Friday, 7 February 2014

Free at Last?


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Now that the funeral's done (and all went well TBTG), I can muse a wee bit on the recent passing of an Act in Scotland to permit Same Sex Marriage.  I'm glad it's happened and particularly so as it more or less completes the Agenda a wee group of us drew up in 1990 as a White paper for YSLD (Young Scottish Liberal Democrats) whose Vice Convenor I then was.  Equal Age of Consent? Check.  Anti-discrimination legislation? Check.  Legal recognition of relationships? Check in two stages.  Recommendation that the State not compel religious bodies to act against their conscience? Check.  So that's it all done and dusted? 

No, not really.  Now the Church has to start thinking about how it intends to respond to the legal changes. And by Church I mean the Scottish Episcopal Church.  What the rest do is their business, not mine.  Our submission to the Parliament during the consultation process was something of a "cop out".  It more or less said that as Canon Law currently stands we define marriage as being between a man and a woman and consequently we would not be able to conduct weddings for Same Sex Couples.  It really didn't point out that we can, following due Synodical process, change Canon Law and would be able to be in a position to conduct Same Sex marriages 3 years from when we started the ball rolling.  We did no ball rolling before the Bill went through, so we'll be at least 3 years behind the rest of Scottish Society were we to start at this years General Synod.  Which is actually pretty speedy for the Church, which any well taught sociologist will tell you is an essentially conservative social institution in function and operation.  I'd rather we'd been proactive in getting ready for this but am not at all surprised that we haven't been.

Currently, as Canon Law stands, I won't be able to do a Same Sex Wedding like I can a mixed sex one.  I'm perfectly happy so to do but the Law requires that Churches as bodies opt in and not just individual clergy.  I tend to agree that that's right and certainly for us Pisky clergy, who claim to be part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that's how it ought to be.  We are a college of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and not a Cocktail of Congregationalists (if that's the right collective noun - and if it's not, it should be!).  As far as I am concerned the next step for us is to amend Canon law, opt in as a Church and then allow those clergy who in all conscience cannot conduct such marriages to opt out, as is their legal right enshrined in the new legislation.  So, having changed the World, let us now change the Church!

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