The General Assembly of the [presbyterian] Church of Scotland is meeting in Edinburgh. On Saturday it was announced that:
The Church of Scotland has voted in favour of allowing people in same sex civil partnerships to be called as ministers and deacons.
The historic decision was made by the General Assembly on the Mound in Edinburgh today, where the motion was passed by 309 votes in favour and 182 against.
The outcome is the culmination of years of deliberation within the Church. The motion has faced a series of debates and votes before the final decision was arrived at this afternoon. This included 31 of the Church’s presbyteries endorsing the move to 14 who opposed it.
This means the Church has adopted a position which maintains a traditional view of marriage between a man and woman, but allows individual congregations to ‘opt out’ if they wish to appoint a minister or a deacon in a same sex civil partnership.
And the announcement continued:
Co-ordinator of the Principal Clerk’s office, Very Rev David Arnott, said: “The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland decided today to allow individual Kirk Sessions the possibility of allowing a Nominating Committee to consider an application from a minister living in a civil partnership. During a vacancy a Kirk Session may, but only if it so wishes, and after due deliberation, agree to a Nominating Committee accepting an application from such a minister. No Kirk Session may be coerced into doing so against its own wishes. This decision was in line with a majority of presbyteries who voted in favour of such a move.”
John Bingham at the Telegraph reports on the potential significance of this for the Church of England. See Church of Scotland plan for gay ministers offers possible ‘template’ for Anglicans .
…South of the border, the Church of England already allows clerics to form civil partnerships as long as they claim to be celibate. But the Church of Scotland’s approach does not require celibacy.
The Very Rev David Arnott, who coordinates the General Assembly’s business, said that although the Presbyterian structure of the Church of Scotland is different from that of Anglican churches, he hoped the plan could offer a “template” for the Church of England to consider.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “We are not going to change people’s minds, we have to come to a way of living together with our differences and living with our diversity and I hope that we’re able to do that.”
…The Rev Sally Hitchiner, an Anglican priest and founder of “Diverse Church”, a group for young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians, said the Church of England should “look carefully” at the Scottish arrangements.
“It sounds very similar to the Church of England’s policy on remarriage of divorcees and I think that works very well and actually I think that protects conservatives,” she said.
“In the conservative wing of the Church of England people genuinely are concerned that in 10 or 20 years they won’t be able to hold those views.
“If we can find a model like the Church of Scotland I think it could protect conservatives within the church while still allowing those of us who want to marry people of the same sex and indeed be married ourselves we should do so.”
The item on the BBC radio programme mentioned above can be found 23 minutes in via this link.
On Thursday, the Assembly will consider whether to extend this provision to those in same-sex marriages.