Scottish Episcopal Church elects pro-gay marriage bishop as its new leader

Bishop Mark Strange, who backs gay marriage and was once in love with a man himself, is the new Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church after being elected by the church's bishops.

The 56-year-old father of three is the youngest member of the SEC's College of Bishops and has been Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness since 2007.

Bishop Strange takes over as the Anglican figurehead in Scotland from David Chillingworth shortly after the Scottish Episcopal Church became the first major UK church to permit gay marriage.

Mark Strange previously made headlines by calling for gay marriage in church in 2015 and revealing he had previously been in love with a man.Scottish Episcopal Church

Bishop Strange voted for the change in teaching which removed the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman and was passed earlier this month by the ruling general synod.

It means that gay couples can now marry in Scottish Anglican churches if they wish. 

He previously made headlines in 2015 by calling for same-sex marriage in church and revealing he had previously been in love with a man as a teen. 

Now married with a son and two daughters, Bishop Strange said he chose to speak about his past to prove 'love is love' regardless of gender. 

'None of us fall in love by design, we just fall in love. In my teenage years I fell in love with two people – one was a woman and one was a man.

'I was unable to shape that emotion, however complicated it might be, and on both occasions that love was not returned,' he said.

When he fell in love with his now wife he said it was 'wonderful' but added: 'I am always aware that things might have been different and that I would have been devastated if the church I belonged to had cast me aside because of who I happened to be in love with.'

Under the SEC's new arrangement clergy who want to officiate over same-sex weddings must 'opt in' to a register with the new church teaching on marriage saying: 'In the light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this Church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience.'

Bishop Strange, who with his wife has a son and two daughters, will defend the SEC's decision to other Anglican primates around the world at a meeting in Canterbury in October.

He said: 'I am humbled by the confidence shown in me by my colleagues and I will seek to serve the church as Primus with love and strength.

'I am deeply privileged to be the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and am very aware that it has been 82 years since a Bishop of Moray became Primus. I pray that I may be worthy of this trust.

He added: 'I will continue to serve in my beloved Highlands while I also step out into new and exciting journeys of faith in both Scotland and the wider international church.'