The Doctrine Committee of The Scottish Episcopal Church has published Marriage and Human Intimacy: Perspectives on same-sex relationships and the life of the church. It is an altogether more open-minded and evenhanded approach to the subject than Men and Women and Marriage, which was published by the Church and Order Commission of the Church of England. Here are a few excerpts:
We have tried to demonstrate that many of the foundations of the ‘traditional’ view of marriage begin to look rather less foundational when examined closely. That does not mean that it should be abandoned, nor necessarily even modified. That is for the whole church to decide, not us. But arguments which are based on the traditional view because it is the traditional view of the church need to be nuanced more carefully, rather than just assuming an authority of their own. We have also tried to show that the church has a duty of care throughout, and not least to those in many other forms of human relationship, not just sexual.
As we consider the various pros and cons of the church recognising same-sex marriage, one of the foremost issues which arises is the desire to preserve the unity of the church in its diversity. Paul memorably expressed this desire through the metaphor of the body of Christ. Sometimes the diversity inherent in the body is so intense as to be practically divergent, threatening to destroy the unity. This is not necessarily a bad position to be in, but it is one which must be handled with responsibility. A brief consideration of momentous periods in church history, such as the fourth and fifth century Christological debates, or the European Reformation, indicate that although divergent opinions may lead to schism, yet enormous strides forward in understanding and the missional potential of the church often result from theological friction. It is to be hoped that this will be the result of the present controversy in the Anglican Communion, even if some speak of it in terms of ‘crisis’ and believe that schism is inevitable.
The diverse number of approaches and answers to the question of same-sex marriage is clearly formidable in scope. It may seem that resolving a way forward which will satisfy all parties is an impossible task, and one which may occupy many hours of the Diocesan Synods of the SEC and of its General Synod. But ultimately this is not an issue which will be resolved in synodical debate. It is primarily a pastoral issue – for those who inhabit and represent the church on the ground, whether in the highlands, islands, or lowlands, cities or villages – and it will only become a synodical debate which can be resolved when the pastoral need has been met, when bread has been broken, and when, in spite of all that has passed, those who were downcast and ‘arguing on the way’ can still exclaim through it, ‘The Lord is risen indeed’ (Luke 24:34). But curiously, is that not the mission of the church, in all times and in all places?