The Primates’ Meeting reached a consensus Oct. 3 that the Scottish Episcopal Church should face the same consequences as the U.S.-based Episcopal Church for its decision to permit same-sex marriages.
At their last gathering in January 2016, the primates required “that for a period of three years the Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee, and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”
The primates, meeting this week at Canterbury Cathedral, spent an hour discussing the decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change its canon on marriage.
The Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed that the consequences will now apply to the Scottish church: “Bishop Mark said in his opening presentation that he expected that to happen and accepted that it would. It is left in my hands to follow that through and it will be followed through as I did after the Primates’ Meeting of 2016.”
Archbishop Welby confirmed that the primates took no vote, explaining that formal votes are unusual during Primates’ Meetings.
“We talked about things this afternoon of huge importance,” he said. “People were disappointed. They were angry. But it was a very different mood to many previous Primates’ Meetings. It was more of a family that is having to face the fact that something has happened that is causing grief than a club that doesn’t like one of its members.
“We were quite clear: people were very clear about how disappointed they were. But I think the mood in the room, and how I will feel, is just grieved that one has to do things that no one likes — that I don’t like — doing. You want people to be united, joyful, celebrating together.”
The Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, briefed his fellow primates on the decision of his church’s General Synod last June to change its Canon on Marriage. “This decision was ours to take as a self-governing province of the Anglican Communion,” Bishop Strange said.
“However, I recognize that this decision is one that has caused some hurt and anger in parts of the Anglican Communion and that the decision taken at the last Primates’ Meeting, which was to exclude our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church from debate on doctrine and from chairing Anglican Communion committees, is a decision that now also pertains to us.
“We will continue to play our part in the Anglican Communion we helped to establish, and I will do all I can to rebuild relationships, but that will be done from the position our Church has now reached in accordance with its synodical processes and in the belief that love means love.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Episcopal Church said Bishop Strange told the primates that “only those clergy who wish to solemnize marriages of same-gender couples will be nominated to the civil authorities for authorization to do so.”
In his briefing with reporters, Welby said that some primates had raised the question on whether the consequences decided by the primates at their meeting in 2016 had been fulfilled.
“I went through what we have done and they were satisfied,” he said. “I think I can show very clearly that everything that was decided that could be carried out was carried out.”
He said that the primates raised two “confusions” about the decision:
“One was that the Episcopal Church … was at the Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in Lusaka last year. Of course, the ACC is a trust under English law. They are members of that trust. In fact, one of them at the time, although he has stepped down, was a trustee. I have no power to overrule English law and say they can’t come. And so that was explained. I don’t think that had been fully understood.
“The other was asking why the Presiding Bishop of TEC was on the task group looking at walking together. When you look at the wording of what was decided last time it was perfectly clear that there needed to be a conversation, a dialogue, about what it meant. And you clearly can’t have a conversation when you only have one group in the room.
“Talking to people over dinner last night and since, there has been no disagreement with that.”