Tag Archives: Equal marriage

Defective articles and the Love of God⤴

from @ blethers

I've been catching up on an unread bit of a Sunday paper, and found an interview with actor James McCardle. In the light of what I've been involved in recently, this struck me:
People who live a heteronormative life might feel they are free but until we life a life that includes equality of sexuality, gender, equality of class, equality of race then no-one is free.
There's no freedom at all unless there is freedom for all. I understand there have to be labels when there is still a fight to be had, but that shift has to be cultural and it's never going to work if you keep dividing people.
Yes, you say - or do you? Not yet, it seems, if you're a certain kind of church member. And it pains me, as a member of the church for the past 44 years, to have to say that. Especially after the relief many of us felt when my own denomination (and yes - that's another division) decided at last to remove the barriers to equal marriage in our churches. And then it came to deciding where these marriages would be celebrated.

I don't want to go into agonising detail of my latest discoveries - the how, the when. But I want to ask a question. What in God's name is going on in the minds of the people - and I think and pray that indeed they are a minority - who stand, grimly or miserably, in the way, barring the use of "their" church buildings for the celebration of a same-sex marriage?

"It's the word 'marriage'" they insist. It means a man and a woman."

I can think, as my mind flounders in the face of their intransigence, of two things that I didn't get the chance adequately to point out. The first is that such a meaning of the word is but one of four in the quite elderly Concise Oxford that I consulted. The second is that it's a word. Not the Word of God, whatever I believe that to be, just a word. A different word in all the languages of the world, from the close relations of the Latin languages to the intricacies of Russian ... and take a look at this, from an excellent blog:
The word «брак», of course, has another meaning in addition to “marriage”. Its second meaning is “defective articles, discards”. While some marriages do end up discarded, the two «брак»s are not linguistically related.
Language is fascinating, but if I were to enter into any such detail in conversation I'd be accused of being intimidatingly clever, far too fluent for my own good. But for anyone to bar the way to an equal sharing in the love of God in the poor house that we humans have built to gather so that we can feel we are together in sharing that love, for anyone to use a pathetic, human concept, expressed in language that humans have made in order to communicate with each other as an excuse to reserve that space for their own selfish use - is that of God? We don't even need to use language in our deepest communication with what we call God - God who knows the secret of our hearts...

So I'll put it simply:

Language is not of God.
Love is of God.


A cold collation …⤴

from @ blethers

The weather wasn't promising. Snow yesterday and a cold night - a typical recipe for a stressful cold coming to church in the morning, with the added complication of visitors driving over from Rothesay and the Bishop and Mrs Bishop making the journey from Oban. Verily a recipe for an anticlimax, if not a disaster. But the county gritters had seen to the roads and our heroic Priest-in-charge-now-our-Rector had cleared the drive so that even the most timid could get to church for the service that would collate Andrew as our Rector. (This was a new word for me, in this context: given the weather and the temperature inside the building I could only think of a cold collation that might be served if one turned up late at Downton Abbey - but I wander).

It was joyful to hear +Kevin tell us that we were a sign of the promise that we could be the instruments of our own change, that we had achieved what had seemed impossible and were a shining example, etc, etc ... and as I sat there I did think back to the days of doom and gloom and no money and doors that would shut forever after seven years, though mostly I thought that if we'd been less fortunate in getting this curate who used to design battleships then we might well have sunk without a trace. (That seems a suitable collocation of ideas, as opposed to a collation ...)

And there was another joyful thing. Yesterday - and on Friday, when the leak first escaped that the Episcopal Church in the USA was to be rapped on the knuckles for its acceptance of same-sex marriage, when the less well-informed press were announcing that they'd been kicked out for being naughty - yesterday I wasn't looking forward to today, much - didn't feel happy in my Anglican shoes, as it were. But then I arrived in the church, already pretty full of our own flock and the intrepid Rothesay people with whom we share our Rector - and found that all around I could see people were wearing badges. Not little, discreet lapel pins, but big, bright protest-style badges, courtesy of Kelvin, like the one I was wearing, like the one I'd given to Mr B to pin on his scarf (leather jackets and pins don't go well together). Badges like the ones in the photo. And I felt at one with the world - or at least the world in our part of it.

Because that's the point. There is no way a community can rejoice and congratulate itself and share fellowship if it is silently complicit in an injustice to not only many of its members but also countless other human beings who only want equality and justice. But I'd say enough of us are in this together to make rejoicing a possibility. 

It was a good day in this part of the diocese. A good day.



A cold collation …⤴

from @ blethers

The weather wasn't promising. Snow yesterday and a cold night - a typical recipe for a stressful cold coming to church in the morning, with the added complication of visitors driving over from Rothesay and the Bishop and Mrs Bishop making the journey from Oban. Verily a recipe for an anticlimax, if not a disaster. But the county gritters had seen to the roads and our heroic Priest-in-charge-now-our-Rector had cleared the drive so that even the most timid could get to church for the service that would collate Andrew as our Rector. (This was a new word for me, in this context: given the weather and the temperature inside the building I could only think of a cold collation that might be served if one turned up late at Downton Abbey - but I wander).

It was joyful to hear +Kevin tell us that we were a sign of the promise that we could be the instruments of our own change, that we had achieved what had seemed impossible and were a shining example, etc, etc ... and as I sat there I did think back to the days of doom and gloom and no money and doors that would shut forever after seven years, though mostly I thought that if we'd been less fortunate in getting this curate who used to design battleships then we might well have sunk without a trace. (That seems a suitable collocation of ideas, as opposed to a collation ...)

And there was another joyful thing. Yesterday - and on Friday, when the leak first escaped that the Episcopal Church in the USA was to be rapped on the knuckles for its acceptance of same-sex marriage, when the less well-informed press were announcing that they'd been kicked out for being naughty - yesterday I wasn't looking forward to today, much - didn't feel happy in my Anglican shoes, as it were. But then I arrived in the church, already pretty full of our own flock and the intrepid Rothesay people with whom we share our Rector - and found that all around I could see people were wearing badges. Not little, discreet lapel pins, but big, bright protest-style badges, courtesy of Kelvin, like the one I was wearing, like the one I'd given to Mr B to pin on his scarf (leather jackets and pins don't go well together). Badges like the ones in the photo. And I felt at one with the world - or at least the world in our part of it.

Because that's the point. There is no way a community can rejoice and congratulate itself and share fellowship if it is silently complicit in an injustice to not only many of its members but also countless other human beings who only want equality and justice. But I'd say enough of us are in this together to make rejoicing a possibility. 

It was a good day in this part of the diocese. A good day.



Tea-parties and bigotry⤴

from @ blethers

I've just been reading a most unedifying church magazine. It's called SATNav, and purports to help the good people of Ayr to navigate the life and witness of Holy Trinity Church in the centre of that town. The very first item is, unsurprisingly, the Rector's letter, which begins thus:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3: 16
The July/August edition of SAT Nav contained a press release about The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision to move, over the forthcoming two General Synods, toward the introduction of same-sex marriage being permitted within the SEC’s churches. I thought it appropriate that I let you know my views on this matter…

... And then he reveals that he has signed the declaration of the statement of the Scottish Episcopal Evangelical Fellowship issued shortly after General Synod. This states:
In contrast to [the decision of General Synod to "delete any reference to marriage as being between a and a woman"], we reaffirm the doctrine of marriage as given in the Old Testament in Genesis 2:24, reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and by Paul in Ephesians 5:31 - ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’

At the end of the statement, he invites people to add their names to it by email. Lest they should hesitate over this step, he adds:
What General Synod has done then, is not only to take a major departure from authentic Biblical Christianity as practised by the overwhelming majority of churches worldwide, but to hasten the decline and possible final extinction of the SEC.

He backs all this up with this sweeping assertion:
As the SEEF statement makes clear above, God’s wish since the dawning of time for all humanity is that marriage between one man and one woman is the only place for sex to take place and that everyone else, irrespective of their sexual orientation, should lead a life of celibacy. That is because, in God’s design, through marriage, men and women are meant to complement one another in many ways, not just for reasons of procreation; ways that are just not possible in same-sex relationships.

I become terribly worried when people assert that they know God's wishes in this fashion. We could all do that, could we not? No. Surely such dogmatic insistence trivialises belief. For Christians like me, only one command comes through with that kind of clarity, and that is the demand that we love one another as God has loved us. Heaven knows, that's hard enough without adding man-made conditions (and yes, I mean man-made).

We are then assured that there will be no same-sex marriages in his incumbency, but that anyone who comes to the church will be loved and cared for regardless ... etc etc. Presumably his flock will conveniently forget that they will only experience this care up to a certain point - or might indeed simply note that no priest in the SEC is allowed at the moment to conduct such ceremonies and wonder what he's going on about.

The letter ends thus:
As a church, ahead of forthcoming Diocesan and General Synods, there will be plenty of opportunity to further discuss General Synod’s decision.

On an entirely different subject, I am looking forward to the Holy Trinity tea parties we'll be hosting at the rectory and in members’ homes from this month. (You'll find more about this on the back page.)

If you read my blog post of yesterday - which I wrote about an hour before seeing the above - you will know that the scones and stereotypes kind of mission is alive and well in Ayr, but that's a wry comment rather than the main point of my putting all this stuff here. What I'm asking is this: How would you feel if this arrived in your inbox, as a member of Holy Trinity Ayr? What happened to all the thoughtful discussion that went on at Synod? What happened to the care for ministry to all  that would prevent a rector from coming out with such a bold statement of personal prejudice? Did he, I wonder, tell the vestry who appointed him that he was mired in the first century and would admit of no further growth in understanding?

He refers to the imminent demise of the church if it chooses to remove the clause about men and women from the canon on marriage. Does he know that that specificity was a recent addition to the canon?

But I'm becoming incoherent. I'm putting this stuff here because I am realising what we're up against when it comes to moving forward in the church I want to remain in. The person who forwarded the newsletter to me did so with the comment that now I would know why she was never going back to Holy Trinity Ayr. She's not a stereotypical agitator - she's a straight woman in her 60s who is furious. How is she being ministered to? She can't just go down the road and find another church - it's not easy when a team rector's influence covers a wide geographical area.

I know how fortunate I am at the moment. My local church is ministered to by a thoughtful, forward-looking priest who is careful to take everyone with him and who thinks about the consequences of his words. This could change in the future, for clergy move on. But to my mind, tea-parties and bigotry make up the poison that is eating at the credibility of our church, and if numbers indeed flock to hear their ignorant prejudices confirmed on a weekly basis it's not a church that I want to have any part of.

So - a sour note to start the week after the exuberant joy of Saturday. God help us.

Tea-parties and bigotry⤴

from @ blethers

I've just been reading a most unedifying church magazine. It's called SATNav, and purports to help the good people of Ayr to navigate the life and witness of Holy Trinity Church in the centre of that town. The very first item is, unsurprisingly, the Rector's letter, which begins thus:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3: 16
The July/August edition of SAT Nav contained a press release about The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision to move, over the forthcoming two General Synods, toward the introduction of same-sex marriage being permitted within the SEC’s churches. I thought it appropriate that I let you know my views on this matter…

... And then he reveals that he has signed the declaration of the statement of the Scottish Episcopal Evangelical Fellowship issued shortly after General Synod. This states:
In contrast to [the decision of General Synod to "delete any reference to marriage as being between a and a woman"], we reaffirm the doctrine of marriage as given in the Old Testament in Genesis 2:24, reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and by Paul in Ephesians 5:31 - ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’

At the end of the statement, he invites people to add their names to it by email. Lest they should hesitate over this step, he adds:
What General Synod has done then, is not only to take a major departure from authentic Biblical Christianity as practised by the overwhelming majority of churches worldwide, but to hasten the decline and possible final extinction of the SEC.

He backs all this up with this sweeping assertion:
As the SEEF statement makes clear above, God’s wish since the dawning of time for all humanity is that marriage between one man and one woman is the only place for sex to take place and that everyone else, irrespective of their sexual orientation, should lead a life of celibacy. That is because, in God’s design, through marriage, men and women are meant to complement one another in many ways, not just for reasons of procreation; ways that are just not possible in same-sex relationships.

I become terribly worried when people assert that they know God's wishes in this fashion. We could all do that, could we not? No. Surely such dogmatic insistence trivialises belief. For Christians like me, only one command comes through with that kind of clarity, and that is the demand that we love one another as God has loved us. Heaven knows, that's hard enough without adding man-made conditions (and yes, I mean man-made).

We are then assured that there will be no same-sex marriages in his incumbency, but that anyone who comes to the church will be loved and cared for regardless ... etc etc. Presumably his flock will conveniently forget that they will only experience this care up to a certain point - or might indeed simply note that no priest in the SEC is allowed at the moment to conduct such ceremonies and wonder what he's going on about.

The letter ends thus:
As a church, ahead of forthcoming Diocesan and General Synods, there will be plenty of opportunity to further discuss General Synod’s decision.

On an entirely different subject, I am looking forward to the Holy Trinity tea parties we'll be hosting at the rectory and in members’ homes from this month. (You'll find more about this on the back page.)

If you read my blog post of yesterday - which I wrote about an hour before seeing the above - you will know that the scones and stereotypes kind of mission is alive and well in Ayr, but that's a wry comment rather than the main point of my putting all this stuff here. What I'm asking is this: How would you feel if this arrived in your inbox, as a member of Holy Trinity Ayr? What happened to all the thoughtful discussion that went on at Synod? What happened to the care for ministry to all  that would prevent a rector from coming out with such a bold statement of personal prejudice? Did he, I wonder, tell the vestry who appointed him that he was mired in the first century and would admit of no further growth in understanding?

He refers to the imminent demise of the church if it chooses to remove the clause about men and women from the canon on marriage. Does he know that that specificity was a recent addition to the canon?

But I'm becoming incoherent. I'm putting this stuff here because I am realising what we're up against when it comes to moving forward in the church I want to remain in. The person who forwarded the newsletter to me did so with the comment that now I would know why she was never going back to Holy Trinity Ayr. She's not a stereotypical agitator - she's a straight woman in her 60s who is furious. How is she being ministered to? She can't just go down the road and find another church - it's not easy when a team rector's influence covers a wide geographical area.

I know how fortunate I am at the moment. My local church is ministered to by a thoughtful, forward-looking priest who is careful to take everyone with him and who thinks about the consequences of his words. This could change in the future, for clergy move on. But to my mind, tea-parties and bigotry make up the poison that is eating at the credibility of our church, and if numbers indeed flock to hear their ignorant prejudices confirmed on a weekly basis it's not a church that I want to have any part of.

So - a sour note to start the week after the exuberant joy of Saturday. God help us.

Tea-parties and bigotry⤴

from @ blethers

I've just been reading a most unedifying church magazine. It's called SATNav, and purports to help the good people of Ayr to navigate the life and witness of Holy Trinity Church in the centre of that town. The very first item is, unsurprisingly, the Rector's letter, which begins thus:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3: 16
The July/August edition of SAT Nav contained a press release about The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision to move, over the forthcoming two General Synods, toward the introduction of same-sex marriage being permitted within the SEC’s churches. I thought it appropriate that I let you know my views on this matter…

... And then he reveals that he has signed the declaration of the statement of the Scottish Episcopal Evangelical Fellowship issued shortly after General Synod. This states:
In contrast to [the decision of General Synod to "delete any reference to marriage as being between a and a woman"], we reaffirm the doctrine of marriage as given in the Old Testament in Genesis 2:24, reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and by Paul in Ephesians 5:31 - ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’

At the end of the statement, he invites people to add their names to it by email. Lest they should hesitate over this step, he adds:
What General Synod has done then, is not only to take a major departure from authentic Biblical Christianity as practised by the overwhelming majority of churches worldwide, but to hasten the decline and possible final extinction of the SEC.

He backs all this up with this sweeping assertion:
As the SEEF statement makes clear above, God’s wish since the dawning of time for all humanity is that marriage between one man and one woman is the only place for sex to take place and that everyone else, irrespective of their sexual orientation, should lead a life of celibacy. That is because, in God’s design, through marriage, men and women are meant to complement one another in many ways, not just for reasons of procreation; ways that are just not possible in same-sex relationships.

I become terribly worried when people assert that they know God's wishes in this fashion. We could all do that, could we not? No. Surely such dogmatic insistence trivialises belief. For Christians like me, only one command comes through with that kind of clarity, and that is the demand that we love one another as God has loved us. Heaven knows, that's hard enough without adding man-made conditions (and yes, I mean man-made).

We are then assured that there will be no same-sex marriages in his incumbency, but that anyone who comes to the church will be loved and cared for regardless ... etc etc. Presumably his flock will conveniently forget that they will only experience this care up to a certain point - or might indeed simply note that no priest in the SEC is allowed at the moment to conduct such ceremonies and wonder what he's going on about.

The letter ends thus:
As a church, ahead of forthcoming Diocesan and General Synods, there will be plenty of opportunity to further discuss General Synod’s decision.

On an entirely different subject, I am looking forward to the Holy Trinity tea parties we'll be hosting at the rectory and in members’ homes from this month. (You'll find more about this on the back page.)

If you read my blog post of yesterday - which I wrote about an hour before seeing the above - you will know that the scones and stereotypes kind of mission is alive and well in Ayr, but that's a wry comment rather than the main point of my putting all this stuff here. What I'm asking is this: How would you feel if this arrived in your inbox, as a member of Holy Trinity Ayr? What happened to all the thoughtful discussion that went on at Synod? What happened to the care for ministry to all  that would prevent a rector from coming out with such a bold statement of personal prejudice? Did he, I wonder, tell the vestry who appointed him that he was mired in the first century and would admit of no further growth in understanding?

He refers to the imminent demise of the church if it chooses to remove the clause about men and women from the canon on marriage. Does he know that that specificity was a recent addition to the canon?

But I'm becoming incoherent. I'm putting this stuff here because I am realising what we're up against when it comes to moving forward in the church I want to remain in. The person who forwarded the newsletter to me did so with the comment that now I would know why she was never going back to Holy Trinity Ayr. She's not a stereotypical agitator - she's a straight woman in her 60s who is furious. How is she being ministered to? She can't just go down the road and find another church - it's not easy when a team rector's influence covers a wide geographical area.

I know how fortunate I am at the moment. My local church is ministered to by a thoughtful, forward-looking priest who is careful to take everyone with him and who thinks about the consequences of his words. This could change in the future, for clergy move on. But to my mind, tea-parties and bigotry make up the poison that is eating at the credibility of our church, and if numbers indeed flock to hear their ignorant prejudices confirmed on a weekly basis it's not a church that I want to have any part of.

So - a sour note to start the week after the exuberant joy of Saturday. God help us.

There, then, you have it. Synod recalled in tranquillity.⤴

from @ blethers


We used to have an English teacher, a formal, pin-suited, begowned sort of chap, who was in the habit of saying "There, then, you have it" at the conclusion of any discussion. It's the phrase that comes into my head as I sit down to recall the events of last week's General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, perhaps because in all likelihood it will be my last. If it is, I'm glad I made it so far; glad I was able to make a contribution to the effort to move my church forward in its recognition of the diversity and sanctity of human relationships. Others - notably Kelvin and Beth - have been much quicker off the mark, blogging in the evening what had happened during each day; I blame the fact that I only had my phone with me to excuse my failure to do more than tweet at the time.

It began, really, with the motion showing on the screen in the photo. There were other motions that seemed more promising, but this was the starting point. We'd all (I hope) read the Doctrine Committee's lengthy report, and receiving it was a start. The thing was that every time - were there three times in all? - the issue came up, people debated. Some contributed considerable points; others expressed bitterness. There were clearly people who felt that their traditional stance was no longer being given a chance - and believe me, it was traditional. I worry when someone says with calm certainty that they know what God wants. But there were also contributions on the side of change delivered in the measured tones of compassion and reason - words spoken by people I have grown to respect and admire - and I could feel a change in the atmosphere as we moved towards the vote that would result in Synod's deciding to ask the Doctrine Committee to remove the first section of Canon 31. ( 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.) Apparently - and I hadn't realised it - this section dates only from 1980 or thereabouts, and was inserted by the last Provincial Synod, of which I was possibly the youngest member, after the debate on the remarriage in church of divorced persons. I well recall that debate; it seemed such a big thing at the time.

You can read more details in other places. Don't come to me for details. I'm inside my memories now, and they're not especially precise. At the end of the first day's debate, I spoke on the nature of marriage in relation to the idea of man and wife being one flesh. That makes it sound measured, considered - "I spoke". But it wasn't like that. I was prompted to my feet when someone said something that I couldn't let pass, and then sat there waiting my turn with nothing in my head but scraps of Shakespeare - Hamlet saying "Husband and wife are one flesh; therefore my mother ...". I didn't know how I would begin, even, until I stood up. And then it came, and I said my piece fluently and I enjoyed saying it (I love a microphone) and people clapped. The following day I was bowled over by the words of another woman of my own generation - and people clapped. A bishop made it clear that sexual ambiguity is in all of us, and did so by recounting his own experience, and the silence as we listened was one in which I felt that something hugely hopeful had come into our midst.

But when later that day the votes were counted, there was no applause. No-one punched the air, and the sense was one of relief rather than triumph. It was as if none of us dared to believe that after all these years the church had taken the first hesitant step towards recognising that the God we believe in made us all the way we are. I was aware of tension lifted; there were tears from those that in the end we had been discussing all those years. There was a knot of people sitting together who had voted against the motion and against the idea. Their faces were tight, expressionless. It will be hard for them, though not, in my opinion, as hard as it has been all those years for the excluded and the patronised, those who, like all of us, have no choice in the matter of their sexuality.

One thing seemed to lurk like a cloud on a sunny day, and that was the defeat of the Rule 10 motion on Saturday. In a house depleted of those who didn't attend on the last morning, a majority wanted to discuss the possibility that the bishops would look again at their decree that no-one in an equal marriage could be considered for ordination.* But it was not the required 2/3 majority, so we didn't even get to discuss why they might decide to let it stand. I know that at least one bishop voted for the motion, but the Primus did not. Oh yes, there's a kind of logic to this apparent failure of logic: the change to Canon 31 will take over 2 years to become law, and has to pass through two readings and debate at diocesan level before it can do so - therefore let's not pre-empt the outcome by even thinking about changing our minds on this one. No hope held out, then, to someone in a same-sex marriage who might long to put herself forward for consideration and training; they will have to wait even longer.

It must be tough being the chairman of the board, the Primus inter Pares (first among equals) who has to front the decisions and - presumably - carry the can for whatever goes wrong. The Primus presumably doesn't want further to dislocate the noses of those who are sure we're all heading to hell in a handcart. But at least one of his equals felt we should be discussing further thought, and I thank God for him and for all the brave souls who have spoken selflessly and thoughtfully for change. It is they who inspire confidence in our church and its future.

Despite that last-minute barrier to change, it is once more a church to which I feel able to belong with joy.


*As has been pointed out elsewhere, you can apparently be considered for ordination if you are in a civil partnership, or merely quietly getting on with whatever arrangements you like to make for yourself. It's marriage that's the bar.

Crisis? What crisis?⤴

from @ blethers



In what has been described as the biggest crisis to engulf it in living memory, over 50 Scottish Episcopalian Church (SEC) clergy – around one in six – have signed a letter condemning the stance of their bishops over same-sex marriage.

 Gosh. Two pieces in the paper - The Herald, even - in one week. Almost as good as the SNP ... But I get ahead of myself. Normally the Scottish Episcopal Church doesn't generate much news, but what the Bishops' Statement on Equal Marriage started in Wednesday's paper rumbled on into the weekend with a new story, the tale of an insurrection in the ranks.

 It's this word 'crisis' that interests me. For a start, it's a crisis that hasn't engulfed an awful lot of the worshippers that turned out this morning - the conversations I've had on the subject could be numbered on the fingers of one hand, and these were all with interested parties or senior clergy. But I know all about it, I've been part of the process that - surprisingly - ended up in this odd place, and I simply don't feel it's a crisis. Quite the reverse.

The fact that a good number of clergy - and, as the paper points out, a good proportion of those serving the church - have seen fit to think for themselves and say No, this is not what we think right, and have felt sufficiently confident in their own minds to stand up and be counted, this is not a crisis. This is a high point. This is exciting. This is the SEC doing what its own publicity says it does. 

When I posted the letter here the other day, I said I was proud of the signatories. I'm still proud. And I'm proud to belong to a church that numbers such people among its leaders. I'm thrilled that suddenly we're talking about the elephant in the room, and that conversations - real conversations, not this ridiculously neutered Cascade malarkey - are beginning to happen in real life, in churches, in sitting rooms, and not just on social media. We're showing that our faith can actually inform our decisions, guide our words, make us brave. We're showing that we can think for ourselves, as mature Christians who recognise that a great historical mistake is in danger of being perpetuated.

What I'm looking for now is some brave leadership from the top, from the Bishops who are supposed to provide a focus for this thoughtful and courageous process. It's still not too late for these men to recover some moral authority by showing some of the courage that their priests and lay leaders have demonstrated. 

And then the papers can stop talking about crisis and talk about joy instead. 

A letter to the Bishops⤴

from @ blethers


The following letter speaks for itself. I am proud of the signatories, and proud to add my name by posting it here.

Dear Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church,

We read with dismay the Guidance for Clergy and Lay Readers in the light of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

We appreciate that we are bound by the law, and that until our canons are changed, we cannot legally perform same-sex marriages. However, we are disappointed by both the timing and the tone of the document. We have been urged by you to enter into ‘cascade conversations’ in a spirit of open and sensitive listening with people of all views on this matter. This document only makes this process much harder for us, even impossible for some. Far from acknowledging the reality of differing experience and views in the church, it gives the impression of a definitive answer to the question we have yet to discuss or debate. The document ought to make it clear that the restrictions it describes may be temporary, if the church decides to change its canons. Because of the confusion created by this document, we now believe that such canonical change should be decided in Synod as soon as possible.

But we were especially dismayed by the section of the document which refers to clergy, lay readers, and ordinands, should they be in a same-sex relationship and wish to be married. In particular, we find the warnings to ordinands, both currently training and those who might be training in the future, to be unrepresentative of the generous and communal characteristics of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Even though our church has not yet agreed to solemnise same-sex marriages, they will nevertheless become a civil institution which we will recognise like everyone else under the law. It is our firm belief therefore that any prohibition on obtaining a civil marriage is outwith the moral and canonical authority of a bishop.

We acknowledge that this process is one which creates anxiety for all church leaders, and bishops in particular. We empathise with the difficult situation that you as bishops are in, and reaffirm our desire to support you in your leadership of our church, and as fellow members of it.

Nevertheless, some of us are now uncomfortable about solemnising marriages at all until such time as all can be treated equally, and all of us will continue to feel morally compromised in our ministries, and wish to make clear our continuing commitment to affirm and support all people in our church, and to recognise and rejoice in all marriages, of whatever sexual orientation, as true signs of the love of God in Christ.

Yours sincerely,
Revd Carrie Applegath,
Revd Philip Blackledge,
Revd Maurice Houston,
Revd Canon John McLuckie,
Revd Canon Ian Paton,
Revd Kate Reynolds,
Revd Martin Robson,
Revd Malcolm Aldcroft,
Dr Darlene Bird (lay reader),
Revd Jim Benton-Evans,
Revd Cedric L. Blakey,
Revd Andrew Bowyer,
Revd Canon Bill Brockie,
Revd Tony Bryer,
Revd Steve Butler,
Revd Christine Barclay,
Revd Lynsay M Downes,
Revd Markus Dünzkofer,
Revd Canon Anne Dyer,
Revd Janet Dyer,
Revd Jennifer Edie,
Revd John L Evans,
Revd Samantha Ferguson,
The Revd Canon Zachary Fleetwood,
Kennedy Fraser,
Revd Kirstin Freeman,
Revd Frances Forshaw,
Revd Ruth Green,
Revd Bob Gould,
Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth,
Revd Ruth Innes,
Revd Ken Webb,
Rev’d Canon Mel Langille,
Revd Kenny Macaulay,
Revd Simon Mackenzie,
Revd Duncan MacLaren,
Very Revd Nikki McNelly,
Very Revd Jim Mein,
Revd Nicola Moll,
Revd Bryan Owen,
Revd Canon Clifford Piper,
Revd Donald Reid,
Revd Colin Reed,
Revd Canon John Richardson,
Revd Malcolm Richardson,
The Revd Gareth J M Saunders,
Very Revd Alison J Simpson,
Very Revd Andrew Swift,
Kate Sainsbury (lay reader),
Patsy Thomson (lay reader),
Prof Revd Annalu Waller

Of straight talking and overturning tables⤴

from @ blethers

Over the past 40-odd years I've found myself back in the position in the choir stalls of Cathedral of The Isles which gives this view - the sunlight from the stained glass colouring the marble of the pillar, the corona of candles that we weren't allowed to light when I was young lest wax fall on the floor. That has changed - we seem to cope with the wax these days - but nothing else does, and it's a peaceful vision for me to sustain the mind's eye as I write. I am not, you understand, in Cumbrae right now, and if I were I would not be able to sing a note, suffering as I am from a cold that has more or less silenced me ...

Perhaps that's why I'm blogging again - the frustration of not being able to speak, the space to read what people are writing and to reflect for myself. And I've been thinking some more about this absurd position I find myself in, belonging all these years to a church which is now, I believe, shutting itself off from the message of the gospels as firmly as it is shutting itself off from society. Yes, I'm thinking about the Equal Marriage situation, but I'm not going to go on about it right now.

What bothers me is that my years in the church have brought me into contact with so many people whom I like and feel concern for. My choice - made in this very spot I've pictured - to go along with the sudden conviction that what I'd been singing about and hearing about had meaning for me, a choice that led to confirmation and all the tortuous journey that has followed since, now lands me in a place where I can't just let it go, let people think it's ok to set up talking shops and to procrastinate and hope that the problem might dangle quietly till it's no longer their responsibility, let my period of involvement in the wider church end without doing my best to make a difference. And that's probably going to land me in a jaggy place, where either I will offend people I would prefer to have with me, or I will be deeply pissed off by their being patronising or dismissive.

When I was in my 30s, I felt very new and very inexperienced in the governing bodies of the church. (I'm talking the Scottish Episcopal Church, for any new reader who stumbles on this). I listened to elegant cassock-clad figures (one with Dundrearies adorning his aquiline features) and wondered at the enthusiasm for rewriting canons just so. The man sitting next to me took snuff periodically, and I felt I was living in a dream. Sometimes, it struck me that these men who were running the show were less than kind to one another, and I wondered about that. They did it so ... subtly. I found it illuminating, but I had little to say for myself. Half a lifetime later, I know most of the people who tell us what's what. I have opinions of my own. And sometimes I want to speak plainly. I want to use the language I would use in my professional life, I want there to be no doubt and no obfuscation. Only thing is, people often find that difficult. Aggressive, even. Not ... nice.

I spent some time every year of my teaching career on that word "nice", so I'm using it here with a heavy dose of irony, using it in the way I taught generations of pupils not to use it, using it to point out what I think is wrong with the church right now. Think of the things that are not "nice" in church circles and you'll see what I mean. And then think of what "being nice" entails in the way of not saying exactly what you mean, of hiding behind words and platitudes and pious expressions of brotherhood, of not upsetting people.

And then remember that it probably wasn't "nice" to have your table overturned and your money scattered over the ground - and wonder what has become of the church that follows the man who overturned the tables. Society has got there before us, I fear.