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First same-sex wedding in a UK church exposes rift within Anglicanism

By Staff Reporter

The first same-sex wedding in a church in the UK has gone ahead despite the threat of 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.

The development was welcomed by Changing Attitudes Ireland (CAI), a lobby group within the Church of Ireland, campaigning for it to permit same-sex marriages.

CAI committee member Pam Tilson said: "This is very positive news, and we absolutely look forward to similar developments taking place here in Ireland. There are rectors here very ready and willing to carry out same-sex marriages."

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 that denomination 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 stopped it from representing Anglicans in meetings with other Christians and faith groups after it backed 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. The stance of the Scottish church will likely throw a spotlight on a growing rift within the Anglican Church, where some 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 all decided to boycott a meeting to discuss the development because they believed 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, rector at St John's, told The Times newspaper he felt honoured and blessed to have been able to oversee the union of Mr Matthews and Mr Dinnie, saying: "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."

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