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Scottish Anglican church faces sanctions over vote to allow same-sex marriage

Posted: September 28, 2017 at 4:35 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Leaders of global Anglican communion expected to impose ‘consequences’ on Scottish church for its embrace of LGBTI equality

The Anglican church in Scotland is to face de facto sanctions imposed by global church leaders next week for its acceptance of same-sex marriage.

Leaders of the global Anglican communion, meeting for five days in Canterbury, are expected to impose “consequences” on the Scottish Episcopal church along the lines of the punitive measures dished out to the US Episcopal church last year for its embrace of LGBTI equality.

The measures include a bar on membership of representational bodies and an exclusion from decisions on policy.

Scottish Anglicans voted overwhelmingly in June in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry in church, setting the church on a collision course with the Anglican communion. The Anglican church in Canada is expected to follow suit.

At the time of the Scottish decision, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican communion, said the move would be discussed by Anglican primates at next week’s meeting.

“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,” he said.

The January 2016 meeting of primates imposed de facto sanctions on the US church for its acceptance of same-sex marriage, and issued a statement in support of the “traditional doctrine” that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Their fragile agreement acknowledged the “deep pain” of the divisions within the communion, but added: “It is our unanimous desire to walk together.”

However, three of the 39 primates have declared they will boycott next week’s meeting in a sign of continuing discord over same-sex relationships, with one warning of the “next great Reformation” or schism within Christianity.

Archbishops Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, Stanley Ntagali of Uganda and Onesphore Rwaje of Rwanda have said they will not attend in protest at what they see as the Anglican communion’s failure to uncompromisingly back traditional interpretations of the scriptures on sexuality.

In an open letter to conservative Anglicans, Okoh said he had attended the previous meeting of primates in January 2016 in the belief it might be possible to “change the pattern of repeated failure to preserve the integrity of Anglican faith and order”.

But, he added, “the will of the orthodox primates is frustrated and misrepresented [and] false teaching is not being corrected … In these circumstances, I have concluded that attendance at Canterbury would be to give credibility to a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and integrity.”

Okoh, who is chairman of the conservative Anglican organisation Gafcon, said that 500 years after the greatest schism in Christianity, followers of the church were “living in the midst of the next great Reformation. In our day also there is broken fellowship, over homosexual practice, same-sex marriage and the blurring of gender identity, none of which are mentioned in the Creeds, but all of which contradict fundamental biblical understandings of marriage and human identity”.

Ntagali 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 decision by the three primates to boycott the gathering illustrates the north-south divide in the Anglican church, with leaders from African countries prominent among those advocating traditional interpretations of the Bible and churches in the UK and north America generally moving in a more liberal direction.

A letter sent by a group representing more than 240 members of the Church of England general synod to all primates ahead of next week’s meeting emphasised the “decisive steps [taken] towards an inclusive church that can better serve both our church and nation, and in particular the LGBTI community”.

The Human Sexuality Group believes there has been a sea-change in support for the LGBTI community within the synod since the last primates’ meeting. “The direction of travel for the Church of England is clearer than ever,” its letter says.

Giles Goddard, the group’s chair, said: “The status quo is no longer an option – people are deeply concerned about the impact of our mission to the nation of the church’s current stance towards LGBTI people.”

The January 2016 meeting of primates set up a task group to examine issues of human sexuality and to present a preliminary report to next week’s gathering. However, the report will not be made public.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who has appointed 16 new primates since the last meeting, said next week’s gathering would face tough questions. He urged Anglicans to pray that primates would be able to “walk onwards together”.

The meeting will also discuss climate change, refugees, the persecution of Christians and “all the great issues of the world”, Welby said.

The Church of England announced on Wednesday that the number of people training to become priests was at the highest level for a decade, at 544 men and women, a 14% increase on last year. Women accounted for more than half of new ordinands this autumn.

The church has set itself a target of increasing the number of ordinands by 50% by 2020, and particularly wants more women, ethnic minority and young trainee priests.



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