Citing its Canon on the subject of marriage, the Faith and Order Board of the Scottish Episcopal Church has conservatively responded to a government consultation paper on the subject of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.
The Rt Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Convener of the Faith & Order Board’s working group on the consultation explains “The Canon on Marriage is clear in its wording and that has given the working group set up by the Faith and Order Board a common basis on which to discuss the issues raised in the Government’s Paper. The Church’s current position is that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and this clarity allows us the space to listen to the many differing views held by the members of our Church.
“The general issues raised by the consultation document are matters which are already the subject of ongoing discussion within both the Anglican and Porvoo Communions, and in which the Scottish Episcopal Church plays its part. Our written submission is offered in the knowledge of these ongoing discussions, it is placed within the Government’s time frame and has therefore sought to indicate our canonical position without pre-empting any debate we as a Church are or could be engaged in.
“The working group thanks those who offered advice and those who offered prayer and I thank the working party for the generous way we worked with each other.”
The document containing the complete response is slightly less
On civil partnerships and liturgy:
Canon 22 of the Church’s Canons provides that, subject to certain exceptions, the conduct of divine worship and the administration of the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church must at all times be in accordance with the authorised services of the Church. The current authorised services include liturgies for marriage but not for same sex unions.
And with regard to changing the law in Scotland concerning same-sex partnerships:
The Canons of the Scottish Episcopal Church (Canon 31) state that the doctrine of the Church is that marriage is ‘a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and as a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God’. In the light of that Canon, there is no current basis for agreeing that the law should be changed to view marriage as possible between two people of the same sex.
As mentioned above in the introduction and in response to Question 1, the question of same sex unions in general is the subject of discussion within the Anglican and Porvoo Communions. Within those Communions, and within the Scottish Episcopal Church, the blessing of same sex unions is a matter on which there is a variety of views.
So here, then, is an example of Bishop Strange’s obfuscatory remark that having a fixed position allows ecclesial bodies to be more capable of open listening. (One wonders: is this the kind of listening that leads to anything in particular, or that just listens and then does whatever it was going to do in the first place?)
According to scotsman.com, initial reception to the document has been mixed.
The submission was greeted with dismay from those who would have liked the Church to express a more liberal view. Richard Holloway, the former bishop of Edinburgh and Episcopalian Primus, said: “Personally, I am disappointed. I thought they would have been braver.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our initial view is that same-sex marriage should be introduced, but that faith groups and their celebrants should not be obliged to solemnise same-sex marriage.”
Related: yesterday’s coverage of the Porvoo consultation on marriage equality.