland.

It is called Six Reasons to Support Same-Sex Marriage. It can be found for free online but there are also nice printed versions available from the Equality Network too.

Here’s a pic of the cover.


What’s that? What’s that you ask?

Oh, you’re asking who that is on the front cover between the Proclaimers and Alan Cumming?

No idea.

The Mothers’ Union and Same-Sex Marriage

Longterm readers of this blog will know that there’s been a bit of discussion on here before about the Mothers’ Union. (Indeed, this is often the place that people look to first in trying to determine what the MU think about LGBT issues).

I’ll not rehearse all that I’ve said before. Anyone interested can read the whole lot here on this website in any case.

However, I’ve not commented on the Mothers’ Union response to the Scottish Government with regards to same-sex marriage yet and it seems timely to do so given a discussion about it yesterday on twitter involving MU HQ – Mary Sumner House in London.

In 2011 I said this:

One of the things that my friends in the MU have always said when I’ve appeared to be mildly critical of the organisation, is that the MU is passionate about supporting all kinds of families and has a special concern that marriage offers something holy and good to the world to strengthen family life.

It seems to me that the current consultation is quite a significant moment for the MU. Does the MU in Scotland actually support all kinds of families. Locally, MU leaders have always been insistent to me that they support stable gay couples and believe that the values they stand for are not just for straight people.

Well, it will soon be time to find out whether what they’ve been telling me is true. I’m quite hopeful. The MU has supported many a radical campaign in the past and they are an amazing bunch of people when they get behind something.

I’m fascinated to know whether the Scottish MU is going to get behind the equal marriage campaign. It seems absolutely designed for them doesn’t it? They say they support marriage. They say to me that they support gay couples. It will be great news for the church if that turns out to be true and they support the moves towards equal marriage and help the rest of the church towards acceptance. It could well happen – never underestimate the MU, is a motto of mine.

Well, now we know how they responded. The Mothers’ Union response is available on the Scottish Government website and is pretty negative – one of the most negative of any of the responses made by any Anglicans to the Scottish Government. My hope was misplaced and I’m sad about that.

Yesterday there was some discussion on twitter about this as several people realised that an organisation which they had previously wanted to support was actually campaigning against LGBT people. One clergy person said publicly that he was resigning from the Mothers’ Union with immediate effect. Another said that they would be removing all the MU material in their church. And I asked a few questions.

In particular, I asked whether the MU response to the Scottish Government was written by someone from the Mothers’ Union in Scotland or (as I believe to be the case) someone from Mary Sumner House in London. There are obvious concerns if, as I suspect, it was not written up here.

The MU campaign against gay families reminds me very much of the MU policy against members who divorced in the past. (People who got divorced used to be asked to leave the Mothers’ Union right at the time they most needed support). It isn’t an exact analogy but there is something about it which does sound very familiar.

In the middle of this conversation, several people joined in with other tweets and there were several responses from the official MU twitter account.

At one point, they started including @SECSynod in their tweets – that meant that the conversation was being copied to the Scottish Episcopal Church’s twitter feed.

Now, I’d like to know why they started doing this. It certainly felt as though they were trying to intimidate me. (It was a pretty misplaced thing to try as I’m the person who manages the Scottish Episcopal Church’s twitter account in any case). Repeated questions as to why they were doing this were not answered.

Then there were tweets from other people talking about how they had found the Mothers Union.

One person said:

I couldn’t bear to describe the pain inflicted on one mother who lost a son thru AIDS, Treated as leper.

to which the official MU tweet feed responded:

this is awful, and all I can do is apologise for the hurt. We do so much HIV/AIDS support this is very sad.

Then someone else said:

I saw MU threaten a lesbian couple with exposure in local Press. Their children were terrified.

which I don’t think got any response at all.

I’m surprised that the response to both these tweets was not “There is no place for abusive behaviour in the Mothers’ Union – these things should be reported to a local safe-guarding officer”.

These questions remain outstanding for me:

  • Was the Mothers’ Union response to the Scottish Government written by anyone connected with the Mothers’ Union in Scotland.
  • Does the Mothers’ Union in Scotland agree with it?
  • Did the Mothers’ Union in Scotland want a different response to be made?
  • Apparently, the response was made after a consultation with MU members in Scotland. Has that been published anywhere?
  • Are all the responses that MU members made to that consultation reflected in the response that was submitted to government?
  • Was the MU tweeter trying to intimidate me by trying to involve the SEC’s twitter account? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask given that previously they’ve complained to my then bishop about some of the things that have appeared on my blog with regard to the MU brand. Escalating things in this wasy does seem to me to be an unfortunate pattern of behaviour, particularly when other people are trying to tell the organisation about other abusive behaviour from their members and are not being dealt with very well.
  • Do the Mothers’ Union understand that they can’t claim to be supporting “all kinds of families” when they mount official campaigns to deny the rights of LGBT people and support policies which can lead to kids from LGBT families facing stigma?

In the past, people have said I’ve been very brave to challenge the Mothers’ Union. I find that so strange as I know MU people to be capable of very fine work. However, as I’ve said before, if people indicate in private that they think I’m brave to say these things then there is an unfortunate climate of fear about the organisation which I think they should be trying to tackle very urgently. In addition to my questions above, I’d be interested to know whether as an organisation they have an anti-bullying policy that applies to their members.

Five Years Ago

I was reminded yesterday that it is five years since St Mary’s hosted its first Civil Partnership Blessing. So, congratulations to Colin and Robbie pictured above.

Theirs was not the first such ceremony that I officiated at but it was the first in the building and the fifth anniversary of that is worth marking with a big alleluia.

It is perhaps worth recording the process by which we decided to proceed with this ceremony. I had been approached some time before to discuss whether or not I would conduct such a ceremony. As I’d done one already, that was easy to answer – I agreed that I would do it. The question was whether St Mary’s was ready to host such a celebration.

This is what I remember happening.

It seemed to me that it was important to work out whether the Vestry were on board with this. It is the Vestry who share the responsibility of what happens in a Scottish Episcopal Church with the Rector. (I’m the Rector as well as being the Provost). Usually, I’ll just ask a Vestry what they think. Often we work towards consensus, sometimes we agree to vote about something if we need to make a decision with which some people disagree. In this case I went a bit further – in this case I outlined the question at a Vestry meeting and then asked them all to write to me to tell me whether they thought we should proceed. This allowed people to take some time and think about it. In the event, the Vestry members all wrote to me saying that they believed that St Mary’s should go ahead. I was thus able to say to Robbie and Colin that we would be delighted to welcome them and their families and friends to celebrate their special day.

“Ah, but what about the bishop?!!!” I hear you splutter.

Well, I told the bishop at the time telling him what I had been asked to do. He asked me what the Vestry thought and I produced the sheaf of letters from the Vestry spelling out what they thought and I told him that I was going to take the service. His response was “Very well then. I think you should do it.”

It is worth also saying that when I reported to him that I was first going to take such a ceremony, his response was, “Well then, I’ll give you my permission to do it then.”

“But Father, I didn’t ask your permission, I’m going to do it anyway” I said, to which his response was, “Well, you are getting my permission and you are getting it in writing – it is important that you have it”. (I still have the email).

And thus, these things began and I’ve been happy to advertise that we do them since. Then it seemed remarkable. Now it seems special but in the same was that every wedding day is special. In the last five years there has been maybe one ceremony a year either in St Mary’s or elsewhere. (The first one I conducted was at the chapel of the University of Glasgow).

In a few week’s time, I’ll be doing another one and this time there is something different. The innovation this time is that the couple can be pretty sure that by registering their civil partnership (which I’ll be blessing) they will end up being actually married as the new laws coming to Scotland should mean that they can convert their relationship to the status of a marriage by simply filling in a form in due course.

The move towards marriage equality is a long drawn out journey of little steps. I’m proud to have shared that journey with those brave enoug to pledge their love to one another in public.


It’s Time

Just watch this video – there’s people and places that you may well recognise.

I’m very pleased to be one of the faces in the video above, which has been produced by the Equality Network to galvanise the last months of the campaign for equal marriage in Scotland. Political leaders, celebrities, thinkers and so-called ordinary folk are uniting around the idea that same-sex couples should have access to the same rights, priviledges and responsibilties as straight couples.

It’s time for the law in Scotland to allow same-sex couples to marry. It’s time for the law to be changed to allow a couple to stay married when one goes through a gender transition. It’s time for gay and lesbian couples to have not merely the same rights as straight couples but also the same social status. In short, it is time for change.

The video has been many months in the planning and producing. I think it is exciting, joyful and a credit to all involved.

One of the most impressive thing about the equal marriage campaigning in Scotland is that it has been relentlessly positive.

I was partly preaching about this yesterday, the day that the Sunday Mail (which is not the Mail on Sunday!) came out gloriously in favour of the equal marriage campaign with a double page spread and an excellent leader column. The Sunday Mail is the widest read paper in Scotland, the Sunday sibling of the Daily Record. I’ll post that sermon on here in a day or two. For now, I’ll just watch the video above one more time.

Equal Marriage is mainstream. Not, as someone suggested to me recently, merely the concern of a tiny minority.

This is an idea whose time has come.

Beth’s blogging about this too – she was there!
And so is Christine McIntosh – she thinks it is time for change

Watching the House of Lords

The internet is a wonderful thing and means you can watch all kinds of things you would never have been able to see in the past. Yesterday, I found myself watching the House of Lords discuss whether or not I was fully human.

At least, that’s what it felt like to me.

I’m a great believer in debate and understand why things need to be challenged and fought over and argued through. It is right and proper that parliamentary processes run their course. But can you imagine what it feels like for me to watch that being done over the Equal Marriage legislation. This week it is the Westminster legislation and soon it will be the Holyrood legislation.

Once you’ve accepted that the right to marry a partner of your chosing without regard to gender is a human right, it is as though people are arguing over your very humanity.

Some people go mad, of course – both victims and perpetrators.

In many ways it would be easiest to turn off the stream from the House of Lords. It would be so much easier not to see Bishops from the Church of England saying such calculated and vile things about one.  The script that seems to be coming from them this week is “The church hasn’t been nice to gay people. Perhaps it should be nicer. But I’m still not going to support equality for gay people.”  What makes it so horrible is that it is done with knowledge aforethought.

However, it is almost impossible not to watch it. It is a fascinating, almost sinister, watch.

This argument is only going in one direction.

This video from the Irish campaign for marriage equality still rings true at the moment though.

[Memo to self: Don’t forget to ask every candidate in next General Election whether or not they are committed to removing the bishops from the House of Lords]