This is the Report which I gave on the Primates Meeting 2016 at our General Synod last week.
This was an important moment – and one of those points at which one attempts to deliver at least two messages which don’t quite fit together.
First – and most obviously – our General Synod was about to discuss and vote on the First Reading of proposals for changes to our Canon on Marriage which would make same-sex marriage possible. So it was important for Synod members to understand exactly how that would affect our relationship with the Anglican Communion. In short, the consequences which were determined in respect of The Episcopal Church of the United States will also apply to the Scottish Episcopal Church. They are set out in the text of my Report.
The proposed changes were coming to General Synod following the decisions which we made at General Synod 2015 – so that process would not change. But it seemed to me important to give Synod members information which would allow them to decide whether or not this would affect their personal voting choices.
I also wanted above all to try and do this without stirring feelings about the Anglican Communion in general and the Archbishop of Canterbury in particular. Some of the press of course tried to do just that. As I said in my Report, I don’t believe that the Primates Meeting has the authority to do what it has done. But I have to accept that it – and Archbishop Justin – were acting to try and preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion at a very difficult time. Archbishop Justin was very generous with his time when I went to London to see him. There is no position of leadership in the church – neither his nor mine – at present which is not complex and conflicted. I wanted to make sure that he understood that we not intending to act in a way which was careless of our diversity. We remain friends and colleagues.
I tried to say in General Synod what needed to be said in as dispassionate a way as I could. I could have said more about the Communion issues which bear on the situation in which we now find ourselves. Archbishop Josiah, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, has affirmed the autonomy of the provinces. But the challenge is how we define the duty and respect which the provinces owe to one another and to the whole. That is variously described as the tension between autonomy and catholicity and as the process of reception through which a province can understand whether an initiative which they wish to take commands acceptability across the Communion. None of this is an exact science.
Nor is any of it static – it’s all moving all the time as the provinces gradually shape their responses in different ways to human sexuality issues. Both internally and externally we in Scotland must model the relationships which we hope to see.