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Church of Scotland votes to let ministers marry same-sex couples

23 May 2022

Ministers and deacons can now apply to conduct such marriages through an opt-in scheme

Church of Scotland

The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Revd Dr Iain Greenshields

The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Revd Dr Iain Greenshields

THE General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has voted to allow its ministers and deacons to marry same-sex couples in church.

On Monday, members voted 274 to 136 in favour of a motion to change canon law to permit the solemnisation of same-sex marriage in church. Under the approved Solemnisation of Same Sex Marriage Overture, ministers and deacons can now apply to conduct such marriages through an opt-in scheme. An accompanying report presented to the General Assembly states that no minister would be required to participate in the scheme unless they explicitly wished to do so.

The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Revd Dr Iain Greenshields, said afterwards: “There has been a lengthy, prayerful and in-depth discussion and debate about this topic for many years at all levels of the Church to find a solution that respects diversity and values the beliefs of all. . .

“All celebrants would be expected to take account of the peace and unity and pastoral needs of the congregation, and any parish or other grouping of which it is a part, while considering to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony.”

During a lively debate on the motion on Monday, the minister of Rosskeen Parish Church in Ross-shire, the Revd Phil Gunn, said: “We are called to love everyone as Christ commanded us, we are to demonstrate God’s love to the world so they might recognise something different in us; but that does not mean we have to conform to the ways of society or the world.”

Speaking in favour, the Revd Lezley Stewart, said: “It is time to say: ‘I do’ respect the choice of ministers to choose; ‘I do’ respect the faith and desire of members and ministers to say ‘I do’ and be married in their church in a way that most of us have been able to do throughout the whole of our lives and take for granted.”

Under the new legislation, a minister or deacon would have to apply to the Principal Clerk to become a celebrant; an application would then be made to the Registrar General for Scotland on their behalf. The Principal Clerk would maintain a record of celebrants, who would be responsible for renewing their status every three years. Only these ministers will be permitted the use of a building under their charge to conduct a same-sex marriage. The Church’s legal-questions committee is producing guidance on the amended law.

The Scottish Episcopal Church (News, 8 June 2017), Methodist Church (News, 2 July 2021), and the Quakers (News, 5 August 2009) are among the denominations whose members have voted to permit same-sex marriage. The Church in Wales last year voted to allow same-sex blessings (News, 10 September 2021).

The Church of England is currently going through a long period of discernment over the issue, centred on the Living in Love and Faith process. Its clergy are not currently permitted to either bless or marry same-sex couples in church.

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