by Kelvin (Holdsworth)
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.
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
In a rather brave initiative, the Provost of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, Father Kelvin Holdsworth has published this Letter to the Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church – signed by him & 50 of his fellow clergy – protesting against the recent Statement made by the Bishops of SEC setting out their opposition to Equal Marriage in that Church.
Considering the fact that SEC was once considered to be a more generous institution that scorned homophobic attitudes in the Church; the Bishops’ Statement certainly has caused dis-ease among those clergy who had been looking forward to a more open attitude from their Church towards, at least, the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships. The fact that the Bishops’ Statement seemed to pre-empt any forward movement on this issue, that might be brought about through further discussion with those most affected by the present stand-off, seems to have been the catalyst for this reaction by the clergy.
One hopes that the Scottish Bishops might be moved to take a more eirenic view of the Scottish Parliamentary Legislation that allows for Same-Sex Marriage by this petition from a group of clergy. The outcome of their action might well affect the attitudes and action of other Provinces of the Church – for instance, our own Province of ACANZP. At the very least, one could be hopeful of a form of Church Blessing for faithful Same-Sex Unions.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand