Splits emerge among Scottish Anglicans after gay marriage vote

Splits are emerging in the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) after its decision to permit priests to marry gay couples earlier this year.

Two senior clergymen have resigned and a parish church has declared it will leave the official oversight of the SEC in protests linked to the vote last June that allowed priests to officiate in gay weddings if they wanted.

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church met in Edinburgh in June and passed a motion changing the teaching on marriage.Reuters

In a forthright rebuttal for supporting the change, worshippers at Christ Church, Harris, announced on Friday they would reject their bishop's authority and choose instead to come under the oversight of a rebel conservative bishop, Andy Lines.

The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Rt Rev Kevin Pearson, insisted Rev Daniel Davies along with his small congregation would forfeit their building and funds if they left the SEC.

But in a strongly worded statement Davies accused his bishop of being 'in denial of what you have done, which is to reject the authority of Christ your King, in favour of your own'.

In a letter to Bishop Pearson he said: 'The Scottish Episcopal Church has made itself its own republic, following its own teaching, and its own laws. It is now, therefore, outside the Kingdom. For those of us who wish to remain loyal to the King, the only appropriate response is to shake the dust from our shoes and leave.'

Reverend Daniel Davies, priest-in-charge of Christ Church, Harris, along with his small congregation.Scottish Anglican Network

Andy Lines was appointed by the powerful conservative grouping GAFCON to provide leadership for conservative parishes who rebelled against their official bishop in the wake of the decision allowing priests to 'opt in' to a register to officiate gay weddings.

Separately two senior officials in the Scottish Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney quit earlier this month accusing the Church of being 'not only insensitive but disrespectful' after it appointed a pro-gay bishop to the highly conservative diocese without approval.

Aberdeen and Orkney was the only one of the SEC's seven dioceses to reject the proposals to change their teaching on marriage last year.

But Rev Canon Anne Dyer, who supports gay marriage and conducted a same-sex wedding last month, was promoted to be its bishop prompting the Dean of the Diocese, Dr Emsley Nimmo, and Canon Ian Ferguson from the Cathedral Chapter to resign in protest.

'You have put into position a new bishop who not only supports same-sex marriage but has conducted same-sex weddings,' Ferguson said in a resignation letter to the Primus of the SEC.

'This decision by you and the College is not only insensitive but disrespectful to the people of our Diocese.

'I believe that the decision to appoint the Rev Canon Anne Dyer as the next Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney is wrong.'

Ian Ferguson, Rector of Westhill Community Church, Aberdeen, resigned from the Cathedral Chapter last Wednesday.Scottish Anglican Network

David McCarthy, from the conservative pressure group Scottish Anglican Network, said the congregation in Harris had shown 'much courage' in giving up their building and money associated with the SEC.

'One would hope that in the spirit of gracious good disagreement, the Scottish Episcopal Church would at least give some of the money back to the people. Their witness serves as an inspiration to others in the Scottish Episcopal Church who are concerned that the leadership is failing to listen to the local church and Anglican Christians around the world,' he said.

'The situation in the diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney is a further reflection of that lack of listening,' he added. 'It was clearly articulated that the diocese would seek to hold an orthodox position on marriage and that for some who do not see the ordination of women as being something in keeping with the tradition of the Church, the appointment of a woman would be problematic. It appears to many that this appointment is the bishop imposing their will on the diocese, especially if the decision to not have a diocesan election was because the bishops vetoed the candidates.'

Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church responded by saying: 'Our whole Church has spent much time in prayer and conversation over several years working to ensure that the consciences of all are protected and to affirm a diversity of viewpoints about same-sex relationships; and protections are in place for those for whom the decision to change the Church's Canon on Marriage is a difficult one. I am therefore deeply saddened that the Rev Canon Ian Ferguson feels he needs to resign from the Chapter of St Andrew's Cathedral in Aberdeen.

'In response to the election of a female bishop, the decision by the Very Rev Canon Emsley Nimmo to resign from the Cathedral Chapter and from the Office of Dean of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney is also one by which I am deeply saddened.'