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What happened in The Scottish Episcopal Church's General Synod last week

posted 15 Jun 2015, 08:41 by Dean Fostekew

A brief report of General Synod 11-13th June 2015


This year there were many elections to boards and committees and the splitting of the Mission and Ministry Board into the Mission Board and the Institute Council. The formation of the Institute Council for ministerial training takes into account recommendations made in the review of the Theological Institute (TISEC) to bring ministerial and accredited training in line with the Common awards programme of study. Robert Gordon, a senior civil servant and member of St.Paul’s & St.George’s Edinburgh was elected as convener of the Standing Committee following the retirement of David Palmer, a member of St.Michael & all Saints Edinburgh and Diocesan Secretary after his five year stint. The Very Rev’d Alison Simpson (Dean of Moray) and Canon Dave Richards (rector of Ps&Gs) were elected as ordinary members to the Standing Committee. It is good to have a woman on the committee and Dave representing the Evangelical members of our church, their elections help to bring some balance the representation of gender and churchmanship on the committee. Out with General Synod the Standing Committee is the decision making body for our denomination.

Canon 31 Marriage 

Much prayer, time and discussion was given over the three days to the possibility of amending Canon 31 to allow the religious marriage of same sex couples in church following the change last year in Scottish Law. Opinions were divided along many lines but the discussions were mature, sensible and respectful. There was no shouting or posturing and a genuine desire developed to see everyone’s views respected and valued with the SEC. The final vote on the various options before Synod saw an over whelming majority vote to amend Canon 31 to allow same sex marriage in church. This is the beginning of a two year process to change the canon and many more discussions will need to take place. Synod also voted by a large majority to incorporate a conscience clause into the revised Canon 31 that would allow those clergy and congregations unhappy with the change to opt out of offering same sex marriage in their church. It is also likely looking at civil law that should the revised Canon 31 be passed in 2017 those clergy happy to conduct such services will need to apply to the Scottish Registrar to be licensed so to do so. Hopefully no cleric or congregation will be forced to do something they do not agree with but at the same time those in favour will be able to offer pastoral support to those same sex couples seeking marriage in church just as they are already able to do for mixed sex couples seeking marriage.


A new Service of the Word was agreed at Synod and will be incorporated into the prescribed liturgies of our church. This new ‘Matins’ type service brings with it a wealth of resources that can be used in other services too.


Synod responded to the call by Christian Aid to encourage congregations to pray for the peoples of Palestine and Israel on the 24th of each month. This was backed up by a Rule 10 motion calling for recognition and support for the Pope’s recent recognition of the State of Palestine and his call for reconciliation. Synod also heard of the work of the Ecumenical Accompaniers, members of many denominations who walk with the Palestinians who have to cross the wall to work each day. Their presence is necessary to stop violence and riots. Some members of the SEC are engaged in this ministry.  

Social Justice

Synod gave support to the Scottish Churches representation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris December 2015 and committed itself to encouraging its congregations to engage with Eco-Congregation Scotland and other ecological action groups. Synod also supported the call for all church employees to be paid the ‘Living Wage’ as well as supporting a Rule 10 Motion challenging the Westminster Government’s attempt to repeal the European Human Rights Act.

Good News from the Pensions Committee

Following some careful investment and restructuring the SEC Pension Fund has improved beyond measure and congregations can expect to be paying over 2% less this coming year a saving of £670 on clergy stipend costs. This will be of great benefit to many smaller, struggling charges and a welcome bonus to others such as ourselves at the Good Shepherd Murrayfield.

In Conclusion

General Synod 2105 was, I think, one of the best I have ever attended due to the quality and nature of its debates and its commitment to diversity and social justice. It recognised places and people who are hurting and those who are rejoicing and sought to reach out and reconcile them. For more information on the Synod see www.scotalnd.anglican.org (look under News).