Thinking Anglicans

Church of Scotland allows opt-outs for clergy in civil partnerships

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.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kelvin Holdsworth
9 years ago

I can’t imagine why anyone from Diverse Church would be wanting to support the idea of the LGBT discrimination of the Church of Scotland being a model for the Church of England to adopt. It is worth bearing in mind that though the change that the C of S made this week is a step forward, it only brings them to the point that the Scottish Episcopal Church reached years ago of allowing clergy to be in Civil Partnerships without making celibacy demands. There’s an interesting and helpful perspective on what’s happening in the C of S from an actual… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
9 years ago

Kelvin, the “Diverse” in Diverse Church not only stands for different genders and sexuality but also for diverse theological opinions, including a belief in traditional views on same sex relationships.
“All can, none must” seems a reasonable compromise to come to.

The problem with the Scottish Church decision, to my mind, is that it is about Civil Partnerships not about marriage.
And as more and more gay Christian couples are opting for marriage, there will be very few eventually qualifying under the CP legislation, while married people will still be discriminated against.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
9 years ago

I think that the reason that this is about civil partnerships rather than marriage is that it is the end result of a process that has been going on for five years or more, before equal marriage came in Scotland’s horizons. I understood that the marriage aspects were to be raised in Thursday at the Assembly. My view, for what it’s worth, is that if the Church of England can get somewhere towards this sort of settlement, at a minimum, services of blessing after CPs and equal civil marriage, including CPs and marriage for clergy too, as local decisions rather… Read more »

9 years ago

The General Assembly will be discussing that decision on Thursday afternoon.

btw watching them vote is quite entertaining. They all have keypads around their necks on which they press buttons to indicate their vote – all within a 30sec window. With an immediate result displayed on the screen.

Father Ron Smith
9 years ago

I notice the Church of Scotland makes the point that – to take advantage of the new option, those who wish to have a Same-Sex partnered pastor, one would have to ‘opt-out’ of the Church’s current doctrinal Statement that Marriage is only for heterosexuals. So, clearly not yet ready to fully accept that Gay people are equal to Straights.

As Father Kelvin says; not as inclusive as SEC.

robert ian williams
robert ian williams
9 years ago

The Church of Scotland voted for the ordination of women,15 years before the Church of England. Maybe the time difference may be similar on the gay issue in England.However the Church of Scotland cleared its self of hyper conservatives over the years through several schisms..they did not fall over themselves to encompass everyone or set two thirds majorities.

9 years ago

“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.”

I did NOT know the Scots were so famous for FUDGE!

Well, inch-by-inch, I guess… (Maranatha!)

Thomas Renz
Thomas Renz
9 years ago

The Church of England’s policy on remarriage of divorcees is now commonly used to claim that the Church has changed its understanding of marriage which suggests it “works very well” for those who are happy with that but not at all well for those who wish to safeguard the Church’s tradition.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x