Alistair Dinnie and Peter Matthews are the first gay couple in UK history who were married in the church despite the threat of punitive sanctions against the church body that gave the ceremony the go-ahead.
Matthews and Dinnie were married two weeks ago at St John’s Church in Edinburgh. The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), which runs St John’s Church, overturned the Anglican canon law stipulation that marriage must be between a man and a woman. Mr Matthews noted that it was a historic moment on his blog. Before the ceremony on September 16 he wrote: “As a young gay man I thought I would never, ever, get married, let alone married in a church.
In June, members of the Scottish Episcopal Church general synod voted overwhelmingly to allow its churches to hold same-sex ceremonies. This was welcomed by equal rights campaigners. SEC members voted to remove the doctrinal clause which stated that marriage is a ‘union of one man and one woman’, replacing it with a clause which asserts that clergy who do not wish to preside over same-sex weddings will not be compelled to do so ‘against their conscience’.
The Episcopal Church is the first mainstream denomination in the UK to host gay marriages in church. This move is expected to be censured by the overarching Anglican Communion, which may exclude the Scottish Episcopal Church from future decision-making activities. Last year the US Episcopal Church was suspended from participating in decision-making by the Anglican Communion because the church similarly supported equal marriage.
Primates, the leaders of the 85 million-strong family of Anglican churches, will meet in Canterbury on Monday to decide the fate of the Scottish church. Conservative archbishops from Uganda, Nigeria and Rwanda will boycott the meeting because they feel the American church should have faced stricter sanctions. Archbishops Stanley Ntagali of Uganda said the fabric of the Anglican Communion had been torn by the actions of the US Episcopal Church, which consecrated a gay bishop and approved same-sex marriage. “At times, I wonder whether we really share a common faith! If we are not walking in the same direction, then how can we walk together?” he wrote to explain why he would not attend next week’s meeting. The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said next week’s gathering would face tough questions.
“There are differing views about same-sex marriage within the Anglican Communion, but this puts the Scottish Episcopal Church at odds with the majority stance that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. This is a departure from the faith and teaching upheld by the overwhelming majority of Anglican provinces on the doctrine of marriage,” the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion said.
Photo Credits: The Times