Scottish Episcopal Church Votes on SSM

What happened?

Yesterday, the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to change its rules on marriage and to redefine marriage so that they can perform same-sex marriages.

The decision was in one sense taken by the narrowest of margins. If just one clergyman had changed position then the motion in favour of same-sex marriage would not have passed.

Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow put it quite starkly:

“its time for the church to celebrate what is celebrated in secular society”.

Image result for Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of St Mary’s

When churches turn away from the word of God, they are losing their foundations and they will soon collapse, even though the outward appearance may look the same. The church is of far more significance than any political institution, and so in this year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is distressing that one of its main fruits, the Anglican Church, has at least in part, departed from the word of God, which was the foundation of that Reformation.

The biblical position on marriage is summed up simply in the teaching of Jesus that marriage is between a man and a woman. For any who profess to be his followers, to turn away from that teaching, is something to be mourned and not celebrated.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has decided to be guided by the zeitgeist of the secular society, rather than the word of God. In so doing it has removed itself from the teaching of the rest of the Anglican Church, from the vast majority of the rest of the Christian church, and most of all from Jesus Christ. Christ is no longer head of the Anglican Church.

Why are we interested in this?

What does this have to do with other Christians? Everything. What goes on in any branch of the church of Jesus Christ affects all of us. Rev Scott Rennie, who was the cause celebre for the same issue within the Church of Scotland clearly thinks so. He wrote the following in the Herald.

 “As they meet in Synod this week, I hope they will catch the Spirit of God, which sets us free: to love and be loved. I wish my friends well, and hope they will take a step forward in recognising the blessing of marriage in the lives of all couples, including same sex couples, by amending canon law. I for one will celebrate with them. Many, like me, will be remembering them in prayer all through this week.

All great institutions much adapt and change in order to make sense of the world in which we live, and to give meaning to it. Otherwise those same institutions wither and die – in their failure to reflect the realities of our human existence. In that regard, marriage and the institutional churches have a lot in common."

These leaders may seek to justify their departure from the word of God, by stating that this is something that will enable the church to grow. This is all about adapting to contemporary society, making ourselves relevant and “being led by the Spirit” into a new understanding. The irony is that Scott Rennie is right in saying that the church will wither and die, but he fails to recognise that what he and his colleagues are teaching, is the cause of that withering and dying – not the remedy for it. Whenever any church turns away from what Jesus says then it is not long before it ceases to be a church of Jesus Christ and becomes instead just a mere formal institution – with the appearance of a church but in reality it is just a secularised spirituality, dead as a dodo, and heading for the same extinction.

I want to praise and support those of our Anglican brothers and sisters who will now face immense pressure “not to divide the church”, from those who have already divided it by divorcing it from the word of God. Behind all the nice words and the desperate attempts to keep the money providing evangelical churches on board, there is a thinly disguised contempt. One man tweeted to me “You lost. Get over it. Go back to demanding slavery.”  This is the kind of opposition that we have to face. We must remain faithful, gracious and courageous as we stand against the tide of this world, and its continual invasion of the church.

Written by David Robertson. The full text of this article is available on his blog here and is used by permission.

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