Scottish Episcopal Church votes in favour of same-sex marriage

The Anglican Church in Scotland has passed a motion that would allow for same sex marriages.

The Scottish Episcopal Church's (SEC) general synod voted to amend its teaching on marriage so as to remove the understanding that marriage is between "one man and one woman". The decision is not final and will be discussed across Scotland's seven dioceses before a final vote is held next year.

The motion will be returned to the seven diocesan synods across Scotland for consideration before the general synod votes again in 2017

The first reading of the change was passed on Friday morning by a strong majority in all three of the Church's houses. The House of Bishops passed the change with 71 per cent of the vote, the House of Clergy with 69 per cent of the vote and the House of Laity with 80 per cent of the vote.

The change paves the way for clergy who want to carry out same-sex weddings to do so. It also contains a "conscience clause" so clergy who are opposed to the change would not be required to carry out same-sex weddings.

It represents a significant change for the Church in Scotland as well as the global Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has allegedly said the SEC would face "consequences" if it goes ahead with the change to its doctrine. In January The Episcopal Church in the United States was suspended from full participation in the Anglican body because of its decision to allow same-sex marriages.

According to Most Rev David Chillingworth, Primus of the SEC, Justin Welby threatened the same "consequences" if the SEC changed its teaching.

Most Rev David Chillingworth has been Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane since 2005 and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church since 2009Twitter

Chillingworth told the synod meeting on Thursday the threat "will not change what we do". He added: "Maybe it is a price worth paying for the ultimate healing of the Communion." Chillingworth also said he would be removed from some of his responsibilities in the wider Anglican body.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury told Christian Today no comment would be made. The Church of England is currently engaged in internal discussions on same-sex marriage known as "shared conversations" and the spokesman said Welby would not comment while the discussions were ongoing.

In order for the change to be finalised the SEC must consider the responses from all seven diocesan synods in Scotland before voting again. If the change in doctrine is to be passed it must achieve more than two thirds of the vote in all three houses.

However given the strength of the vote this year, it is highly likely the change will be passed when it returns to synod in 2017.

Rt Rev Dr Gregor Duncan, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway and Acting Convener of the Church's Faith and Order Board, said Friday's decision was "important" because it began the process of change in Church teaching.

"The passing of the first reading today will bring great joy to some; for others it will be matter of great difficulty," he said. "The wording of the proposed change recognises that there are differing views of marriage within our Church and we have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to sustain our unity in the midst of our diversity."

Beth Routledge, an LGBT activist on the SEC' s general synod, told Christian Today she was "delighted" by the decision and "overwhelmed" by the scale of the majority.

"I think we have taken a very positive step forwards within the Anglican Communion. As some people said during the debate, perhaps the naughty step is not such a bad place to be.

"I think we have established ourselves in a leadership role within the wider church and as stewards of justice."

Rev Dave McCarthy, rector of St Thomas', Corstorphine, Edinburgh, told Christian Today the decision had bought "deep sadness" for him and many others.

He accused the SEC of "double-speak" because he said it "talked about unity but has chosen to walk apart from the largest majority of the Anglican Communion" in the global south.

"The question is what happens next," he told Christian Today. "How can the Anglican Church believe two completely different things about the doctrine of marriage?"