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Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod getting underway (UPDATED)

Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod getting underway (UPDATED)

UPDATE: In his opening remarks, the Primus of the Church, the Most Rev David Chillingworth relates that in a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury he was told, in no uncertain terms, that the SEC would face similar “sanctions” as TEC for similar changes to TEC Canon.

“Two weeks ago, I went to London and met with Archbishop Justin specifically to ask the question, ‘Will this also apply to us if we complete the process of Canonical change in 2017?’  The answer is that it will.  Most directly, I will be removed from the role of Anglican Co-Chair of the International Anglican-Reformed Dialogue. But other effects are limited.  Our bishops will be present and fully involved in the Lambeth Conference planned for 2020.  We shall continue to be actively involved in our network of Diocesan Companionships and in the Anglican Networks.”




Today marks the opening of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod in Edinburgh.  In their press release, the church offered a summary of what to expect from the three days of meetings.

“A range of topics and issues will be debated throughout the three days of Synod, including Scotland’s role within the world-wide Anglican Communion, and the Scottish Episcopal Church’s response to the Growth in Communion, Partnership in Mission Report produced by the Church of Scotland and Church of England.

Wider engagement of the Church with Society and its issues will be a particular feature of this year’s General Synod through discussions on climate-related issues and poverty. The Synod will also be invited to back a Motion calling on the Westminster Government to cancel the renewal of Trident.

The increase in the number of candidates coming forward for training for ministry will be highlighted and Synod will hear from some of the students currently undertaking training for ministry.”




Of course, the issue drawing the most attention from Anglican around the world is the first reading of Motion 14 which would alter Canon 31, the canon on marriage.  The proposed changes would eliminate any reference to marriage being between a man and a woman and would also insert a clear statement that no cleric would be required to solemnize a marriage that would violate her or his conscience.  You can see the proposed changes on page 87 of this document.

This will be first reading, and it will need to pass a second reading next year before such a change would occur.  According to the agenda, only an hour is set aside for the motion by the choice of last year’s synod after the day long debate and discussion then.

“Preparing for General Synod the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church says: “We are considering an issue which is profoundly challenging for all churches. Over the past two years we have been engaged in a series of discussions in our province, dioceses and congregations. People have been courageous and open in expressing and listening to the diversity of views on same sex marriage which are held within the Scottish Episcopal Church.

“We now come to the point where we must make a decision about the way forward for our church. We do that in all humility seeking the will of God and attempting always to sustain our unity in the midst of our diversity.” (from the GS press release)



Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, has an excellent reflection on the upcoming vote on his blog, where he says;

“The idea for moving forward is to remove the clause from the canon which is said to prevent marriage between same-sex couples and replace it with a clause which will protect the consciences of everyone in the church by affirming that “no cleric of this Church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience.”

I’m in favour of moving forward in this way. In some ways I would have preferred another solution – I’d have preferred the Scottish Episcopal Church to have made a more positive statement affirming equal marriage. However, I can live with this and can see the value of a solution which does not force people to make statements about marriage which they don’t agree with.

That is all that we are doing – if we agree to this change, we are moving to a position where we don’t insist that everyone believes the same thing in the face of a quite obvious reality which is that we don’t.”




Hopefully, the SEC will be able to face up to these differences and take a positive step to move forward together, something other churches have recently struggled to do.  In February, the Anglican Church of Canada’s House of Bishop’s issued a statement that they did not expect there to be sufficient support within that body for marriage equality and in May, a resolution in the Anglican Church of Aotorea, New Zealand and Polynesia to allow blessing of civil marriages of LGBT persons was tabled with the resolve to not revisit the issue for two years.  What, if any, affect the recent Primate’s Meeting resolution to “sanction” the Episcopal Church’s moves towards full inclusion and marriage equality might have is unclear.


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Kathy Collins

As a member of the Synod I look forward to tomorrow’s debate and vote. The SEC, if last year’s Synod is any indication, understands that walking together means listening together and respecting differing views something the wider Anglican communion might learn from whichever way our vote goes.

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