The Listening Process

Reports from the Provinces - The Scottish Episcopal Church.

A Study Guide entitled Human Sexuality was published by the Scottish Episcopal Church in December 2001. It is a careful and broad guide covering a range of areas and opinions. The guide has short, readable presentations on morality and ethics, the authority of Scripture and the interpretation of Scripture as well as science, human relationships and sexual relationships. It is a very useful guide.

The General Synod received reports back from those who had used the guide. The College of Bishops set out some significant markers for the listening process. They were convinced that it could only happen within strong bonds of trust and respect and that it was important to build those when discussing areas of disagreemen. It was recognised that not everyone understands why the issues  are discussed inside and outside the Church. The bishops felt that the issues of sexuality were of second order and should be handled within the life of the Communion and should not fracture it. They believe it was the place of the church to set an example to the world. During the time of listening no proposals to change Canons or Liturgy were proposed.

Reflecting on the Windsor Report the College of Bishops welcomed the diversity of opinion in the Church. They said:

“The Scottish Episcopal Church has never regarded the fact that someone was in a close relationship with a member of the same sex as in itself constituting a bar to the exercise of an ordained ministry.”

They continued by saying that they

“sought to be welcoming and open to persons of homosexual orientation in our congregations, and to listen to their experiences. This has on occasion led to clergy to respond to requests to give a blessing to persons who were struggling with elements in their relationship, and who asked for such prayer.”

They noted that the Windsor Report did not censure informal pastoral responses and was concerned with the authorisation of official liturgies.

The bishops agreed “that the whole area of debate in this matter is of such a fluidity… that it would be premature to move formally to authorise such a liturgy.”

They concluded:

"We are conscious that as a Church we are much indebted in our life both to a significant presence of persons of homosexual (lesbian and gay) orientation, and also to those whose theology and stance would be critical of attitudes to sexuality other than abstinence outside marriage. We rejoice in both.”

As they moved on the debate the bishops called for a consideration of the interpretation and authority of Scripture, and examination of the tradition of faith, the experience of the presence and ministry of people of homosexual orientation and the way understandings of gender and sexuality are developing in the community. “In all this,” they conclude “we must seek to be open to learning the truth of God from one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”