ONE OF the biggest churches in Edinburgh has decided to leave the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) over its stance on same-sex marriage.
“We have not done it easily,” said the Rev David McCarthy, Rector at St Thomas’ after the church voted to depart from the SEC over a disagreement in the church’s official stance on marriage.
The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted in favour of altering the Church’s Canon on Marriage to remove the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman and add a new section that acknowledges that there are different understandings of marriage. This allows clergy to solemnise marriages between same-sex couples as well as couples of the opposite sex.
The revised canon also stipulates that no member of the clergy will be required to solemnise a marriage against their conscience.
A spokesman for the SEC said that the numbers choosing to leave were small.
“We understand that the decision to allow gay marriage in church is difficult for some. It is always regrettable when people chose to leave.”
But Mr McCarthy claims that ‘it is the Episcopal Church who are leaving us’.
“They are leaving orthodoxy,” he told The Church of England Newspaper.
“We have been on a hard road as we and others have sought to encourage the Scottish Episcopal Church not to depart from what the Bible teaches about marriage,” he told us this week.
He said that the reasons St Thomas’ has taken the ‘costly but necessary’ decision to seek ‘realignment within the Anglican Communion’ include ‘the significant driver’ for change in the Scottish Episcopal Church’. He described this as ‘ pastoral – “love is love, so let’s catch up with culture and introduce same-sex marriage”.
“We understand and sympathise with this motive. But what about the support offered to faithful gay Christians who serve the Lord in holiness by not adopting the revisionist agenda, but who live life to the full in submission to his authority?
“Living Out and True Freedom Trust offer great examples of how the church can be challenged to better support our sisters and brothers. But this sacrificial way of life can no longer be taught nor publicly supported by the leadership of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
“Slowly such encouragement as there is left will disappear. It is also doubtful that anyone teaching this could now serve as a bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church,” he said.
The Church’s reasons for leaving include the SEC’s ‘departure from what Jesus teaches about the covenant nature of the relationship between a man and a woman in marriage’ and ‘the SEC’s leaving behind of the universal teaching of the church through the ages and around the world today about what marriage is and who can be married’.
“The decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church indicates that it believes it has the authority to unilaterally change the doctrine of marriage,” he said.
He also said the church is leaving over ‘the importance of having oversight from leaders who do not embrace doublethink and who ensure that biblical teaching is upheld’ and ‘the concern to remain in close fellowship with the majority of Christians in the Anglican Communion and with other orthodox believers in Scotland and the UK’.
“It has been a very painful process for all concerned, but in the coming months we seek a new beginning. We will go on preaching Christ, and him crucified,” he told us this week.