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What does the Church need to do to approve same-sex marriage?

The Scottish Episcopal Church has been moving in the direction of recognising same-sex marriage as equivalent to traditional marriage from a theological and ethical point of view for some time. At last year’s Synod, it discussed a change to canon law to remove reference to ‘one man and one woman’ in marriage, which it then sent to its seven dioceses and will come back for confirmation this year.

In parallel with this, the Church of Scotland (which is Presbyterian rather than Episcopal) is also considering the issue, and as part of that its Theological Forum has published a report An Approach to the Theology of Same-sex Marriage, and for anyone who has been convinced by the church’s traditional teaching on marriage it makes sober reading.

The first section is on the use of Scripture, and rather than explore the scriptural arguments, it offers some reflections on the ways that the two ‘sides’ in the debate draw on Scripture. It identifies two main aspects of the argument ‘for greater inclusion’:

As committed and faithful partnerships between equal persons of the same sex were largely unknown in the ancient world, neither St Paul nor any other biblical writer could have had such partnerships in mind when they condemned same-sex sexual activity.

Another more inclusive argument in favour of same-sex relationships rests on a distinction between the written text of Scripture and the living Word of God, the latter being associated with Jesus Christ who speaks to us in our hearts and consciences.

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