The Church of Scotland has voted by a clear majority to allow individual congregations to appoint openly gay ministers in Civil Partnerships.
The decision followed 2 years of reflection and debate, and marks a watershed in mainstream churches. The Presbyterian Church of Scotland has a substantial conservative wing, but proposers of the motion hope that the church will stay together because it does not require more traditional congregations to ‘opt out’ of having a gay minister. Rather is allows congregations to ‘opt in’.
At the same session of the church’s General Assembly, an alternative motion which simply reaffirmed the traditional rules of the church was rejected.
The key principles of the compromise…
1. Would not require the Church to abandon its traditional position.
2. But would allow individual congregations – by decisions of their Kirk Sessions – to depart from the Church’s traditional position.
3. Would allow ministers and deacons (current and prospective) who are in civil partnerships to be selected for training and to be trained. Would also allow them to be ordained/inducted into a charge the Kirk Session of which had decided to depart from the Church’s traditional position.
The full text can be seen here:
Importantly the resolution also preserves “liberty of opinion and responsible expression” and “would not permit harassing or bullying”.
The Church of Scotland is the largest religious group in Scotland with over 40% of the national population claiming it as their church. If this historic vote by the Kirk succeeds in opening up recognised ministry to people in same-sex partnerships, while also preserving church unity, it may well be a blueprint that other denominations will consider.