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