On 10 June 2016, at the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod, those Anglican followers of Jesus in Scotland who are biblically orthodox on marriage made the positive case for keeping Canon 31 as it is. This would have maintained marriage as “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.”
At last year’s Synod, we supported a costly compromise solution which would have provided opportunities to support same-sex couples, without changing the wording of the canon. Many of us could have lived with this. Sadly, Synod chose to reject this option, instead going for the most radical choice possible, and in the process, choosing to walk apart and damaging the unity of the Province and the Anglican Communion.
The new wording of the canon means that, for now, clergy consciences are protected and that no-one will have to conduct a same-sex marriage. We participated in the discussions which produced that wording to ensure that those with no other option but to submit to the new regime might have the maximum protection allowed. Graciously, this was accepted. However, it also means that we as a Church believe two different things about marriage and it will, over time lead to an attrition of those who hold to the view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. This concern is summed up in the axiom of the late Father Richard Neuhaus, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed”.
We know that many in our church will be rejoicing in this new direction. There are many others who are in deep pain, including those in our churches who are attracted to the same-sex but who hold an orthodox view of marriage. Some of us will need to consider what future can be had in a church which is abandoning its claim to being part of the one holy Catholic and apostolic church.
We are grateful for the theological, practical and prayer support which we have received from within Scotland and around the world. We now ask for the orthodox leaders of the Anglican Communion to stand with us and pray for us as we discern what the next steps should be.
The Lord sent prophets to call the people back from their disobedience. Their repeated call was to return to the one who loves them. Mercifully, he still makes that call to us today.
“‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
Joel 2:12-13, NIVUK