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Queen's governor causes constitutional crisis with gay wedding

Queen's governor causes constitutional crisis with gay wedding

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July 4, 2012

The governor of Edinburgh Castle, Major General Alistair Bruce OBE, has dragged Her Majesty and the Church of England into a constitutional crisis after his gay wedding Saturday to Stephen Knott, the archbishop of Canterbury's assistant chief of staff.

Bruce, a Sky News TV fixture and seen as a close ally of the Royal Family, was married at St John's the Evangelist Church (Scottish Episcopal) on Edinburgh's Princes Street just days after being formally installed as governor of the castle. In a picture posted to Twitter, he wore his ceremonial attire as a major general and governor.

Not only are gay weddings outlawed in the Church of England, but the established church's official doctrine -- also affirmed by the worldwide Anglican Communion -- considers homosexuality a sin.

As the Queen is supreme governor of the church and the archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Hon and Most Rev Justin Welby, says he upholds the church's stance against gay marriage, the wedding causes new controversy at a time when Anglicans within and outside the United Kingdom are deeply divided.

The non-established Scottish Episcopal Church, along with its counterpart in the United States, has in recent years permitted gay weddings.

This revision of doctrine resulted in a censure from the heads of the Anglican Communion's other churches. Some have even formally ended ties with the Scottish church and supported missionary efforts to relaunch a theologically acceptable Anglican church in Scotland.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Anglicans left the US-based Episcopal Church over the past decade for the Anglican Church in North America, which traces its legitimacy to theologically conservative Anglican prelates in Africa and Australia.

The Church of England is under intense pressure to either end its ban on gay marriages or adopt a workaround allowing individual dioceses and parishes to decide on performing same-sex rites. Going down either path would require an act of Parliament.

However, any move away from official doctrine would all-but-guarantee a split along the lines of what happened in the United States. The division is far more serious than past controversies, including the ordination of women to the priesthood or the consecration of lady bishops -- some of whom have taken seats in the upper house reserved for the lords spiritual.

Given Knott's senior status under Welby at Lambeth Palace, it is unthinkable that His Grace was unaware of the assistant chief of staff's sexuality or his impending gay marriage.

This will surely pour fuel on the fire with theological conservatives using it as an excuse to dethrone Welby and his successors as head of the Anglican Communion at next year's Lambeth Conference.

The gathering of every Anglican bishop and archbishop in the world is mathematically dominated by conservatives, who have in recent years suggested that the archbishop of Canterbury's status atop the communion is a relic of colonialism at a time when there more Anglicans outside the United Kingdom than in it. It was originally slated for 2020, but fell victim to the pandemic.


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