Last month’s passage of the Marriage and Civil Partnership Act into Scots law has prompted a clarification from the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Rt Rev David Chillingworth.
He said: ‘It produces an interesting situation for churches and faith groups who, like the Scottish Episcopal Church, have a historic position expressed in our Canons – or church law – that marriage is between one man and one woman for life. That is our position. We expect our clergy and our members to acknowledge and respect it – even if in some cases they do not agree with it and aspire to change it.’
However, he notes: ‘Churches like the Scottish Episcopal Church are on a journey. We need to examine time-hallowed positions in the context of our understanding of scripture. To change simply because society is changing would lack integrity. But neither can we be unmindful of the reality of what is happening around us. We are open and compassionate people who believe that we are called to serve the world in our time.’
• The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost and Rector of St Mary’s Cathedral and a long-time proponent of same-sex marriage, had this to say about the legislation: ‘The campaign for marriage equality now moves into the churches in Scotland and those churches have a golden opportunity to show that they support equality, support gay and lesbian Christians and support the settled will of lawmakers. Increasingly, support for marriage equality is becoming the touchstone of moral behaviour for decent people.’
• The case against is stated forthrightly by the Rev David Robertson, minister of St Peter’s Free Church in Dundee and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity: ‘The consequences of this will not be a more just, equal and diverse nation. It is part of a general regression to a Greco/Roman/Pagan world view that will lead to increasing disparity between rich and poor, further social control by the elites, and a state imposed morality and intolerance towards all who do not accept it.’
• With same-sex marriage on the agenda for today’s Diocesan Synod, Rev Sydney Maitland explains: ‘Even though the law of the land has changed, discussion on this matter by churches has not been closed down and Christians are not only free but are obliged to consider the issue deeply and in the sight of God.
‘I do not believe that we have the authority to set aside the moral standards of the scriptures, even when it has become fashionable to do so. This is not a matter of being judgmental or prurient, but rather of striving to be fruitful in the manner that Jesus has set before us. To continue in this discussion is not therefore about scoring points but about receiving and applying the sense of the will of God. I do not believe that the church has suddenly discovered something in this area which has been hidden for the last 2000 years.
‘I think we have to pause long and think hard before determining to set aside what is clearly set out in Scripture. I do not consider that the recent legislation is a sufficient mandate to overturn millennia of church practice.’
• Those who want to delve into detailed arguments on this issue might like to watch a vigorous, in-depth debate between David Robertson and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, produced by Revelation TV and available on Youtube.
Also relevant is Archbishop Justin Welby’s presidential address to the Church of England’s General Synod on February 12.
A continuing monitor of news coverage of sexuality and the Church is maintained at ScottishChristian.com.