Church takes step closer to recognising gay marriage

Gay marriage was legalised in Scotland in December but remains outlawed in Northern Ireland.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has taken a step closer to allowing its ministers to conduct gay weddings.

Members of the General Synod yesterday voted in favour of beginning a process to change its canon on marriage which could result in ceremonies being held in late 2017.

They have instructed the Church’s faith and order board to begin the two year process which may also result in ministers themselves being able to enter into same-sex marriage.

General Synod members also decided to add a clause that ensures that no cleric would be obliged to solemnise a marriage against their conscience.

Members, who gathered in Edinburgh this week, represent the denomination’s seven dioceses which account for 321 congregations across Scotland.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Scotland in December.

Last night the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: “Our General Synod has taken two important steps forward today.

“We have decided that we wish to consider possible change to our marriage canon.

“We have identified one possible expression of that change.

“This potentially creates a situation in which same-sex marriages could be celebrated in churches of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

“That would also allow our clergy to enter into same-sex marriages.”

Mr Chillingworth said the vote represented an indicative decision only.

“Any change to the canon will require the normal two year process and two thirds majorities will be required,” he added.

“That process will begin at General Synod 2016 and cannot be complete until General Synod 2017.”

Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network, which campaigned for gay marriage to be legalised, has said it welcomed the Church’s direction of travel.

He added that he hoped the General Synod would move forward in a way that respected and supported the diversity of church members.