I felt that many people on all sides of the debate went home from our General Synod with some contentment about what we had done. Some came up to me quietly at the end to say that they appreciated the way in which the process had been shaped.
My own words of appreciation were about the tone and mood of General Synod – and in particular the graciousness of those who believed that conscience and more meant that they had to vote against the proposed canonical change in respect of Marriage. Several voices from that group expressed appreciation of the specific provisions both canonical and pastoral which had been put in place. The intention of that was to make clear that, even if our church makes a specific decision about the proposed canonical change, we will remain a church whose diversity and mutual respect embraces those who cannot support it.
If we had had more time – and it would have needed a lot of time – we might have undertaken a discussion of the various terms used to describe how we belong together as a church. It’s about the nature of our koinonia. I heard ‘unity in diversity’, of course. I also heard ‘walking together’ and ‘being kind to one another’. They express a continuing commitment to one another in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Not just one day in General Synod, this commitment needs to be lived in graciousness and mutual respect every day.
As many of you know, I approach these descriptions with a degree of caution. On the Anglican Communion front, my heart was warmed by the ‘bonds of affection’ description of the ties which the Communion to cohere without the benefit of a single, central authority. But in the end I think that ‘bonds of affection’ are not quite the same thing as relationship which can sustain difference.
So here is what I think is the situation:
The SEC is in process of considering a change to our Canon on Marriage. The second reading may or may not be approved in 2017. If it is approved, that will represent a decision about our attitude to Same-Sex Marriage.
But our church understands that the ‘other view’ doesn’t disappear just because the General Synod may make a decision. Indeed in this case, the ‘other view’ is held by a majority of members of Anglican Provinces across the Communion. That is a compelling statement – except that the Anglican Communion makes decisions within and through the Instruments of Communion and not by majority voting,
Therefore our commitment to ‘walking together’, ‘unity in diversity’ and the rest mean that we shall continue to be a church which holds differing views of marriage within our life. We shall have a clear position based on the canonical position. But we shall hold, honour and respect a diversity of view in our shared life. And we need to do that every day.