Dear Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church

Last weekend I signed the following letter which was sent to the Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church. It was organised by a group of clergy in the diocese of Edinburgh. The fifty or so signatories were those who happened to learn of this over a couple of days last weekend. There will no doubt be others who would have wanted to sign it who simply didn’t hear about it.

I expect that others may also post this on their own blogs. I’m not going to comment on it as I think it speaks for itself, other than to thank those who organised it for doing so. They and those who signed it restore my hope at this time.

Dear Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church,

We read with dismay the Guidance for Clergy and Lay Readers in the light of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

We appreciate that we are bound by the law, and that until our canons are changed, we cannot legally perform same-sex marriages. However, we are disappointed by both the timing and the tone of the document. We have been urged by you to enter into ‘cascade conversations’ in a spirit of open and sensitive listening with people of all views on this matter. This document only makes this process much harder for us, even impossible for some. Far from acknowledging the reality of differing experience and views in the church, it gives the impression of a definitive answer to the question we have yet to discuss or debate. The document ought to make it clear that the restrictions it describes may be temporary, if the church decides to change its canons. Because of the confusion created by this document, we now believe that such canonical change should be decided in Synod as soon as possible.

But we were especially dismayed by the section of the document which refers to clergy, lay readers, and ordinands, should they be in a same-sex relationship and wish to be married. In particular, we find the warnings to ordinands, both currently training and those who might be training in the future, to be unrepresentative of the generous and communal characteristics of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Even though our church has not yet agreed to solemnise same-sex marriages, they will nevertheless become a civil institution which we will recognise like everyone else under the law. It is our firm belief therefore that any prohibition on obtaining a civil marriage is outwith the moral and canonical authority of a bishop.

We acknowledge that this process is one which creates anxiety for all church leaders, and bishops in particular. We empathise with the difficult situation that you as bishops are in, and reaffirm our desire to support you in your leadership of our church, and as fellow members of it.

Nevertheless, some of us are now uncomfortable about solemnising marriages at all until such time as all can be treated equally, and all of us will continue to feel morally compromised in our ministries, and wish to make clear our continuing commitment to affirm and support all people in our church, and to recognise and rejoice in all marriages, of whatever sexual orientation, as true signs of the love of God in Christ.

Yours sincerely,
Revd Carrie Applegath,
Revd Philip Blackledge,
Revd Maurice Houston,
Revd Canon John McLuckie,
Revd Canon Ian Paton,
Revd Kate Reynolds,
Revd Martin Robson,
Revd Malcolm Aldcroft,
Dr Darlene Bird (lay reader),
Revd Jim Benton-Evans,
Revd Cedric L. Blakey,
Revd Andrew Bowyer,
Revd Canon Bill Brockie,
Revd Tony Bryer,
Revd Steve Butler,
Revd Christine Barclay,
Revd Lynsay M Downes,
Revd Markus Dünzkofer,
Revd Canon Anne Dyer,
Revd Janet Dyer,
Revd Jennifer Edie,
Revd John L Evans,
Revd Samantha Ferguson,
The Revd Canon Zachary Fleetwood,
Kennedy Fraser,
Revd Kirstin Freeman,
Revd Frances Forshaw,
Revd Ruth Green,
Revd Bob Gould,
Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth,
Revd Ruth Innes,
Revd Ken Webb,
Rev’d Canon Mel Langille,
Revd Kenny Macaulay,
Revd Simon Mackenzie,
Revd Duncan MacLaren,
Very Revd Nikki McNelly,
Very Revd Jim Mein,
Revd Nicola Moll,
Revd Bryan Owen,
Revd Canon Clifford Piper,
Revd Donald Reid,
Revd Colin Reed,
Revd Canon John Richardson,
Revd Malcolm Richardson,
The Revd Gareth J M Saunders,
Very Revd Alison J Simpson,
Very Revd Andrew Swift,
Kate Sainsbury (lay reader),
Patsy Thomson (lay reader),
Prof Revd Annalu Waller

Revd John Penman,
Revd Tim Morris,
Revd Anna Garvey,
Revd Bill Eilliot.


  1. frdougal says

    Actually, I did sign but my name was accidentally left off. It has been forwarded to the College as an addendum. It happened to another 2 signatories.

  2. Aleks says

    Thrilled to see so many names.

  3. A very brave, but also much-needed moral stance, Fr. Kelvin. Let’s hope your voices are heard by the Bishops of SEC. Then, perhaps, our Province of ACANZP and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion might take heart and open up this provision of equal marriage for all people in our Churches.

  4. Ali Chesworth says

    thanks for posting this, Kelvin. Had I still been in Glasgow I would have added my name also. I was saddened and dismayed to read this guidance from a province which has in the past taught so much about ( and benefitted from) an inclusivity unparalleled by the other Anglicans in the UK.

    The response of my English colleagues locally has been equally bewildered – it seems as though the SEC has looked at the fiasco made in England over this issue, and rather than pointing, examining and saying “we can do better!”, has decided to compound those mistakes and be entrenched by them. It is not the compassionate and inclusive SEC I called home for so long.

    My prayers with you all


  5. Anne Tomlinson says

    Confusion? ‘The document ought to make it clear that the restrictions it describes may be temporary, if the church decides to change its canons’. It does at the very outset, in the phrase ‘pending the conclusion of that period of discussion’. I for one continue to trust in and work with that wise and collaborative process. In Advent hope. Anne

    • I wonder, Anne, whether you’ve stopped to think of how that comment might be read by anyone whom this directly affects who is in your care as the person leading the Scottish Episcopal Institute.

      You were one of the four people who thought it was OK to outline the principles for discussing same-sex relationships in a group that didn’t actually include a gay person, so perhaps the rest of us should not be too surprised.

      • Dear me – it seems that merely calling attention to what the bishops’ document actually says is enough to incur guilt by association.

        • Not really Eamonn – I think that it fair to suggest that it is a bit of a struggle for those most directly affected to look on our recent processes as “wise and collaborative” right now.

          There was no consultation about this document. We are just not living on planet collaborative.

          • None of it comes across as wise and collaborative. It sounds authoritarian and forbidding, the antithesis of the church I thought I knew. And the experience of the last Synod allowed most of us merely to paddle in the shallows of engagement.

  6. Rosemary Hannah says

    Why would the bishops suddenly introduce wholly new restrictions on equal marriage if the intent was to introduce a more liberal set in a short period of time? This must be utterly dismaying to those in training for the priesthood and lay readership who now face a choice between ordination and marriage. They are in the most vulnerable place of all.

  7. Jean Mayland says

    What a fantastic list of signatories. Good luck

    • Thanks Jean – it is a great list of signatories that speak from the heart of the church. There are other great people too, some of whom never got the chance to sign this and also those who are puzzled by all the fuss about these guidelines.

  8. Very pleased to see the names of senior A&tI clergy as signatories; restores some of my lost confidence.

  9. Elizabeth says

    Oh well done everyone! I am very glad to see this letter and the strong list of signatories.

  10. Pat Cant says

    Saw a wonderful rainbow today and hope this is a sign that our Bishops hear what our clergy are saying and feeling with regard to their statement.

  11. I’m so pleased that my priest has signed this and delighted to see Deans and Provosts too. This must be about quarter of the house of clergy. Can’t say how disappointed in the house of bishops I am and, yes, romantic that I am, I’d just like a church wedding one day…..

    Keep up the good work Very Revd Kelvin :oP

    • Very Revd. Miriam Byrne says

      Regressive and so sad – there is an urgent need to appoint some inspiring piscy bishops, unafraid to rock the boat and put some distance between the interminable compromise at the expense of those who still have no real voice or authority in the Church.

  12. Gavin Smith says

    Pleased to see so many names, but sad to note the changed tone of the SEC that makes this list of names necessary…

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