New Statement from College of Bishops

There’s a new statement from the College of Bishops today about same-sex marriage.

It can, and should, be read in full – see here: College of Bishops Guidance re Marriage 2014

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.

I expect I will have more to say, in many ways and in many places.


  1. It seems to me that demanding strict adherence to a conservative interpretation of the existing canons only makes sense (and very little even then) if the process of reviewing and, where appropriate, amending those canons is proceeding apace. As it stands there seems to be no sign of such a review.

    • Bro David says

      Yes, because that is what Jesus was all about; a strict adherence to a conservative interpretation of the Law.

      • You’re quite right (with the sarcasm, not the literal words!). All I was getting at was that I could see an argument for saying “this will all be sorted in 3 months, can you sit tight for that time while we get everything properly sorted” (not that I think we have the right to ask that of our LGBT brothers and sisters) but this statement is so clearly a cowardly attempt to avoid biting the bullet and fixing the obvious flaws in the existing canons (or rather avoid having the debate about doing so).

  2. Rosemary Hannah says

    I am full of grief and quite beyond words – the grief will last but I will presently find words. Is this, then, the result of the ‘Cascade’? A nasty result to a nasty rigged process.

    • Yes it stinks.

      But there is hope as long as people get on their hind leg and kick Synod into action, repeatedly, until they get the message, fix it and tell these bishops where to stick it.

  3. This Statement from your House of Bishops, would seem to pre-empt any further movement on the Blessing of Same-Sex Marriages – only one of its problems!

  4. Robin Webster says

    This is a complete surprise to me: I thought we had moved on from this position.

  5. Fr John E. Harris-White says

    Indeed a very sad day for the Episcopal Church in Scotland.
    But like Kelvin not surprised.
    What has happened to the discussions at Synod?
    Like others sad ,but know that our Lord loves all his children, whatever colour of the rainbow they are.
    It only deepens the resolve to deeper prayer, and show God’s love for all his children by our actions.

  6. Is there a silent mass of church people who welcome this sort of bland denial of humanity? What, in the name of God, are these men doing running our church? What has happened to brave, prophetic leadership? We’ve had it in flashes in the recent past, but now we’re marching back into the world of the ’50s – a church that my much younger self instinctively bodyswerved as divorced from the joy and excitement of life in all its fullness. The language of this report might be specially crafted to provide armour for the fearful – because that’s what I think our bishops are.

    I think I only remain within the tent for the usually stated reason.

    • Alison Clark says

      Beyond shocked at the blatant disregard for a process the college commended. I didn’t expect a sudden embracing (forgive me) of same sex marriage but this is appalling. And it’s no good hiding behind the current state of the law or the current state of the canons. Are ‘they’ going to retroactively sack priests in civil partnerships who might be thinking of getting married? Or is this constructive dismissal?

      • It is difficult, isn’t it Alison? What I knew from behind the scenes earlier this year made me very sure that the Cascade Process was a time-wasting device. I know a lot of people didn’t want to believe me and I understand why. A lot of people genuinely wanted to believe that it was worth giving the process (and the bishops who promoted it so strongly) the benefit of the doubt.

        The fact that this statement came out when most of the Cascade is over, even though everyone has known the new legislation was coming for months does give the lie to the idea that this was a benign process.

        If the Cascade process had been open and worthwhile then those in it would have been able to discuss this interpretation of Canon 31 at Pitlochry, General Synod etc.

        It has been a shameful episode in the life of our church.

  7. Rosemary Hannah says

    You say it for me Christine. I feel sick and ashamed – it seems to me that a tiny vocal minority are having an influence beyond their numbers. so – now it is fine to be in a relationship where it may be the case no vows are taken, but not fine to dedicate yourself to the well-being of another in a properly committed relationship?? This is cloud cuckoo land.

  8. ‘[…] the College is of the view that it would not be appropriate to use SEC
    marriage liturgies for this purpose [of blessing a same-sex relationship].’

    Is this new? What of churches which, like St Mary’s, have been using the new marriage liturgy for this purpose for ages?

    • This is new.

      When the marriage rite was introduced in synod it was explicitly stated that people were encouraged to use elements of it in order to celebrate a range of relationships and situations including, for example, couples renewing their vows or celebrating significant anniversaries.

      Perhaps we no longer have a liturgy for that either, I’m not sure.

  9. Elizabeth says

    Argh. Internet ate my comment. Trying again but will simply say that I share the shock and anger that many have expressed. I can only begin to imagine how painful and enraging this must be for my lgbt brothers and sisters, especially clergy, ordinands and those pondering vocations (nice job at undermining vocations bishops). Not to mention how this seriously damages the mission of the church. Who are the bishops accountable to?

  10. Dennis says

    A suggestion: change takes organization and planning. The Episcopal Church in the US didn’t just happen to decide to support equality. It took years of planning and organization and effort, with groups meeting before and after diocesan conventions and General Convention every year. Groups like Integrity and coalitions of other groups led training workshops throughout the church in many diocese on how to get elected to diocesan councils, how to prepare resolutions and use parliamentary process (and not just the basics, but how to actively manage the details of parliamentary process). Email lists and discussion groups were established and resources shared. There has to be a decision among many people to fight to change things and there has to be organization and training and coordination to change things. The right people need to be filling up every single last committee and commission (because it builds a backup list of future leaders and makes sure that even a committee on finances or property management can be used to work toward equality) and that takes planning and effort and coordination. People of good will and in favor of equality and justice often just assume that the right thing will happen, that progress will happen. Well, it doesn’t. Someone has to organize training sessions. Someone has to plan for taking seats in commissions. My suggestion is that you organize a series of training sessions on activism in the church throughout Scotland. The first thing that it will do is get the attention of your bishops. And the second thing that it will do is begin to build people who will make change happen. Or you can continue to see things like this. One or the other, there is no other option.

  11. Dennis says

    If you want a good resource for changing things start with Moyer’s Movement Action Plan. It was the bible for social change training movements for twenty years in the US for local and organizational politics and informed some of the organizing.

    You might also look at the Midwest Academy’s Manual for Social Change

    And the granddaddy of them all: Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals (1971)

    and while you are waiting for it to arrive, start an invitation only discussion list going for those in your church who support change and organize those training sessions in more than one diocese.

  12. Daniel Lamont says

    Dennis makes helpful and pertinent suggestions. It may be inappropriate as an Anglican living in England (albeit hoping to move to Edinburgh when he sells his house) to ask if there is anything we can do anything now such as writing to bishops.

  13. Steven says

    I am an outsider in two senses on this. Firstly, I don’t live in Scotland and am not Scottish. I am not a member of the SEC. Secondly, my faith (such as it is) varies between committed humanism to Quakerism (via Zen) to liberal Christian (all of which represent positions that I deeply admire). I am an honest doubter on the edges of Christianity (a noble calling I share with your own former Primus, Richard Holloway). However, I do love Scotland and visit Edinburgh and the Islands on a regular basis. When I visit I always try and go to church. I usually go to Old Saint Paul’s or St John’s in Edinburgh. I consider myself an Anglican in Scotland (much like the Queen becomes Presbyterian…). I do so because the Scottish Episcopal Church has always represented – to me at least – the most progressive, open minded Christian community on these islands and which retains, at the same time, the beauty and ritual of the Catholic tradition. I must have been mistaken. I would never have thought the Scottish Bishops (all intelligent and sensitive individuals as far as I can tell) could produce such a document – which completely misses the point. I know Bishop David a little bit because he used to be rector of Seagoe Parish in Northern Ireland and I went to school with his children. I served on the vestry in that Parish after his departure to Scotland. I have followed his blog since. While I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for Bishop David, I can’t help but wonder why he remains silent on this issue. Do Bishops ever reveal where they stand on any issue of controversy? The Bishops need to know that real people want change and that documents like the one released simply confound and mystify those of us who see that a prophetic church would be leading the way on inclusion rather than entrenching the old prejudices. Bishop David and all the Scottish Bishops, for the love of God, say what you mean and mean what you say! Do not be afraid.

    • Fr John E Harris-White says

      Steven,thank you for your comment. Exactly my thoughts. Together with sadness, and hurt.

  14. Craig Nelson says

    I wonder if the College of Bishops feel the need of a holding operation. In any case I hope change comes. It may come from the people rather than the Bishops. Still very disappointing.

  15. Ritualist Robert says

    Though I agree that the tone of this isn’t particularly helpful (but then, has a communique from a group of bishops ever been particularly helpful?) I read it more as guidance on how clergy can (indeed must) avoid breaking the law.

    I don’t think it would do anybody a favour if a same-sex couple came an SEC priest, were purportedly ‘married’ by him/her when, in fact, that priest was unable to do so under the law.

    I think the bishops’ letter was in large part an attempt to protect both clergy and same-sex couples. But, as I say, I agree that the tone of the communique isn’t particularly helpful, especially when it comes to ordinands, for example.

    • I don’t think anyone at all has a problem with the bishops giving guidance on bit breaking the law. That really isn’t the issue at all. It is about the tone and the other aspects of the guidance and the fact that this was withheld until a week before the law changed. Oh, and making pronouncements about people without consultung them.

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