The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop Mark Strange, has briefed his fellow Anglican primates on the decision of his church’s General Synod to permit same-sex marriage. In doing so, he told them that he recognised that his church will now face that “consequences” as those facing the US-based Episcopal Church.
The primates, gathered in Canterbury Cathedral, England, spent an hour discussing the decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change its canon on marriage. The discussion took place on the second day of the week-long primates’ meeting.
Confirming that the “consequences” that were applied to the US-based Episcopal Church now also applied to the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told reporters on Tuesday evening: “Bishop Mark said in his opening presentation that he expected that to happen and accepted that it would. It is left in my hands to follow that through and it will be followed through as I did after the Primates’ Meeting of 2016.”
Archbishop Welby confirmed that no vote was taken by the Primates, explaining that it is unusual for formal votes to be taken at Primates’ Meetings. There was a “consensus” he said.
Describing the discussions, Archbishop Welby said: “We talked about things this afternoon of huge importance. . . People were disappointed. They were angry. But it was a very different mood to many previous Primates’ Meetings. It was more of a family that is having to face the fact that something has happened that is causing grief than a club that doesn’t like one of its members.
“We were quite clear - people were very clear about how disappointed they were. But I think the mood in the room – and how I will feel – is just grieved that one has to do things that no one likes – that I don’t like – doing. You want people to be united, joyful, celebrating together.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) explained that Bishop Strange told the primates that the decision by his Church’s Synod recognised that “there are different understandings of marriage and that no member of clergy is compelled to conduct any marriage against their conscience. Only those clergy who wish to solemnise marriages of same gender couples will be nominated to the civil authorities for authorisation to do so.”
Bishop Strange said: “In June the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to change its Canon on Marriage. This decision was ours to take as a self-governing province of the Anglican Communion.
“However, I recognise that this decision is one that has caused some hurt and anger in parts of the Anglican Communion and that the decision taken at the last Primates’ Meeting, which was to exclude our brothers and sisters in the [US-based] Episcopal Church from debate on doctrine and from chairing Anglican Communion committees, is a decision that now also pertains to us.
“We will continue to play our part in the Anglican Communion we helped to establish, and I will do all I can to rebuild relationships, but that will be done from the position our Church has now reached in accordance with its synodical processes and in the belief that love means love.”
In his briefing to reporters, Archbishop Justin said that some primates had raised the question on whether the “consequences” decided by the Primates at their meeting in 2016 on the US-based Episcopal Church had been followed through.
“I went through what we have done and they were satisfied,” he said. “I think I can show very clearly that everything that was decided that could be carried out was carried out.”
He said that the primates raised two “confusions” over the decision:
“One was that the Episcopal Church . . . was at the Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in Lusaka last year. Of course the ACC is a Trust under English law. They are members of that trust. In fact one of them at the time, although he has stepped down, was a trustee. I have no power to overrule English law and say they can’t come. And so that was explained. I don’t think that had been fully understood.
“The other was asking why the Presiding Bishop of TEC was on the task group looking at walking together. When you look at the wording of what was decided last time it was perfectly clear that there needed to be a conversation, a dialogue, about what it meant. And you clearly can’t have a conversation when you only have one group in the room.
“Talking to people over dinner last night and since, there has been no disagreement with that.”
The Primates spent Monday morning in a spiritual retreat in Canterbury Cathedral before a day-and-a-half discussing “internal matters to the Communion.” They will spend the next three days discussing issues of concern to the Primates, including safeguarding, climate change, inter-faith relations and religious liberty – including the continuing plight of Christians in the Middle East.
You can watch or listen to the full press briefing using these links: