Speaking at the General Assembly

The Church of Scotland is welcoming and hospitable to ecumenical guests at the Assembly. They are particularly keen to halve their guests taking part in debate.

Today saw the Report of the Theological Forum – introduced with much grace by Revd Prof. Iain Torrance. They are proposing a mixed economy model in responding to Human Sexuality issues. So this is what I said:


Thank you for calling me to speak. I thank you all for your hospitality and for the privilege of being allowed to speak on this issue. You would need to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the stories of the pain and the ruptured friendships as congregations have chosen to leave the Church of Scotland.

Every church community is looking for a way forward on these issues. We have just had a successful conference in Pitlochry. The facilitation group was led by Hugh Donald of your Place for Hope organisation. So you are helping to resource us and we are grateful for that.

The Theological Forum proposes a mixed economy in the context of ‘constrained difference’. It seems to me that we are now recognising some important things:

We live in churches which have diversity of faith, life and practice. It is actually a principled position that we should as churches continue to express, affirming that diversity with civility and restraint.

We are reaching the point where we recognise that we should not attempt to unchurch one another in response to Human Sexuality issues

Moderator – in your sermon on Sunday in St Giles, you helped us to see that we need to learn to live with unresolved questions and with a degree of provisionality. In our tradition, we sometimes talk about the need for a space in which we can move into a deeper catholicity.

I have a life commitment to reconciliation. You can hear it in the Northern Irish strand of my accent. In the worldwide Anglican Communion I serve as Convenor of the Reference Group for Continuing Indaba. Indaba is a Zulu work which expresses the commitment to hold together in relationship while we discuss and resolve difficult issues. We talk about ‘honest conversation across difference in the cause of mission’

In the cause of mission. So much of the energy of the churches has been drained away in conflict – so much energy can be released if we model to the world to which we are sent in mission our ability to deal with these deep differences.

I have one concern. I learned in the past that that, when the conflict eases, so does the urgency about finding solutions. Mixed economy can easily become separate economy. We need to practice diversity with engagement.

I commend the steps you take today. We look forward to sharing this journey with all our ecumenical partners.