New statement on Civil Partnerships from the Scottish College of Bishops

The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church has issued the following statement which was sent to clergy on 29 November 2013 as part of a regular electronic clergy mailing.

Blessing of Civil Partnerships
The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 2012 agreed not to adopt the Anglican Covenant. Since then, and within our own context, the College of Bishops has, on a number of occasions, considered how our church should best engage with those underlying questions of human sexuality which had given rise to the original idea of a Covenant. The College looks forward to the Church undertaking discussion of such matters as part of the process currently being designed by a group set up for that purpose by the provincial Mission and Ministry Board. The College in no way intends to pre-empt the outcome of those discussions. At the same time it recognises that the entering into of civil partnerships is a regular occurrence in Scottish society today.

In a previous statement the College indicated that it was the practice of the individual Bishops at that time neither to give official sanction to blessings of civil partnerships, nor to attend them personally. The Church does not give official sanction to informal blessings but each Bishop would nevertheless expect to be consulted by clergy prior to the carrying out of any informal blessing of a civil partnership in his diocese. The College is of the view that a decision as to whether or not to attend such an informal blessing should be a personal decision of the individual Bishop in question.
College of Bishops
November 2013

I warmly welcome the fact that individual bishops may now chose to attend blessings of gay couples in church in Scotland. It may seem like a small thing but the idea that the happiest day of a couple’s life was too toxic for a bishop to attend was always a terrible snub and I’m glad it is over.

With regard to telling bishops about blessings, it doesn’t change much around here. I’ve tended all along to tell bishops about Civil Partnership blessings and indeed have been very pleased with their support and encouragement.

I am uncertain how they can take the view that a blessing is informal when one is supposed to let bishops know about it but that peculiarity does not make much difference in these parts.

Note that there was an official report in the Church of England yesterday which hinted that the church there might have discussions which might lead it to come to the view that its bishops might release guidance in a few years time about services which might “mark” relationships between same-sex couples in church but which are not supposed to be called blessings. There has simply never been that squeamishness about the word “blessing” in Scotland.

As for the word “informal”, all I can say is that some “informal” blessings can be quite swanky affairs indeed.

How different the situation is for gay Anglicans in Carlisle, our neighbouring diocese to the south from that which pertains over on this side of the border.