Kirk moves forward in debate on gay people in ministry

By staff writers
May 25, 2011

The Church of Scotland has moved towards the acceptance of ministers living in same-sex relationships, and the blessing of such relationships involving life-long commitments.

The Kirk's General Assembly, meeting this week in Edinburgh, reaffirmed its pastoral care of lesbian and gay people and went on to agree their eligibility to hold membership, office and leadership roles - including the ministry of Word and Sacrament, the diaconate and eldership.

In a day long debate, the main resolution was carried by a majority of 351 to 294 votes.

First, an electronic vote of 393 votes for and 252 against allowed the induction into pastoral charges of ministers and deacons ordained before 31 May 2009 who are in same-sex relationships, during a two-year moratorium on further change while theological deliberations continue.

By late afternoon on Monday 23 May 2011, the General Assembly faced two core options in relation to the Report with which it had been presented.

The first was an indefinite moratorium on the acceptance for training and ordination of persons in same-sex relationships, but with further study. The second was a limited moratorium during the production of a theological report to be brought to the General Assembly in 2013, with partnered gay people who were in existing ministry before two years ago, being accepted in the meanwhile.

A former Moderator and Principal Clerk put forward a combination of the two positions, to be debated first. This was defeated. Then the main proposal was passed by a majority of 351 to 294 votes.

"The General Assembly has been brave and can be proud of the way it debated a really difficult issue," commented Barnaby Miln, a social activist and former magistrate.

"What was most significant," said Affirmation Scotland, "is that the Assembly voted to steer a course heading in the direction of a more inclusive church, the momentum and substance of this to be worked out by the Theological Commission, and of course subsequent debates and decisions of the Assembly."

"It is important to realise that The Church of Scotland has only resolved to move in a direction towards the possibility of treating lesbian and gay people (in relationships) as equals to heterosexual people – it’s not there yet," the group continued.

"Therefore, there is still a need for prayer, discussion and discernment – and a need for gay and lesbian folk in the church to tell their stories and witness to their faith."

Affirmation Scotland ( supports and advocates the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) and the other churches across the country.


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