Published: 18/06/2017 19:00 - Updated: 16/06/2017 15:58

Bishop Mark Strange welcomes vote to allow gay marriage

Written byVal Sweeney

Bishop Mark Strange.
Bishop Mark Strange.

THE historic vote by the Scottish Episcopal Church allowing gay couples to marry has been welcomed by the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

Bishop Mark Strange, whose area includes Inverness Cathedral, was a prominent supporter of the change which was agreed by the Synod in Edinburgh following a passionate debate.

The bishop – who has been happily married for 34 years – hit the headlines two years ago, revealing he was once in love with another man as a teenager and said he would have been devastated if the church had turned its back on him because of his feelings at that time.

The Episcopal Church is the first major Christian church in the UK to allow same-sex marriages. Clergy who wish to officiate at gay marriages will have to “opt-in” so those who disagree will not have to act against their consciences.

Bishop Mark was pleased that the motion to change canon law had been carried but acknowledged not everyone in the church would share his views.

“There are a lot of people who are part of our church and part of our society are now going to be able to have the love they share blessed formally and I believe that has to be a good thing,” he said.

“I know there are people who will be very cross. There will be people who will be upset and it is my guess, there will be some upset within individual congregations.”

He said, however, those who had struggled with the issue or had argued passionately during the debate had been able to go back to the synod and continue conversations about other matters on the agenda.

“I have been supporting that motion, I suppose, nearly all my ministry,” Bishop Mark said.

“When the Scottish Government changed legislation to allow same-sex marriage, it became clear that the church also needed to begin that debate and conversation and move on.”

At last year’s synod, members of the church agreed to send the matter for discussion to its seven dioceses.

Six voted in favour of amending the law while Aberdeen and Orkney was the only one to vote against the proposal.

“I feel pleased,” Bishop Mark said.

“I feel my task as bishop now is to rejoice with those who will rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

He was unsure when the change would come into effect but said there were clergy in the diocese who had indicated they would be very happy to conduct same sex marriages.

“Some people will be queuing up to have a conversation with me because they are not happy,” Bishop Mark said.

“People will also be queuing up to see if we can do something for them.”

The bishop, a father-of-three, became a high profile supporter of allowing gay marriage in the church in 2015 when he gave a highly-personal account of his experiences of more than 30 years previously.

He revealed he had fallen in love with two people – one was a woman and one was a man, neither of whom returned that love.

He maintained that no one fell in love by design.

“Love is love regardless of gender and it affects people unexpectedly and when that love is reciprocated it can form one of the most powerful of emotions,” he said at the time.

When he fell in love for the third time it was with his wife and it had been “wonderful” but he was aware things might have been different and he would have been devastated if the church had cast him aside because of who he happened to be in love with.

The vote to allow same-sex marriage required the backing of at least two-thirds of each house of Bishops, Clergy and Laity.

Although it was passed, it has left the Episcopal Church at odds with most of the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

A group of global Anglican traditionalists has now announced it will appoint a missionary bishop “to serve the needs of those who oppose gay marriage”.

Same sex marriage became legal in Scotland in 2014 but was opposed by the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church.

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