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Kirk votes to allow parishes to opt out over gay ministers

24 May 2013


Vote: members of the General Assembly at the debate on Monday

Vote: members of the General Assembly at the debate on Monday

LAWYERS for the Church of Scotland are to draw up plans to allow individual parishes to opt out of the Kirk's traditional position on sexuality, and to appoint gay and lesbian ministers, after a vote at the General Assembly on Monday.

A report from a Kirk theological commission proposed two options: one affirming the Church's traditional position; and another that would have legitimised the acceptance of homosexual ministers as the norm, while allowing particular presbyteries to opt out.

Instead, after a full day of debate and questions on Monday, the General Assembly voted for a third option, proposed by the outgoing Moderator, the Very Revd Albert Bogle. The motion, approved by 340 to 282, said that the Kirk affirmed "the Church's historic and current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality; none the less permit those Kirk sessions who wish to depart from that doctrine and practice to do so".

A note accompanying the motion said that the decision "would not require the Church to abandon its traditional position, but . . . would allow ministers and deacons who are in civil partnerships to be selected for training and to be . . . ordained/inducted into a charge" if the relevant "Kirk session had decided to depart from the Church's traditional position".

Draft legislation will now be prepared and forwarded to presbyteries. They will be balloted on the move, before it returns to the General Assembly for a final vote.

The new Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Revd Linda Hood, described the decision as "a massive vote for the peace and unity of the Church". It was, she said, "a major breakthrough . . . but we are conscious that some people remain pained, anxious, worried, and hurt."

The vote follows the decision to appoint the Revd Scott Rennie, an openly gay man, to a parish in Aberdeen in 2009. In response, the General Assembly ratified his appointment, but put a moratorium on other gay ministers until a specially convened theological commission could report. It was the report of this commission that the General Convention debated this week.

Evangelical parishioners have already left the Kirk over the issue at St George's, Tron, in Glasgow ( News, 14 December); and Gilcomston South, in Aberdeen. Earlier this year, the Herald newspaper, citing a Kirk investigation, said that more than a dozen congregations, and 20 per cent of Kirk Session members would consider it "obligatory to leave the Church" over the issue, with a potential loss of more than 100,000 churchgoers.

The national director of the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland, the Revd Fred Drummond, a Church of Scotland minister, said after the debate: "I was glad to see the sense of grace in the debate held yesterday, and also that the traditional view on these matters has not been abandoned.

"These are deeply sensitive issues, and, while the Evangelical Alliance does not support the ordination of practising homosexual ministers, I was glad the discussions were respectful and gracious in tone. . .

"We believe that in scripture is the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ, and so we cannot support any decision that denies the importance of scripture on any matter. We will continue to argue for this in the Church of Scotland and else- where, and will wait to see what happens in the Church in the year to come. . .

"I hope that the Church can now move on to rediscover both its passion for the gospel, and its passion to transform the communities we are called to serve in Scotland."

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