Same-sex Marriage and St. Thomas'

The Scottish Episcopal Church is presently considering the issue of Same-sex Marriage. We are being asked whether or not we would want to celebrate these in our churches. Vittoria has written an article for The Tattler, along with an explanation of the Scottish Episcopal position. This will be followed in future editions of The Tattler by articles by the Rev'd Canon Lisa Eunson and the Rev'd Canon Ian Ferguson, for and against.  The text of these articles is copied below. No doubt there will also be meetings and plenty of discussion before decisions are made.

A View of same-sex marriage, by Rev Canon Lisa Eunson

posted 12 Nov 2015, 11:02 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 12 Nov 2015, 11:04 ]

(From The Tattler, October-November 2015)

From your neighbour the Rev Canon Lisa Eunson to my friends at St Kentigern’s and St Thomas.

Vittoria has asked me to offer my point of view on same-sex marriage, as she knows I would agree to officiate at such a wedding. I will do my best to state my position and keep it brief, the combination of which is impossible! But I need to first clarify what gives any priest their authority here.

Marriage, along with whatever else we would like it to be, is a legal contract, and the ‘legal’ part requires the application by the couple for a marriage schedule and subsequent license provided by the government, via the local Registrar. The authority of a clergy person to officiate at the event which seals such a contract is based on their approved licensing by their own denomination. Therefore only if and when the Scottish Episcopal Church as a body approves same-sex marriage would any of its clergy be legally covered to do so.

Marriage in the church is a sacrament, and we understand sacrament as the ‘outward and visible sign of inward and visible grace.’ Any sacramental act (baptism, marriage, Eucharist, ordination, etc) is therefore a response to what God is already doing. Liturgical sacramental expression requires gathering in community to proclaim our recognition of what God is doing and make our own promises to participate in that new life.

Community is the key here. Christians do not exist in isolation; the whole Judeo- Christian salvation tradition requires continually transforming our lives together to serve God’s purpose. Sacrament requires an existing faith community. As Rector of Christ Church and St Ternan’s I am bound liturgically, canonically and with love to those congregations. Even with legal and SEC authority to officiate at a same-sex wedding, I would not do so without prior discussion and blessing of the congregations/communities I serve. This is one of the reasons I am so committed to a full process of dialogue and study on this or any issue involving our common life.

And so, finally, yes: SEC and congregations permitting, I personally would offer a same-sex couple the same discernment and support I give to those who already come to me for help with their marriage service and preparation.

My initial conversion was personal: I have a family member who for over 30 years (since her early twenties) has been in a committed relationship with her partner, who just happens to also be a woman. I’ve watched these two grow together in unity and love, and work through the usual life challenges that have derailed the marriages of many heterosexuals I know, myself included. In my experience, this is not a one-off rarity. I have since come to know a number of such couples, a lot of them serving clergy, who have overcome family distress, society’s labels, and so many other barriers, and managed to live in what I can only describe as holy unions. I’m defining holiness here as having the capacity to nurture life and love in themselves and those around them. These people, yes, these friends, have taught me their relationships are not about their particular sexual orientation, but about being family together.

I could talk you through each of the passages of the Bible which seem to point to God’s disapproval of such relationships and tell you how I read them. Briefly: none of those refer to adult, committed relationship. It is the adult and committed part thatto my mind makes a relationship a candidate to be termed marriage. And, looking to scripture for guidance, the many books of the Bible, representing centuries of faith history and cultures and peoples, are filled with wide and wonderful examples of how big love is, and how family can be formed.

My hope is that in our Diocese and wider church we would make time now for a serious, grown-up focus on marriage in general and how we as a church can better support family in all of its complex manifestations. There is so much brokenness in the world, and pointing at those whose family structures exist outside of what we can approve, for whatever heartfelt and genuine reasons, only serves to distract us from many much more urgent spiritual needs.

Yours in Christ, Lisa

Rev Canon Lisa Eunson

A view of same-sex marriage, by Rev Canon Ian Ferguson

posted 12 Nov 2015, 10:58 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 12 Nov 2015, 11:03 ]

(From The Tattler, October - November 2015)

My understanding of marriage, informed by Scripture and Tradition is that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The SEC has recently decided to begin the process of changing the definition of marriage. They have decided to change the first clause of Canon 31 which reads: "The Doctrine of this 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 is a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God." This means that the new definition of marriage will not include ‘one man and and one women’ but that marriage will be defined as between ‘two persons’ and so enabling a definition that allows Same Sex Marriage.

I voted against moves to change the definition of marriage because I cannot embrace such change as the will of God or the direction our church should be taking. Much of the debate around this has been informed by the prevailing social climate of our times, the political and legal reality, plus the narrative of those in same sex relationships. However, I have heard little about the biblical reasons for changing the definition of marriage.

I can only skim the surface of why I believe the church is wrong to change the definition of marriage.

What I believe ?

Christian marriages are to reflect God’s image:

I believe marriage is something created and initiated by God. It does not originate from the initiative of man. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.… So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).

In Genesis 2 v 18 God says ‘It is not good for man to be alone”

The reason why it was not good for man to be alone is because without Eve, Adam was unable to fulfil his vocation to display the image of God in creation. Without Eve, Adam would not have been able to fulfil the will and purpose of God ‘to be fruitful and increase in number..” So I believe that marriage between one man and one woman is intrinsic to the creation of humanity.

I believe that marriage is created by God where one man and one woman enter into an exclusive relationship for life. Marriage is the only form of partnership approved by God for sexual relations and homoerotic sexual practice is incompatible with His will as revealed in Scripture.

We live in a broken world and we all fall short, not only of God’s standards but our own standards. Jesus acknowledged that in Mark 10 and went on to say in v6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female’. For this reason aman will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together let man not separate’

The original canon of my church states marriage is a “mystical union of one man and one woman”. That is to be removed.

However, the New Testament teaches that this bond of love models the relationship between Christ and His Bride. Paul in Ephesians 5:31-32 uses the marriage union to illustrate the covenant relationship between Christ and His bride, the church: "‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.’ This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and the church."

I do not believe that the church or the state has the authority to redefine marriage to include two people of the same gender.

The church of Jesus Christ must be a place of love, embracing all, whatever their colour, creed, ethnicity or sexual orientation. I have sought to do that all through my life as a Christian. I deeply regret the way some in the Christian community have responded and treated those they disagree with especially the deep hurts people have experienced through unkind and ungodly re-actions , words and behaviour.

I will continue to love and care for those who come my way whatever their sexual orientation, but I remain committed to an understanding of marriage that is based on the nature of God in creation, the affirming of Jesus on his views on marriage and the teachings of St Paul.

Rev Canon Ian J Ferguson, 14th September 2015

Same-sex Marriage

posted 12 Nov 2015, 10:55 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 12 Nov 2015, 10:55 ]

(From The Tattler,  October - November 2015)

Following on from my brief article in our August – September magazine, here are two short pieces from the Rev Canon Lisa Eunson and the Rev Canon Ian Ferguson on this issue. Both approach this issue with honesty and compassion. Both come to different conclusions. I am aware that there are different points of view within the church as a whole, and within our congregations here in Ballater and Aboyne. Wherever contentious issues are discussed, there has always been difference of opinion, and difference of interpretation, and the issue of same-sex marriage is the same. I would encourage you all to read both articles, to reflect and to pray. But I would also request that you remember what binds us together as Christians – the fact that we acknowledge Jesus as our crucified and risen Lord, who died for us. And to remember that this is at the core of our faith and our unity as a church.

At the end of October, we are invited to join with the people from Kincardine O'Neill, Banchory and Bieldside at an event to look at this issue. The evening is titled ' Listening Together about Same-sex Relationships: Exploring living with difference. It will take place on Tuesday 27th October from 7-9pm in St Tiernan's Church Hall, Banchory. All are invited to join us. This event is not about discussing the issue of same-sex marriage. It is not a forum for debate. There will be no attempts to sway your minds and faith one way or the other. It is not about agreeing with each other. Our hope for the evening is that people will listen to each other. That they will appreciate the viewpoints which are expressed and the stories which are told. That while they may not understand or agree, they will respect each other. That people will depart willing to celebrate our faith together, while acknowledging we have difference in viewpoint and interpretation.

Rev'd Vittoria Hancock

'Same-sex Marriage' by Rev'd Vittoria Hancock

posted 12 Nov 2015, 10:46 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 12 Nov 2015, 10:52 ]

(From The Tattler, August-September 2015)

At the meeting of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church in June, the members voted to remove part of the Canon (the law) on marriage. The text of the press release is below. What this means is that there is the possibility that same-sex marriages may become legal in the Episcopal Church. The SEC is in the process of drafting a canon about this. It is important to stress that at the moment same-sex marriage is not possible in the SEC, even with this vote. But the potential for it is there.


Faith and Order Board – Marriage

June 12, 2015

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has today voted to begin a process for change in relation to its Canon on Marriage. It has therefore instructed the Church’s Faith and Order Board to begin the two year process which may lead towards canonical change. That change would potentially allow the marriage of same gendered couples in Church in late 2017. The option which Synod voted for states:

Removal of section 1 of Canon 31. This option would remove section 1 from Canon 31* in its entirety so that the Canon was silent on the question of a doctrine of marriage.

General Synod also decided to add a conscience clause that ensures that no cleric would be obliged to solemnise a marriage against their conscience.

Commenting on the decision by General Synod today, The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church says “Our General Synod has taken two important steps forward today. We have decided that we wish to consider possible change to our Marriage Canon. We have identified one possible expression of that change. This potentially creates a situation in which Same-Sex marriages could be celebrated in churches of the Scottish Episcopal Church. That would also allow our clergy to enter into same-sex marriages. It is important to realise that at this point this is an indicative decision only. Any change to the Canon will require the normal two year process and two thirds majorities will be required. That process will begin at General Synod 2016 and cannot be complete until General Synod 2017.”

*Canon 31, section 1 states The Doctrine of this 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 is a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God.

A vote to instruct the Church’s Faith and Order Board to prepare canonical material to enable the registration of Civil Partnerships to be undertaken in the Scottish Episcopal Church, failed to pass.

As individuals and churches we have to think about where we stand on the issue. As your Rector, I am bound together in faith and love with you all as my congregations, and must consider your views. Any decisions made must be made as the body of Christ, with consideration and love. This can only happen with dialogue and discussion. I have asked the Rev'd Canon Lisa Eunson and the Rev'd Canon Ian Ferguson both to write a short article for our next edition of the Tattler. The hope is to start us on the thinking path. Whatever your personal views and beliefs are on the subject, I ask that you do not indulge yourselves in knee-jerk reactions, but pause and listen. That you consider the views and feelings of others before you speak and when you speak. I would also ask you to remember that loving each other does not mean agreeing with each other.

Where do I stand, personally? I have a close friend who is in a same-sex relationship. I've known her for almost 20 years. For many of those years she was celibate, believing that as a Christian that was her only choice. A few years ago she joined a church that does not hold that view. She met her partner. I have watched them grow together. I can see what joy and strength and love and honour is in that relationship. I can see how much she has grown and developed as a person. It is a delight to see. They are in a civil partnership, and hope to have a same-sex marriage in the church they both attend.

And I wish I could offer them marriage in the church. The simple solution would be to say 'how wonderful, if the vote goes through I'll be able to do that.' But as much as it hurts them – and me – I can't say that. Even if the legislation were to go through, even if my congregations approved, I wouldn't.

Because of our friendship, I have had to re-examine what I have been taught. What I believe. What the Bible says about marriage. I have prayed about it. I have read both sides of the argument, studied the texts in their original language. Tried desperately to find a loophole that convinces me that same-sex marriage is right, that marriage is not restricted to male and female. As friends, we have walked alongside each other on this journey. It has not been easy, or simple. They, as others, have come to different conclusions from the same texts. And if I could have I would have. But I can't. And how it hurts, not being able to offer that. But I must act with integrity to myself, to my God, and to my friends. They respect that. We have agreed to disagree; but we grieve together and hurt together. In that, our friendship has grown and strengthened.

We have learnt that love is not necessarily about agreeing together. Love is also about standing alongside each other in the hurt, even when we are the causes of each other's hurt. Love is about respecting and supporting each other even when you disagree, about not taking the easy way, about compassion, and honour and integrity. That is the model I offer to you, as we start this process.

Vittoria

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