Scottish Anglicans have made an historical move by voting overwhelmingly in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry in church. In June, the Scottish Episcopal Church general synod became the first Anglican Church in the UK to allow same-sex weddings. Canon law was changed to remove a doctrinal clause stating that marriage is between a man and a woman. The first ceremony took place this autumn when the first gay couple in UK history was married in the church.
Primates, the leaders of the 85 million-strong family of Anglican churches, met in Canterbury to decide about the fate of the Scottish church. Anglican primates agreed the Scottish church should be barred from representational bodies and excluded from decisions on policy for three years.
Mark Strange, the bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and primate of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said he recognized that the decision to allow same-sex marriage was “one that has caused some hurt and anger in parts of the Anglican communion”. But he added: “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.”
The punitive measures are in line with those imposed on the US church last year when the US Episcopal church has also been banned from representation on key bodies and barred from voting on issues relating to doctrine or strategy for three years. Some conservative elements within the communion have complained that those “consequences” have not been properly enacted.
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican communion, likened the Anglican Communion to “a family that’s having to face the fact that something’s happened that is causing grief [rather] than a club that doesn’t like one of its members.” Despite the decision by the primates of Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda to boycott the meeting over the issue of sexuality, Welby said others present expressed themselves forcefully and “the communion continues with profound struggles”.
He also repeated his assertion in a recent interview in GQ magazine that differences between Anglican conservatives and liberals were irreconcilable. “That’s a fact, and it’s no use pretending it isn’t,” he told a press conference in Canterbury. But a split was not inevitable, he insisted.
Survivors of sexual abuse in the church are planning a protest in Canterbury on Friday, the final day of the primates’ gathering.
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