Scottish churches advance towards marrying same-sex couples

By Savi Hensman
June 12, 2017

The Scottish Episcopal Church has agreed to allow clergy to marry same-sex couples in church. The Church of Scotland  recently moved towards this, while emphasising that no minister should be forced to conduct such a wedding. It also apologised for how it has treated gay people.

This reflects a shift in the church worldwide, as well as Britain. Here some United Reformed Church and Baptist congregations already celebrate marriages between same-sex partners as do the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)and the Methodist church is moving in this direction.

Various theologians internationally from different churches have argued persuasively that marriage should not be only for opposite-sex couples. Numerous Christians now believe that churches should be more welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTI) people and many are keen to see church weddings allowed.

A sizeable number of Church of England members want freedom of conscience for priests and congregations who think it wrong to refuse to marry loving, committed couples. Church leaders will probably find it harder to hold out against this now that sister-churches in Scotland are becoming more inclusive.

The Scottish Episcopal Church is also a member of the Anglican Communion. The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian but drew on the arguments of a Roman Catholic scholar, Jean Porter, as well as those of Robert Song, one of the theological advisors to the Church of England’s Pilling working group.

Not everyone is happy with this move. GAFCON is an Anglican grouping highly resistant to greater inclusion, with some leaders who promote imprisonment of LGBT people. It is appointing Andy Lines as a 'missionary bishop' in a bid to encourage parishes to break away from their own bishops.

He is due to be consecrated by Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America, another breakaway church. Lines is currently the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the hardline Anglican Mission in England (AMiE).

Confusingly another member of the same Committee, Jonathan Pryke, a curate in Newcastle, was also consecrated as a 'missionary bishop', in his case by the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA). This is not part of the Anglican Communion.

So 'missionary bishops' may be competing for the handful of Scottish Anglican clergy and congregations which are strongly opposed. However many in Scotland and beyond are overjoyed that they, or their friends and family, will now be able to celebrate their marriage in church.

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© Savitri Hensman is an Ekklesia associate and respected commentator on welfare and other issues. She is author of the book Sexuality, struggle and saintliness: same-sex love and the church (Ekklesia, 2016): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22613 and has been involved in seeking greater inclusion.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.