Christian Life 

Bishop writes on same-sex consultation.

An Episcopal Bishop has posted a Blog article setting out his views on the current consultation on same-sex marriage.

The following statement has been published by The Most Reverend David Chillingworth Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. (One set of interpretations given in blue; it is very possible there are others.)


Bishop of St AndrewsIn the Scottish Episcopal Church, we’re thinking about our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage and other related issues. It’s a difficult issue for us – as it is for all churches and faith groups. We have among our membership people who feel passionately that this is the direction in which we need to go – and those who feel passionately that we should not.

[The Episcopal church membership is divided so it is impossible to please everyone: accordingly the risk of division is high.]

The consultation period is very short . Among the things we shall say will be that if – and it’s a big ‘if’ – we were to consider changing our canonical definition of marriage, that would require a two-year process in our General Synod, the outcome of which could not be predicted with any certainty.

[Whatever is decided, there will be a process to work through which could take a couple of years; and no-one know what will happen.]

We haven’t got involved in public debate about this. We’ve been asked for our view and we shall give that in a considered manner – believing that the time for public debate comes after.

[We're not saying anything just now; but will comment after the decision has been made.]

However it seems to me that some of the comments from our ecumenical partners in the Catholic Church raise significant issues about how we understand the relationship between church and state – particularly when they suggest that there are certain issues on which a government doesn’t actually have the right to legislate.

[And just to further muddy the waters there is the question of church/state relationships.]

If the Scottish Government was proposing to legislate to enshrine in law discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, colour or race, I would publicly oppose them. But that is not what is being proposed.

 I have often said that I am a supporter of the secular state. If you have experienced a confessional state, you will know why.

[I don't approve of Calvin's 'City of God' - or any other state-imposed religious ideology.]

A secular state should defend religious freedom – but it will not make any assumptions about religious faith nor will it defer to it.

[The state should be detached from, but stand above religious belief albeit with the latter being a protected freedom.]]

We may regret the ‘privatised’ status for religious practice which that implies but that is the society in which we live.

[The current climate requires religious people need to keep their beliefs to themselves.]

If, following the consultation period, the Scottish Government and Parliament feel that they should legislate in this way, I believe that this is their right.

[Government makes the rules.]

The proposals on which we are being consulted make clear that there would be an ‘opt-out’ protection for those who cannot accept this.

[But there should be a freedom of conscience component.]

In practice this means that churches would have to decide whether or not they wished to use or to stand outside the provisions of such legislation.

[Churches will have to make their minds up one of these days on whether or not to hold religious ceremonies for  same-sex marriages.]

See also:
Primus discusses relationship between Church and State
Catholics and the Free Church standing together
Churches response to same-sex consultation

Christians Together, 15/10/2011

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