Supporting the blessing of same-sex unions

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by Father Ross K Bell

I am a priest now in the Scottish Episcopal Church and  was for many years a Police Chaplain.  In that time I remarried divorcees, blessed and baptized children born to married and non married couples, blessed same sex unions and buried those who had died whilst in active service and the deceased of their families.

It has always struck me that the Holy Spirit of God was present in all those occasions as in each event the focus was the love that people have for one another and love is of God.

I have also buried too many gay people who have been made miserable because they have not been accredited by or given the validation of a wider society because they were gay and have ended their life.  I have supported our elder community members who have at times have lived lives of fear, shame and anxiety that it would be found out that they were part of the LGBTQ communities.  I have visited those who have been made ill because of the psychological damage that has been inflicted when they have felt devalued just because they are gay.  This must stop.  It is a matter of society’s health and well-being that we create systems that enable the spiritual and social lives of LGBTQ folks to be held together in the way we hold together straight couples.  Let’s end this injustice and cause of ill-health.

It is absurd that I can marry women to men and that is given recognition by the state but when a loving couple of the same sex come and ask me to preside at and bless their civil partnership; I am prevented.  This is neither just nor right nor holy.

Please recognize that although some senior and vociferous Cardinals may hold the ear of the press they do not hear the heart’s desire of the people and indeed many of the clergy.  Remember they claim to speak for the same Roman Catholic Church that refuses to acknowledge the priestly ministry of women or allow their children’s charities to enable young gay people to be fostered by gay or lesbian foster parents.  We in other churches and faith groups hold very different and possibly even more theologically valid opinions.

As a priest I exercise my ministry guided by my conscience and Scripture, tradition and reason.  Scripture has much to say about condemning divorce and the remarriage of people who are divorced but still I may remarry divorcees with the support of both Church and State.  Scripture has nothing to say about blessing a loving same sex relationship and giving that partnership social and divine recognition.  Right thinking would direct me in all integrity to be able to undertake this action on behalf of the Church, the State and a wider Society.  On a significant number of times I have blessed couples after their Civil Union, and that blessing is about naming the presence of Love and the role of the God of Love in their relationship.  I hope that the Scottish Government will see this growing tradition and reason too, and as an act of justice enable me to preside over the union of any two persons, regardless of sex, class, ethnicity …  To be able to function for LGBT couples in the way I do for straight couples – those of faith, those of none and all those in-between.