Scottish Episcopal Church to vote on marriage canon change
On Thursday 8 June, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church will open in Edinburgh.
The full details of this can be found in links from this page on the national church website, but oddly the main press release is not available as a web page, so is copied in full here, below the fold. The most newsworthy item in it is this:
The first key item of business on this year’s agenda is the second – and final – reading of a proposed alteration to the Church’s Canon on Marriage. This proposal would remove the doctrinal clause which states that marriage is between a man and a woman. The voting process on this proposed canonical change will require a two thirds majority in each ‘house’ of Bishops, Clergy and Laity. This session will be presented by the Church’s Faith and Order Board and will commence at approximately 2.30pm on Thursday 8 June, with the result of the voting ballot announced at approximately 4.20pm.
Law & Religion UK has reproduced the sections from the document 2017 General Synod which concern the voting procedures and the opinions from the dioceses. See Changing marriage doctrine in the SEC – voting procedures.
There is a vast amount of further detail about this in the main file of synod papers, including a lot in the minutes of the previous synod, and a DRAFT of a document titled College of Bishops Principles and Guidelines relating to Marriage which can all be found at this link.
Kelvin Holdsworth has written this explanation of what is going on: What the Scottish Episcopal Church is Voting On which I recommend reading in full. He writes:
…However, it is important to realise that the debate tomorrow is not being conducted in terms of a motion that will allow the Scottish Episcopal Church to vote either for or against the marriage of same-sex couples. I kind of wish that it was, but it resolutely isn’t.
The synod agreed a couple of years ago that the way that it wished to debate this was to see whether there was enough of a majority to remove the inherently heterosexual definition of marriage that had been placed in the Canons thirty odd years ago and replace it with a statement that acknowledged that Scottish Episcopalians believe different things about marriage and make proposals for allowing those who wish to marry same-sex couples to do so whilst protecting the conscience of those who do not wish to marry same-sex couples.
This is fundamentally a vote about what kind of church we want to be.
If we want to be a church that tries to respect people’s consciences on this issue then the thing to do is to vote in favour of motion 6. If we want to be a church which insists that everyone has to abide by the rules of a minority position then the right thing to do is vote against motion 6.
That’s the thing, you see. We can be pretty sure that there will be a majority in each of the houses of synod in favour of moving forward. That means that there will be a majority in each house, including in the house of Bishops voting against the current policy of the bishops.
Should this vote fail, we’ll be in a strange place. No doubt some reflection will be needed but what is certain is that the bishops can’t defend a position that they’ve just voted against.
Should the vote succeed then it is incumbent on all of us to abide by what it says and work to protect the conscience of those who don’t want to solemnise the marriages of same-sex couples. Scots law means that there’s no way anyone can be forced to do so anyway, but there must be no disparaging those who don’t want to take part in any way at all…
According to both the Church Times and Christian Today conservatives will announce a rival “missionary bishop” if this vote goes through. See Rival ‘missionary bishop’ to be announced by GAFCON as Scottish Anglicans fight off split and Scottish Anglicans will decide this week about same-sex weddings.
My favourite UK Anglican website – ‘Thinking Anglicans’ here publishes the news of the discussion about to take place in our partner Anglican Church in Scotland – S.E.C. – the Scottish Episcopal Church – on the matter of whether, or not, that Church will agree to alter the Marriage Canon to provide for the Marriage of Same-Sex persons.
What may be important for the people who might wonder whether this is a good move on the part of S.E.C. at this time, is that any proposal to alter the Church’s Constitution on Marriage would leave room for those clergy who do not wish to perform Same-Sex Marriages to opt out of any provision for such a procedure.
Exacerbating the discussions is the fact that there already has been a threat on the part of the GAFCON Provinces and related factions in the Anglican Communion to provide ‘Alternative Episcopal Oversight’ in the Church of England, by the provision of an overseas appointed bishop approved of by GAFCON, AMiE, and local opponents of Same-Sex Marriage.
The Church of England has already been undermined by GAFCON, AMiE, and its local associates by the local ordination of a Church of England clergyman by the schismatic South African faux-Anglican church known as ‘REACH’. an act of piracy that reflects the intentions of the GAFCON and the AMiE communities to undermine the Church of England’s authority in the U.K.
It would appear that GAFCON & AMiE are determined to overturn the authority of local Anglican Provincial Churches in places where outdated fundamentalist conservatism is being rejected on issues of gender and sexuality.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand