Monday, 20 May 2013

Church of Scotland votes on allowing gay clergy

Updated Tuesday morning

The official news release from the Church of Scotland is headed Church finds common ground in sexuality debate.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in a groundbreaking decision called for the Church to maintain its historic doctrine in relation to human sexuality but, in line with the Kirk’s historic position of allowing congregations to call their own minister, to permit an individual Kirk Session to call a minister in a civil partnership if it chooses to do so.

The Legal Questions Committee and the Theological Forum will bring reports to next year’s General Assembly about how this will be achieved. In the meantime courts and committees of the General Assembly will maintain the status quo…

The Associated Press reports: Church of Scotland takes step to allow gay clergy

Senior members of the Church of Scotland voted Monday to let some congregations choose ministers who are in same-sex relationships — an important compromise that must still pass further hurdles before it can become church law.

The church’s General Assembly backed a motion affirming a traditional conservative view on homosexuality, but permitted liberal congregations to ordain openly gay men or women if they wish.

The assembly’s vote would require the approval of next year’s General Assembly as well as votes by the church’s regional presbyteries to become law. The process is complicated, and is expected to take at least two years.

There is a discussion of what occurred today by Kelvin Holdsworth at Church of Scotland Debate.

…Three proposals emerged. The first two were in the report itself and labelled rather unsatisfactorily as the Revisionist (option A) and the Traditionalist (option B) position. Option A allows what tends to be called a mixed economy by which that church could eventually allow ministers in civil partnerships to be appointed to churches and gay couples in civil partnerships to be allowed to have their partnerships blessed. Option B would not though anyone who happened to be in a Civil Partnership already would probably not be hounded out of their ministry but no new minister in a civil partnership could be inducted or ordained. The third position emerged during the day and was moved in the name of Albert Bogle. (Confusingly it was option D – another motion C had been proposed and then was withdrawn during the process). This option D was a proposal to reaffirm the traditionalist view on these matters whilst allowing individual Kirk Sessions to opt to do as they like and chose such a minister anyway.

In each case, these were not final votes. The procedures of the Church of Scotland mean that where there are significant changes accepted by a General Assembly they then have to be put to the presbyteries of the church. The final position only emerges if a majority of presbyteries concur during the subsequent year and also the next General Assembly confirms the vote. (If a majority of the presbyteries do not concur then the process fails)…

Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK has more explanation: Church of Scotland votes to induct or ordain civil partners – but not yet and includes a link to the full wording of what was agreed.

Frank comments:

The result of the Deliverance as amended by the countermotion is that instead of the change of position with an opt-out for “Traditionalists”, the Assembly have voted to maintain the status quo but with an opt-in for “Revisionists” – a very subtle shift of emphasis in the hope, no doubt, that it will keep the Church together.

As to further proceedings, if I understand the position correctly the next move is for the Committee on Legal Questions to draft an Overture to be considered by the General Assembly of 2014 which, if approved, will be sent down to the presbyteries under the Barrier Act 1697 because the terms of the Overture will engage an issue of “doctrine or worship or discipline”. If my assumption is correct (and if I’m wrong and there’s a Scots church lawyer who can correct me, please, please don’t hesitate to do so) the change will only be implemented if a majority of presbyteries approve the proposal and the General Assembly confirms it in 2015.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 20 May 2013 at 11:50pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation
Comments

I'm inclined to agree with Fr. Kelvin Holdsworth, that the hotch-potch result of this decision will undermine any attempt to outlaw discrimination in the Church of Scotland on grounds of the sexual-orientation of its ministers.

It really seems like a congregationalist outcome, rather than that of a coherent theological entity - a bit like the PEV system in the Church of England?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 3:56am BST

Building the Church of Jesus Christ is not easy in a fallen world; it never has been and it was never anticipated it would be by Christ Himself, the King of His Kingdom and the Head of the body, the living spiritual organism which is His Church - the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, but they will endeavour so to do, daily.
For all of us it is vital that the Church of Jesus Christ maintains and is shaped by what God has spoken in His Word - both living and written [Hebrews 1.1ff].
Within this spiritual warfare there will be occasions when things are done among the people of God, which God Himself does not condone but does not overturn:
in the choosing of a king in Israel [1 Samuel 8-12]God Himself was rejected as King [1 Sam 8.7], the people even acknowledged their sin in their 'asking for' such a thing [1 Sam 12.19] yet God called on Samuel to give the people what they asked for - 'Saul'[1 Sam 8.7; 12.13]. Yet God remained King in Israel [1 Sam 12.14; 12.18b (including King Saul!)].
in the matter of divorce, Jesus made clear to the Pharisees that to exercise it was to undo what God had done - "what God has joined together let not man separate" [Matthew 19.6], and Jesus Himself reminded them that God had only 'allowed' divorce (not condoned it - He hated it]because of the hardness of heart of His people [Mt 19.8].
Could it be that our CoS has followed, maybe by accident rather than design (!), this biblical paradigm? Both sides of the Commission recognised that Scripture nowhere speaks of God's pleasure in homosexual practice (anymore than in greed, slander ...)but the practice being perceived by many within today's society to be a godly even 'christian' perspective, being a more 'equal' way,[cf Israel wanting a king to be 'like other nations'] was allowed to congregations who would 'ask for' such to be allowed when they 'chose' their new minister.

Posted by: william on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 8:28am BST

Much ado about nothing.

Heterosexnormativists need to grow up.

Posted by: Laurence on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 12:24pm BST

Congregationalist maybe - civilised definitely.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 1:12pm BST

It's messy, but not everyone moves at the same speed. It will be interesting to see if the larger church, their presbytery, votes for it. It doesn't solve all problems. I'm all for parishes calling their own rector. What happens at larger church events where gay and straight clergy need to work together? What about bishops?

It's an intriguing development. Don't like the traditionalist/revisionist language, but I guess it depends on what is being revised.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 6:00pm BST

Worth pointing out, of course, that the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian, not Anglican. Also worth pointing out that the behaviour of 'Protestants' is frequently far superior to that of 'Catholics'. Also worth pointing out that gay ministers within the Church of Scotland are welcoming this as 'a fair compromise'. Would that such attitudes - on both sides - were more prevalent within the C of E.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 8:24pm BST
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