The first same-sex wedding in a UK Anglican church has taken place in Scotland.
The Church of England and Church in Wales are both legally banned from carrying out same-sex weddings, but the Scottish branch of Anglicanism, the Scottish Episcopal Church, is not bound by the same laws.
In a break from traditional Anglican teachings, the Scottish church voted to permit same-sex weddings this year after bishops, clergy and laity all overwhelmingly supported the change.
This month the first same-sex weddings took place in a Scottish church.
Edinburgh’s St John’s Church hosted the wedding of Peter Matthews and Alistair Dinnie earlier this month, believed to be the first such union in a SEC church.
Several others have followed suit, with churches in Glasgow and Moray also hosting same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Mr Matthews said: “As a young gay man I thought I would never, ever, get married, let alone married in a church.
“The opening liturgy of our ceremony emphasises how the love in our marriage reflects and reinforces the love of God and the love of Jesus, when he died for us on the cross.
“By getting married in church this is stating that this love is as bountiful for everyone equally.”
The ceremony was officiated by Rev Markus Dunzkofer, the rector at St John’s.
He told The Times: “I have blessed marriages in other Anglican provinces and always had to stop short of the vows.
“It felt like something was cut off, like something wasn’t right.
“Finally being able to do the whole thing felt like the fulfilment of where the spirit had been telling us to get to.
“It completely made sense, it all came together. I really felt for the first time it was meant.
“There was an open invitation to St John’s and a lot of the members of the congregation came along to show their support.”
Deep divisions have arisen in the global Anglican church over LGBT issues, with a stark contrast between teachings in largely pro-LGBT Western churches and hardline anti-gay Anglican churches in Africa and the Global South.
In an attempt to keep the Anglican Communion from splintering, the Archbishop of Canterbury even dolled out a ‘punishment’ for the US Episcopal Church in 2016, accusing it of making “a fundamental departure from [Anglican] faith and teaching” by allowing its clergy to perform same-sex marriages.
The Scottish church is expected to face a similar ‘punishment’ ahead of a meeting of Anglican Communion leaders next week.
Nigerian archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, previously said he would pursue the issue.
He said in a statement: “There are differing views about same-sex marriage within the Anglican Communion but this puts the Scottish Episcopal Church at odds with the majority stance that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.
“This is a departure from the faith and teaching upheld by the overwhelming majority of Anglican provinces on the doctrine of marriage.”
He added: “The primates of the Communion will be meeting in Canterbury in October. I am sure [the] decision will be among the topics which will be prayerfully discussed.
“There will be no formal response to the SEC’s vote until the primates have met.”
The Guardian reports that the Scottish church will “face de facto sanctions” from the body.
Despite repeated concessions attempting to hold it together, the Anglican Communion is already in a state of disarray and is unlikely to ever heal its rifts.
The Communion had been due to hold its once-a-decade meeting of global bishops, known as a Lambeth Conference, in 2018.
However, the Conference was delayed over fears that there would be a boycott from hardline bishops.
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It is now tentatively scheduled for 2020, but it is still unclear whether key African bishops will be attending.
The last Lambeth Conference to actually be held, in 2008, was also boycotted over LGBT rights.
Even the primates meeting set to take place next week will see a smaller-scale boycott.
The Archbishop of Uganda Stanley Ntagali is among bishops planning to boycott the meeting.
Ntagali, who has egged on laws across Africa implementing harsh punishments for homosexuality, said he was not prepared to tolerate people with “an unbiblical view of marriage”.
Ahead of the meeting, Welby had written to the primates from around the world to insist that the Church of England remains opposed to same-sex marriage.
He wrote: “I certainly feel the need to be with you, to share our experience and in prayer and fellowship, to support one another and seek how best we can serve the call to preach the gospel, serve the poor and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said: “I support the Bishops’ declaration that doctrine on marriage should not change – that marriage should be a lifelong commitment between a man and woman.
“The Anglican Communion position is set out [opposing same-sex marriage]. That is our lodestar.”