Scottish Episcopal Church continues to face dissent from marriage equality decision

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In 2017, The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) concluded a long process that allowed for marriage equality in the church. The decision put the decision on same sex marriage upon the conscience of individual congregations and clerics. It was designed to allow space for disagreement on the issue, while hopefully holding the church together.

 

Westhill Community Church, Aberdeen

Some conservative congregations and clerics though, have found that compromise unbearable and have opted to leave the church anyway. Last week, Westhill Community Church, a parish in the northern city of Aberdeen voted, 83% in favor, to leave the Scottish Episcopal Church.

 

Speaking to The Press and Journal, Westhill’s Rector, the Rev. Ian Ferguson said: “I’m deeply sad that this stage as arrived it breaks my heart. I have been in the SEC for a number of decades and I certainly didn’t want to be in this position.”

He added: “It’s too early to say at the moment what’s going to happen next. We’ll continue to be Orthodox Anglicans and we will not be creating another denomination.

We are just trying to get our heads around the vote because it’s still very fresh.”

Ferguson, one of the more vocal opponents of same-sex marriage within the church, stressed there were multiple issues behind the decision.

He said: “People have different kinds of concerns about all kinds of things, and it’s not just one thing.

“This has been an ongoing matter where a number of us throughout Scotland have been concerned about the direction the SEC has been going in.”

Ferguson had also opposed the 2018 appointment of Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney Anne Dyer, who is the church’s first female bishop and a supporter of equal marriage.

 

Ferguson said that the congregation was committed to remaining “Anglican,” but did not elaborate on how they intended to honor that commitment.  He did call out the the support they had been given by GAFCON affiliated bishops, especially the archbishops of Nigeria, Uganda and Sydney, Australia.

 

Bishop Anne Dyer

Speaking exclusively to the local paper, the Press and Journal, the Rt Rev Anne Dyer, the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney called the decision to leave the SEC by Westhill Community Church “a tragedy.”

She said: “It’s tragic when there is any kind of division in the church.

“For a congregation to decide to leave – something that rarely happens – is very saddening.

“There is a way forward but it is really complicated and there are obstacles that have to be overcome along the way.

“I did say when I visited that I hoped that they would stay and that I and their many, many friends in the diocese wanted them to stay.

“But I also told them that if they decided to go that I would honour that decision.

“I knew that they would want to take their building with them.

“I’m not going to block it.

“For me this is a church that is much loved in its community and serves its community really well, so although they would no longer be part of us as far as I can see they are part of the body of Christ and I would want them to function as well as they can in the place that they are.

“I think the decision the congregation of Westhill have come to is that the breadth of the SEC) is too broad for them now.

“That doesn’t relate to doctrinal issues – it doesn’t relate to what we think about God and Jesus are like – it’s about how we live in the modern world and about gender and sexuality.

“We will set off into a process where we are imagining the end is separation but if at any point during that journey they were to have a change of heart then I would say “hallelujah”.

 

Primus of Scotland, Bishop Mark Strange

The Primus of Scotland, Bishop Mark Strange, said: “I have been informed that Westhill Community Church, Aberdeen has voted to prepare to leave the Scottish Episcopal Church, and therefore the Anglican Communion. I have received that news with great sadness and will pray that, painful though this process will be for the Church and for the local Diocese and wider community, we will all remember that we are all striving to serve as disciples of Christ.

 

“Being a member of the Anglican Communion is important to the Scottish Episcopal Church and we are working hard to strengthen our role in it. Our bishops are preparing to attend the Lambeth Conference in 2020 and have begun inviting bishops from around the Communion to join us in Scotland for pre-conference hospitality.

 

“We will continue to pray for unity and understanding as we strive to further the mission of God to our nation and around the world.”

 

 

 

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S.R.Price
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S.R.Price

We ask all commenters to please use their full first and last name thx-editor

It's time for the Anglican Communion to stand up to these GafCon provinces that are encouraging schism and expel them from the Anglican Communion so that breakaway groups will understand with no uncertainty that they are no longer affiliated with the Anglican Communion.Then let them go their independent way without I'll feelings towards them.

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JoS. S Laughon
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Given the actual history of how the Communion got here, the Windsor report and the recent Lambeth meeting, the notion it is those sticking to doctrine that is 2,000 years old are the ones introducing schism is a bit interesting.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

Polish your glasses, JoS. Heterosexual divorce seems to be one doctrine that "is 2,000 years old" that these Evangelical schismatics have no problem adjusting to. They just don't like queers, or women in "headship" leadership roles, etc.

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JoS. S Laughon
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Kurt,

The mass allowance of divorce is yet another area in which the Protestant Churches, in particular Anglicanism has erred and lead our people into sin. The fact that we already allow some heterodoxy, error and worse is not a reason to accommodate more. Attacking those who say, "Stop" seems odd.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

I do not in any way accept your premise that either homosexuality or heterosexual divorce constitute "heterodoxy, error and worse." You seem to have adopted some of the Protestant pietisms of the fundamentalist Evangelicals. If you feel like you do, why don't you join the ACNA and others who feel similarly, rather than harping about our alleged "sins." This is so much like the small town Puritanism of Bible Belt America, and the little Puritan pond of Sydney "Anglicanism."'

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JoS. S Laughon
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Gregory,

Yes, the hypocrisy is quite common. Another sin and error for us to repent of.

Kurt,

You can libel it as "evangelicalism" or "Puritanism" when in reality it is simple Anglicanism. The formularies uphold the Word, Church Tradition & CoE canon law, of all of which forbid free divorce and unauthorized marriage rites. The English Reformers, and churchmen of all stripes from then until the early 20th century would have recognized the sinful state our bishops commend to the faithful.

Also, it seems unwise and uncharitable to wish everyone who disagrees to leave. With such an attitude soon we may find TEC aging, shuttering down and no one left to lock the door on the way out.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

Snort. What you and some others are spewing may be simple, but it's not "Anglicanism." It looks like re-treaded Puritanism to me. I wouldn't worry so much about TEC and Western Anglicanism, JoS. We're not going to be going away and locking the door any time soon...

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JoS. S Laughon
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Ironically Kurt the Puritans were less strict than the Church of England and the Anglican divines on divorce. Fr John Keble's essay on this during the Oxford movement shows what the classical Anglican teaching is on the indissolubility of marriage.

http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/puritan-divorce-allows-escape-from-the-chain-of-matrimony/

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JoS. S Laughon
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Kurt,

It is quite interesting how "puritanism" (itself merely a Reformed Protestant theological movement within and without the Church of England) becomes an insult but yet it doesn't seem to be established what about disallowing divorce is related to this 17th century Protestant movement. Does Roman Catholic doctrine on marriage have its origins in the Puritans? How strange. In reality traditional Anglican doctrine is not "puritanism" but classical Christian teaching. Fr. John Keble (far from a Puritan) wrote a terrific book on this during the Oxford Movement. Anglican doctrine did not allow for divorce until the 1900s. Before then we held it a spiritual impossibility.

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Gregory Orloff
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Gregory Orloff

You're sidestepping the fact that there is no hue and cry among most "conservative Christians" over the acceptance of heterosexual divorce and an unwillingness to confront and discipline divorced heterosexuals in like manner as they treat homosexuals seeking committed relationships rooted in love. As a result, any dog-eared appeal to "2,000-year-old doctrine" seems to be pretty darn negotiable among them when it comes to keeping keesters in the pews and pledge cards coming in. To sum it up in one word, hypocrisy.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

I agree that the Communion should "stand up" to the GafCon bullies. Past time, in fact. However, expelling people would be a bad idea. It should be made clear--if it has not already been made clear--that groups such as ACNA are not members of the Anglican Communion. Frankly, though, I would admit such Anglican continuum groups as "Associate Members" if they were to practice Table Fellowship with TEC and all others. In a family of Churches and Provinces we can try and make a place for everyone while holding disagreements about certain issues, doctrines, etc. The conservatives will have to understand that they alone don't get to set the terms of the association...

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

This parish is an Evangelical/Charismatic parish, and more proof (if it were needed) of the basic schismatic ethos of Evangelical pietism. Good riddance, I say.

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mike geibel
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mike geibel

The comments to this article by an intolerant few have become ugly. Seems like some believe the Anglican Communion is more about dogma than common worship, and that the invitation of an open communion table for all baptized Christians is subject to the exclusion of those with different convictions on the issue of same-sex marriage. We need to let go of insulting labels for those who disagree with our convictions and shun thoughts of Anglicans versus Episcopalians. We need to get back to what this is really about: telling people about the love of Christ.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

I generally agree with you, Mike. The CAFCON/ACNA crowd are the people you need to convince.

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JoS. S Laughon
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At least this will make plain the obvious fact that schism is inevitable now. Pretending is simply whistling past the graveyard.

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Tom Downs
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Tom Downs

Schism is never inevitable. It is a choice and a failure of faith. It is of man, not God.

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Harry M Merryman
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Harry M Merryman

Today, of all days, it is good to remember that “schism” is often the necessary step along the road of progress—be it spiritual/theological, scientific, or social/political. Today, we continue to struggle with the schism that was wrought by the civil rights movement which began over 60 years ago. Unlike that schism, let us hope that the greater church’s progress toward equality for women and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters may be pursued with greater compassion for all. In this regard, I am comforted in the knowledge that the arc of history has taught us that social progress is “inevitable,” and that those who claim to channel the will of God in their struggle against it are “whistling past the graveyard.”

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JoS. S Laughon
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That seems unlikely to me given how the Global North is dying, and modern liberal (white) Protestantism is dying with it, going the way of universalist unitarianism. The future is in the East and the Global South where such pieties as "the arc of history" remain as elusive as Fukuyama's "end of history."

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

The last time I looked, the Unitarian Universalists were still around and doing okay, particularly in New England. The so-called "Global South" (including Sydney) are an embarrassment to many Anglicans/Episcopalians throughout the world. If they are the "future" of Christianity that is truly sad that the bigots will inherit the Church as educated people continue to drop out...

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JoS. S Laughon
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Seems like a very white, colonial gaze you cast upon our African, Latin American, Near Eastern and Eastern brothers and sisters. Remember that the Church came from this part of the world when we westerners were still pagans.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

Oh, please JoS. There are plenty of people in Africa, Latin America, the Near East and East who agree with The Episcopal Church on these matters. Don't confuse things. You should remember that, outside of the British Isles, it is the American Church that is the oldest province of Anglicanism. The first Anglican services took place here in 1565; the first in Nigeria in the 1840s, The first native-born American Episcopalians were baptized in 1587, more than 200 years before the first "flogging parsons" even arrived in Sydney. Your "race card" does not work well. Get real, dude...

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JoS. S Laughon
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Steve,

Actually you'll find that the majority of world Anglicans are against these innovations which is why the Windsor report was issued in the first place.

Kurt,

You'll find TEC's theology are fairly uncommon and unpopular.

As far as the weird sight of white rich westerners like ourselves claiming an earlier patrimony, let us remember that Africa and the Near East were Christian for 100s of years while we were sacrificing humans and worshiping stones. This kind of condescension is simply the reimagined colonial gaze to a "barbaric" Other. We are not better because we're rich white Anglophones who, by historical accident, were colonized first.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

Still playing the "race card" are we, JoS? In terms of history, though, as far as Anglicanism is concerned, the people of Africa and the Near East are way down on the seniority list. British Anglicanism is the oldest, and we Americans are next in line. That's just historical fact, however inconvenient it may be for some of you to grasp. Some of these provinces may have the numbers, but much of their theology boarders on Pentecostalist heresy. If that's the kind of "Anglicanism" you want, you are welcome to it.

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JoS. S Laughon
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I was under the impression that we are neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor Barbarian but it seems now that the Church is divided by seniority, in your words, and that Black African believers (along with Near Easterners, North Africans and East Asian believers) are on the bottom and white Anglophones are on the top. Quite odd. You accuse me of playing a race card for simply noting that the numerical strength and future of Anglican Christianity is not in our neck of the woods. You respond by claiming some sort of historic superiority over our Black brothers in Christ as if their location in Africa renders their Anglicanism deficient (even though it includes Ethiopia, which has been Christian for thousands of years).

Inclusion but not for the charismatic believers or African believers. Interesting.

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Steve Price
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Steve Price

Three of the provinces contributing to schism in other parts of the Communion are Uganda,Nigeria,and Kenya.The Christian Church did not originate in these areas,or Sydney for that matter.Also,to lump the Anglican Churches into traditional Protestantism is also a rewriting of Church history.The Anglican Communion is both protestant and catholic and neither Protestant nor Catholic.We have an identity of our own and it's called Anglican

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

This is sad, but I am glad that both sides are dealing with the issue with grace and maturity.

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