OPPOSITION to Alex Salmond’s plans to legalise gay marriage grew last night when the Scottish Episcopal Church became the latest religious organisation to oppose holding same-sex wedding ceremonies in its churches.
Less than a week after the Church of Scotland officially registered its objections to same-sex marriage, the Episcopalians released their response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the issue.
In its submission, the Scottish branch of the Anglican communion argued that current Church law would not allow for a civil partnership to be registered through a religious ceremony in an Episcopal church.
Episcopalian canons – or Church law – state 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 as a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God”.
The submission did recognise that some of the Church’s 40,000 or so members would disagree with its view on sex marriage.
But it said that “rites and ceremonies” must at all times be “in accordance” with authorised services of the Church. It added that “current authorised services include liturgies for marriage but not same-sex unions”.
The official response also pointed out that the Episcopalian Church was involved in wider debates with other Anglican churches on how it should deal with homosexuality – suggesting that its view could change in the future.
Yesterday, the Rt Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and Convener of the Faith and Order Board’s working group on the consultation, said: “The canon on marriage is clear in its wording and that has given the working group set up by the Faith and Order Board a common basis on which to discuss the issues raised in the government’s paper. The Church’s current position is that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and this clarity allows us the space to listen to the many differing views held by the members of our Church.”
Dealing with homosexuality has been a vexed issue for the Anglican communion, which, like other denominations, has sought to reconcile the teachings of the Bible with compassion for those in same-sex relationships.
In the past, the Scottish Episcopal Church has been seen to take a relatively more relaxed view of the gay issue when compared to other Anglican churches.
For example, on gay clergy, the Episcopal Church has stated that it has never regarded being in a close relationship with a member of the same sex as a barrier to becoming ordained.
The submission was greeted with dismay from those who would have liked the Church to express a more liberal view. Richard Holloway, the former bishop of Edinburgh and Episcopalian Primus, said: “Personally, I am disappointed. I thought they would have been braver.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our initial view is that same-sex marriage should be introduced, but that faith groups and their celebrants should not be obliged to solemnise same-sex marriage.”