MINISTERS in the Church of Scotland can now enter into same-sex marriages, after the General Assembly voted to extend the ruling that permitted their contracting civil partnerships.
Members of the Assembly voted 339 to 215 to change church law so that ministers and deacons who were in same-sex marriages could be called by a congregation to serve it, despite the Kirk’s theological position on marriage remaining unchanged.
Ministers in civil partnerships could already hold posts, thanks to a new church law passed last year, which has now been amended to include same-sex marriages.
No Kirk congregation will be permitted to solemnise a same-sex marriage, however, or to register a civil partnership.
At a press conference after the vote on Saturday, the principal clerk to the General Assembly, the Very Revd John Chalmers, said that the debates over holding same-sex weddings in churches, and allowing clergy in same-sex marriages to minister, were two different discussions.
“We had a debate, which made very clear that we were not interfering with our theological definition of marriage, and were not going to the place where ministers or deacons could themselves conduct same-sex marriages,” he said.
“In some ways, we crossed the Rubicon last year, when it was agreed that Kirk sessions could call someone in a civil partnership, and for many people, what today was about was simply tidying up and making the law of the Church consistent with Scots law.”
A committee is examining whether same-sex marriage is compatible with Christian thought, and is scheduled to report back to the General Assembly next year.
Since 2008, when debate on issues around sexuality began in the General Assembly, 25 ministers have left the Kirk, amounting to three per cent of all its serving clergy.