Statement to the All Saints congregation by Rev Sydney Maitland in response to alterations to Canon 31 to permit the solemnisation in church of same-sex marriage. (Please refer to an update on 9 July 2017 at the end of the statement.)
You will have heard that the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has agreed to amend Canon 31, which concerns the solemnisation of marriage, to delete the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. This amendment would permit the conduct of marriages in church between persons of the same sex.
The amended canon recognises that not all clergy will, for matters of conscience, be willing to conduct such ceremonies. Moreover, clergy willing to conduct such ceremonies must be referred by their bishop to the Registrar General for Scotland.
In this way the canon accepts that not all clergy are in a position to accept the moral, spiritual or theological reasoning behind this canonical amendment. To this extent the canon accepts that some clergy may no longer be able to accept the canons of the church as they now stand.
The effects of this change to the canons is therefore to exclude me from the provisions of that canon in regulating the life of the church, and this is by no act of my own. As you know I have spoken out against this innovation, and yet I am now placed in a state of fractured or even broken fellowship and communion with those parts of the church which support or implement the canon as now amended.
Jesus’ moral standards are very high and he expects us to repent when we do not live up to them. This innovation steps outside the established norms of the undivided church of which the Scottish Episcopal Church has always been proud to be a member. The effect of this innovation is to establish a state of impaired communion for those clergy and people who wish to remain loyal to the traditional teaching and practice of the undivided church. As a member of Forward in Faith (Scotland), I am continuing to seek an acceptable level of pastoral care within the church of my baptism and confirmation.
Some clergy and congregations are seeking an alternative episcopal oversight from bishops of conventional faith and doctrine, and may leave the fellowship of the Scottish Episcopal Church. As a member of Forward in Faith (Scotland), I am part of a process of seeking a proper form of episcopal oversight within the Episcopal Church, but from a bishop not associated with the implementation of this canon. In this respect it is considered that notification to the Registrar General for Scotland of Scotland of clergy willing to conduct such ceremonies is an administrative rather than a pastoral or theological matter.
I therefore hope and pray that all in All Saints will join me in seeking a way forward to remain within the undivided church and under a godly episcopal supervision.
Update on 9 July 2017. Rev Sydney Maitland writes:
Following my statement to the congregation on 11 June, directly after the meeting of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church which had determined to amend the Canons of the Church to permit same-sex marriage, Bishop Gregor invited me to meet him to discuss certain aspects of that statement.
In particular, he was concerned at my relation to himself as bishop and wished me to confirm my standing under his episcopal oversight.
I confirm that I regard him as my bishop and I have no desire to take All Saints out of the Scottish Episcopal Church. I am particularly mindful that notwithstanding the 60% of the congregation who reject same-sex marriage, I remain priest to the 40% who do not. I fully accept my Bishop’s ministry and am happy to do so and I wish to continue as priest in the charge of All Saints under the Bishop’s oversight.