The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will personally oversee a ‘punishment’ of the Scottish Episcopal Church for its embrace of same-sex unions.
The Scottish branch of the Anglican movement began permitting same-sex weddings this year after bishops, clergy and laity all overwhelmingly supported change.
But in a humiliating move this week, the global Anglican Communion has agreed to enforce a punishment for the church for the decision, which they say is not in line with Anglican teachings.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby this week said he will personally push forward with ‘consequences’ for the Scottish church to ease unrest from hardline anti-gay bishops.
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 churches in Africa and the Global South.
Speaking to the press, the Archbishop confirmed that at a Primates Meeting this week he had agreed to push forward with sanctions on the Scottish Church, which could see them barred from Anglican Communion events.
The decision mirrors a 2016 move to rebuke the US Episcopal Church in 2016, which was punished for making “a fundamental departure from [Anglican] faith and teaching” by allowing same-sex unions.
Archbishop Welby said: “There were a lot of expressions of disappointment, strong feelings from many of the provinces.
“That was heard very carefully by the Scottish Episcopal Church, who was careful in recognising this was going to lead to consequences in terms of not being able to play a role in ecumenical or leadership roles within the Anglican Communion.
That was in line with the decisions reached in January 2016 [for the US Episcopal Church] and there will be no difference to what was decided then.”
Welby confirmed he would be personally overseeing the implementation of the ‘consequences, saying: “It’s been left in my hands to follow through and it will be followed through.
He added there was no “formal vote” on the issue because “there was a consensus around that”.
The Archbishop said: “People were disappointed, they were angry… but it was a very different mood to many previous primates’ meetings.
“It was more like a family having to face the fact that something’s happened that is causing grief, than a club that doesn’t like one of its members.
“People were very clear about how disappointed they were. The mood in the room was aggrieved that people have to do things that no-one likes, and that I don’t particularly like, doing.”
Despite repeated concessions to hardliners, the Anglican Communion is in a state of terminal 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.
It is now tentatively scheduled for 2020, but it is unclear whether key African bishops will be attending.
The last Lambeth Conference to actually be held, in 2008, was also boycotted over LGBT rights.
The Archbishop of Uganda Stanley Ntagali refused to even attend the Primates’ 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.
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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.”
Edinburgh’s St John’s Church hosted the wedding of Peter Matthews and Alistair Dinnie, 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.”