'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