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First same-sex wedding deepens Anglican divide

First same-sex wedding deepens Anglican divide
Problem still 'intractable', says Justin Welby, after Scottish ceremony

By Catherine Pepinster
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/05/anglican-split-first-same-sex-wedding
August 5, 2017

The first gay Anglican wedding in Britain took place last week, just a day after the archbishop of Canterbury said the continuing row in the Anglican Communion over same-sex relationships was an "intractable problem".

The couple, known as "Mark and Rick", got married on Tuesday at a Eucharist service where the Rev Markus Dunzkofer, of the Scottish Episcopal church, officiated. Dunzkofer, rector of St John's, in Princes Street, Edinburgh, said "history was made" at the wedding, held in the chapel of a Dalhousie hotel.

Mark and Rick had been together 24 years, he said, and were keen to have a service with holy communion. The couple are from the US, but with strong Scottish connections. A copy of their order of service, posted on Facebook, described the wedding as "the solemnisation of marriage ... with the celebration of holy communion".

"It was a small, intimate occasion," said Dunzkofer. "This was not some pretty, fancy occasion. They wanted a religious ceremony."

Mark and Rick's marriage is the first in the Scottish Episcopal church, which is part of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal church announced in June that it was allowing gay weddings after its synod voted to amend canon law on marriage. It agreed that the doctrine stating that marriage was between one man and one woman should be removed.

The vote sparked a backlash from traditionalists, with the conservative Anglican group Gafcon announcing that it was appointing a missionary bishop, committed to keeping marriage heterosexual, to work in Scotland.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has struggled to keep the worldwide Anglican Communion together over the issue of same-sex relationships, with many African bishops voicing opposition to gay weddings and to clergy being involved in gay relationships themselves.

Welby visited Africa to highlight the plight of refugees but his trip highlighted divisions over same-sex marriage. During the trip, he spent time with the archbishop of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, a leading conservative evangelical, who walked out of a gathering of archbishops in Canterbury last year, angered by the west's liberal attitudes to homosexuality. Ntagali said that he would not return until "godly order" was restored.

Since then, Canadian and Scottish Anglicans have voted for same-sex marriage; the Americans also accept it.

In an interview with Radio 4's Today programme, Welby said that the dispute over homosexuality between the growing church in Africa and the west was "an intractable problem". "This is more complex than having a binary approach," he said. "There is not an easy fix, but the primates [of the Anglican Communion] have said that they will work together."

But the situation in Scotland will make the archbishop of Canterbury's task in keeping the Anglican Communion together much more difficult.

Simon Sarmiento, of the website Thinking Anglicans, said: "The Scottish Episcopal church is small in numbers but this will undoubtedly have an impact. It brings this issue that much closer. Gay Anglicans in England will be able to travel to Scotland to get married, putting more pressure on the Church of England."

The Scottish church, which has around 100,000 members, voted for gay marriage after years of debate at diocesan and church level. Dunzkofer said that about 80% of his congregation supported the move to allow gay weddings and there had been long discussions. "It has been easier than in the Church of England. We are a smaller church, we are not the established church and there is less of an evangelical voice," he said. "But we heard different perspectives and heard very different voices."

Since the vote in June, at least nine Scottish Episcopal Church clergy have registered to officiate at same-sex weddings. The first to sign up was the Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, the provost of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow. "There were loud cheers in church when when I received permission to do this a couple of weeks ago," said Holdsworth. "Several members of the congregation were wearing badges saying, 'The Archbishop of Canterbury has no jurisdiction in this realm of Scotland'."

In recent weeks politicians have also piled pressure on the Church of England. Theresa May said she had changed her own mind on gay weddings over the years and the church should reflect on its ban. The equalities minister, Justine Greening, also said that the Church of England must "keep up" with the modern world by allowing gay weddings. And in Scotland, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who is gay and a member of the Church of Scotland, has often spoken of her support for gay marriage.

END

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