Anglican church faces punishment after making history with UK's first same-sex church wedding

Senior Anglican Church figures have said the union is ‘at odds with the majority stance that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman’

Harry Cockburn
Friday 29 September 2017 15:00
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Alistair Dinnie and Peter Matthews are the first same-sex couple to tie the knot in an Anglican church in the UK
Alistair Dinnie and Peter Matthews are the first same-sex couple to tie the knot in an Anglican church in the UK

The first same-sex wedding in an Anglican church in the UK has gone ahead despite the threat of punitive sanctions against the church body that gave the ceremony the go-ahead.

Alistair Dinnie and Peter Matthews made history by becoming the first gay couple to tie the knot after the Scottish Episcopal Church, which runs St John’s Church in Edinburgh, voted to overturn rules stipulating that marriage must be between a man and woman.

In June, members of the Scottish Episcopal Church general synod voted overwhelmingly to allow its churches to hold same-sex ceremonies.

But the opportunity for same-sex weddings in the Scottish Episcopal Church may not last.

The move is expected to be censured by the overarching Anglican Communion, which may exclude the Scottish Episcopal Church from future decision-making activities.

Last year the Anglican Communion suspended the US Episcopal Church from participating in decision-making and prevented it from representing Anglicans in meetings with other Christians and faith groups after the church similarly supported equal marriage.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion said the Scottish church's decision puts it “at odds with the majority stance that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman”.

The Anglican Communion may take action as soon as next week at a meeting of church leaders in Canterbury.

The stance of the Scottish church will likely throw a spotlight on a growing rift within the Anglican Church, where increasingly liberal churches are opposed by those which take a strongly traditional view against same-sex unions.

Representatives from churches in Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria are all boycotting the meeting because they believe the US Episcopal Church should have faced stiffer consequences for changing its rules.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Episcopal Church said it would not comment on any potential sanctions before the meeting.

The Rev Markus Dunzkofer, the rector at St John’s, told The Times he felt honoured and blessed to have been able to oversee the union of Mr Matthews, a lecturer in social policy at the University of Stirling, and Mr Dinnie, the refugee and migration programme manager for Edinburgh city council and a member of the church choir.

He said: “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.”

Mr Matthews and Mr Dinnie are believed to be on their honeymoon.

Same sex marriage have already been held in Unitarian and Free Christian churches in Britain, which sit outside the Anglican tradition; as well as in Quaker meeting houses, Liberal and Reform Jewish synagogues and more recently URC churches.

St John's Church is fundraising for a new organ. To donate go to: www.stjohns-edinburgh.org.uk/donate.html

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