Same-Sex Marriage Consultation Responses

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 Mary’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 God’s love for all people and to promote that by being “open, inclusive and welcoming” 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: “While 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.”
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?
Answer: Yes.

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 God’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 God’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 God’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.


  1. Rosemary Hannah says

    I was so proud to be a member of St Mary’s when I read this, especially as I knew that for some vestry members it was very contentious issue. It is so good we can have strong views and hold together despite them. It is also good to know that we are unafraid to actually say something – something real.

  2. Your last point on the situation vis-a-vis transgendered people is well made, though would require the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 to be revisited and amended, since it is that (which is, admittedly, propped up by the current definition of marriage) which requires the dissolution of marriages and civil partnerships where one partner’s gender is legally changed. That being the case, we can’t eliminate the potential injustice to transgendered people you refer too without updating the legislation on civil partnerships alongside changes to marriage. I enlarged somewhat on that point here:

  3. Duncan Hannah says

    It is heart-warming to read this. It is the compassionate side to Christianity that can be seen too infrequently. It does make me proud, to be even vaguely associated with the Episcopal church, reading something so positive regarding same sex marriage. It speaks volumes for St. Mary’s that the vestry as a whole produced this response.

  4. Elizabeth says

    I echo Rosemary’s comment. It’s a good day for St Mary’s.

  5. william says

    It is understandable that ‘pride/heart warming’ feelings have taken over in St Mary’s this week among those who genuinely believe that they are advancing equality etc and so offering more fulfilling days for those who engage in homosexual activities.
    The silence of another perspective which lies behind Rosemary’s statement [for a spectrum on this issue exists in every christian church, albeit not so wide as in society in general] “for some vestry members it was very contentious issue” suggests that it doesn’t seem to be what one does in St Mary’s,namely, to express openly[at least in this blog], any serious concerns about the trajectory being pursued. Or any concern that the approach being followed may be incurring God’s displeasure, and may be leading many well meaning members to find themselves under God’s judgement.
    Surely in any christian church one cannot just assume or have a settled conviction that such a God is not the God with whom we have to do. If that is the only view that is espoused at St Mary’s then again is that because the opprobrium which would follow [as this comment will produce] is too powerful to withstand.
    As in CoS I recognise that the Episcopal hierarchy are representing the broader view, and St Mary’s own statement recognises another understanding – but this blog is not yet exhibiting that balance, hence my encouragements to another outlook to make known its thinking to the world.
    Let me add, however, that the aim of such an encouragement is not simply to expose diversity, rather it is to encourage genuine biblical dialogue, so that the christian church may exhibit to the world the mind of its King and Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
    The apostle Paul, quoting earlier prophets in Israel, had to say of those who were known in the ancient world as God’s people that the name of God was being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of their hypocritical behaviour.

    • William – can I suggest that you simply read this blog post a little more carefully. You seem to be missing the point of what the Vestry has said.

    • Do only Christians get married William? Of course not. Do only anti-gay Christians have an interest in getting married? Again, of course not. I’d imagine also that St.Mary’s vision statement shares some of your theological language and is considerably grander (in the best sense) and less dehumanising than ” offering more fulfilling days for those who engage in homosexual activities.” (which frankly sounds more suitable for a 70s-based STD clinic) . Your attempted contrast between the “biblical” view and the mere “broader” (and presumably broad for broad’s sake?) alternative understanding of relevant opinion is absurd.

    • Rosemary Hannah says

      You know, William, Kelvin is being just too nice. (Words he never thought he would see me write, those). The whole point is that the Vestry has recorded that there was more than one opinion among it members, and recorded both or all sides, and yet put forward the majority view. The point is that mature people can disagree, and still respect each other, still further the views which they do not share.

      Gay people marry for the same reasons that straight people do – they love each other. Ad yes, you are right – it is more fulfilling to live with somebody you love rather than to meet them for brief, clandestine moments. I wish I could be sure you will be able to understand why – the reason is that it is hard to live with somebody, and to keep putting their needs and interests first. It is a whole heap easier to live alone, and have cornflakes for tea if that is what you want, and not have anybody else to consider, but just casual sex if you fancy it. Only, that way one tends not to grow up very much. Go figure. And go spot the links between paragraphs one and two of this little post.

  6. william says

    Rosemary, Kelvin is always nice, and even when we don’t agree, not only can we respect one another but love one another enough so that we would want to take each other’s thinking forward together as we seek to approximate to the mind of Christ. Didn’t Paul set that paradigm before us in his epistle to the Romans?
    That’s the nature, indeed the purpose of us together forming the body which is the church of Jesus Christ – a living organism united by the same Holy Spirit.
    “Gay people marry for the same reasons that straight people do ”
    There’s a statement which needs not only explication of at least four of its terms, but more particularly exploration of its intent – and that’s the matter that was not being explored in this current blog theme of ‘heart warming’ contentment.
    I am not calling for people to be direspectful of those with whom they ‘disagree’, or of the majority perception in St Mary’s of ‘same sex relationships’, but for robust biblical dialogue – but nobody seems to feel free, in the present regime there, to identify with any other perspective than the ‘majority’ one espoused in St Mary’s Response.
    Maybe it’s because Kelvin is too nice!

    • I think you will find William that quite a lot of people are attracted to St Mary’s because they find it to be a church where the kind of pseudo-biblical judgementalism that you advocate is almost entirely absent, even when we are discussing things where we have clear differences of view. It just isn’t how people behave here. I’m guessing that folk here would generally find that positive rather than negative. There are plenty of churches where people behave in the kind of manner that you seem to want to impose from afar on St Mary’s. The truth is, people here just don’t behave like that.

      That’s what the deal is, you see. That’s one of the reasons people turn up.

      That’s why we are growing too.

      Though I fit into that ethos rather well, for once in my life I can say with all honesty: “It isn’t all about me.”

      It is who we are.

    • This is part of what I wrote to one member of the Vestry prior to that response coming out: “I think that part of what makes us an inclusive church and something that we as a church do tend to be quite good at, not just on this topic but on most topics, is that we don’t always agree with each other and that we do always make room for one another’s opinions.”

      William, as you seem to be reading only what you want to read, let me spell this out:

      The Vestry response to the question on same sex marriage contains an introductory paragraph explaining that there are differing views on this within St Mary’s. It then spends 77 words explaining the views of those in favour of same-sex marriage, and 101 words explaining the views of those who are not in favour of same-sex marriage.

      I do not understand how you can possibly read that in such a way as to think that only one view is expressed in the response or interpret it to mean that nobody within St Mary’s feels free to express differing opinions.

      • william says

        Beth, I never had any doubt about the Vestry consultations, as Rosemary indicated – nor did I fail to recognise the differing views incorporated within St Mary’s Response –
        [ my blog 8 Dec “St Mary’s own statement recognises another understanding “].
        I was responding to this blog theme of “heart warming/ pride” which initially and is right up to your comment not exploring the view held by the majority in the christian church – even the Scottish Episcopal Church – that the bible may not sustain a ‘revisionist trajectory’, to use Church of Scotland language.

      • William:

        That would be the same Scottish Episcopal Church that, back in 2005, said it had no problem with gay people (and no, not only the celibate kind) being clergy? And that in all of Glasgow has precisely one church that beats the anti-gay drum in the manner you’d deem biblical? And of course, one hopes that you are busy informing said anti-gay churches that really ought to listen to the voices of gay people in the interests of “balance”.

      • William, you are contradicting yourself.

        You did allude to the fact that the St Mary’s response recognises a ‘different understanding’, but the way you have written that sentence suggests (to me) that you’re saying that the St Mary’s response is different to that of the SEC hierarchy. You have elsewhere in this thread said that “nobody seems to feel free under the present regime [at St Mary’s] to identify with any perspective other than the ‘majority’ one espoused in the Vestry response”, that “some views are not expressed too openly at St Mary’s”, and that “it doesn’t seem to be what one does in St Mary’s, namely, to express openly any serious concerns about the trajectory being pursued”. The point that I am trying to make is that, contrary to what you have said here, various members of the congregation identify with perspectives that disagree with the Scottish Government proposals, they have expressed these views openly, and their opinions have been incorporated into the Vestry response.

        Perhaps part of the issue is that you seem to be having trouble differentating between this blog and St Mary’s and therefore trouble understanding that there is a difference (an enormous chasm of a difference, in fact) between the expression of one’s views on a personal blog and the dictatorial imposition of those views on one’s cathedral.

  7. william says

    Kelvin, I think you’ve just exposed why some views are not expresed too openly at St Mary’s – the ethos implies that such thinking is “pseudo-biblical judgementalism”
    And even the unwritten assumption “That’s what the deal is, you see”
    I am not trying to ‘impose’ anything in St Mary’s from afar, but it would seem you certainly are.
    The fact that numbers are growing – I wonder why you chose to enter that fact? – as you well know, proves nothing, albeit I’m encouraged to hear that any church has an increasing attendance these days.
    Every blessing.

    • Rosemary Hannah says

      What you need to do william is to come and worship at St Mary’s – where you will find a warm welcome and an un-cowed congregation loudly expressing all of its views very openly. I don’t think imposing views is something Kelvin is much tempted to – but if he was I would advise him to find another congregation on which to do it. However, you will also find a lot of gay people. People know we have gay as well as straight clergy, and that means gay people know they will be welcomed there and not looked-down-on. Since that assurance is a moderately uncommon thing, we attract gay Christians. And it is, by and large, a very liberally-minded congregation. It means that somebody like me can worship there and know that I am not going to be harangued or looked-down-on for my views either, or find I am alone in openly expressing my views, which is exhausting. And not just views on equal marriage. I was made to feel criminal in another church for disliking one particular theory of atonement, and by the priest too. This freedom to think and argue is the very thing that makes it a congregation likely to hold views closer to Kelvin’s than to yours.

      • Ooh, that reminds me, Fr Vice Provost did a workshop on atonement theories the other night that sounded really good. I think he described it to me as an Atonement Supermarket – several different theories all laid out in the room and people invited to position themselves in the room according to what theory or theories attracted them most. Excellent idea – worth repeating, I think.

      • Rosemary Hannah says

        It seems I can’t reply to your reply to my reply. OOOh – no wonder I love St M’s – you will be intuitively there before me when I say I am not great on cosmic child abuse.

    • Threaded comments only go two deep I think.

      I’m not surprised by you saying that at all. I’m very much attracted by a palatte of atonement theories though.

  8. I gather that they’re impossible to get a proper rhythm from, thereby frustrating the gays and their inate fabulous dancing skills 😉

  9. Pam R says

    I was at the Atonement Supermarket on Wednesday night and it was fabulous. Definitely worth repeating.


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