Sunday, December 21, 2014

Crisis? What crisis?

In what has been described as the biggest crisis to engulf it in living memory, over 50 Scottish Episcopalian Church (SEC) clergy – around one in six – have signed a letter condemning the stance of their bishops over same-sex marriage.

 Gosh. Two pieces in the paper - The Herald, even - in one week. Almost as good as the SNP ... But I get ahead of myself. Normally the Scottish Episcopal Church doesn't generate much news, but what the Bishops' Statement on Equal Marriage started in Wednesday's paper rumbled on into the weekend with a new story, the tale of an insurrection in the ranks.

 It's this word 'crisis' that interests me. For a start, it's a crisis that hasn't engulfed an awful lot of the worshippers that turned out this morning - the conversations I've had on the subject could be numbered on the fingers of one hand, and these were all with interested parties or senior clergy. But I know all about it, I've been part of the process that - surprisingly - ended up in this odd place, and I simply don't feel it's a crisis. Quite the reverse.

The fact that a good number of clergy - and, as the paper points out, a good proportion of those serving the church - have seen fit to think for themselves and say No, this is not what we think right, and have felt sufficiently confident in their own minds to stand up and be counted, this is not a crisis. This is a high point. This is exciting. This is the SEC doing what its own publicity says it does. 

When I posted the letter here the other day, I said I was proud of the signatories. I'm still proud. And I'm proud to belong to a church that numbers such people among its leaders. I'm thrilled that suddenly we're talking about the elephant in the room, and that conversations - real conversations, not this ridiculously neutered Cascade malarkey - are beginning to happen in real life, in churches, in sitting rooms, and not just on social media. We're showing that our faith can actually inform our decisions, guide our words, make us brave. We're showing that we can think for ourselves, as mature Christians who recognise that a great historical mistake is in danger of being perpetuated.

What I'm looking for now is some brave leadership from the top, from the Bishops who are supposed to provide a focus for this thoughtful and courageous process. It's still not too late for these men to recover some moral authority by showing some of the courage that their priests and lay leaders have demonstrated. 

And then the papers can stop talking about crisis and talk about joy instead. 


  1. But papers always prefer to talk about crisis. Joy just doesn't sell papers. :-(
    I think it's marvellous that so many have spoken out like this and I really hope they will be heard.

  2. In many ways this isn't a crisis - we can all get on with Christmas no problem.

    But 50 clergy and lay readers in an episcopally ordered church just called the behaviour of their bishops immoral. Whilst we should be wary of overdramatising the situation with words like crisis, we would be wise not to underestimate the significance of what has happened either.

    My feeling is that all of a sudden this isn't just about "the gays" it is very much about the kind of episcopate we want and what kind of church we believe in.

  3. I agree, Kelvin - and that's what I think is exciting. If it turns out that this is an evolutionary point in our church history, then great - it shows we're alive.

  4. Bishops - everywhere - do sometimes need to be challenged; especially on matters of public conscience. It seems that, in matters of the encouragement and honouring of legitimate, monogamous same-sex relationships, the laity may be leading the way in Scotland. Cheers, from ACANZP.