What the Kirk decided

By Simon Barrow
May 25, 2011

There has been some uncertainty as to what the Church of Scotland General Assembly actually voted for, and against, on the issue of coupled same-sex ministers and related issues. on Monday 23 May 2011.

Hopefully, Ekklesia's report makes this clear: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14829

In addition to the Kirk's own statement (http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/latest/church_vo...), there is a good summary of what was decided on the Affirmation Scotland (http://www.affirmationscotland.org.uk/) website. Briefly, Assembly voted to:

* Continue the moratorium on the selection and training for ministry of those in same-sex relationships, until the report of a Theological Commission in May 2013.
* Maintain the unlawfulness of discrimination in the Church on grounds of sexual orientation.
* Permit the induction to a charge of a minister or deacon who is in a same-sex relationship and who was ordained before 2009 (an interim measure until 2013.).
* Appoint a Theological Commission, representative of the breadth of the church, to prepare a report on the theological issues raised by the debate.

Affirmation Scotland (AS) comments that the real significance 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."

AS continues: "This substance will include matters such as: marriage, same-sex relationships and civil partnerships; the blessing, or otherwise of civil partnerships; selection for training of those in civil partnerships and the consequences.

"It’s 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. 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.

"The Church of Scotland now acknowledges and accepts that it has (more than one!) lesbian and gay ministers, deacons, elders and members – some of whom are in relationships. Significantly, however, no-one who spoke in the debate said that they were gay, lesbian or in a same-sex relationship. Clearly, there is still a sense of insecurity and, for many people, the knowledge that the floor of the Assembly is not the best place to come out. There are nevertheless a good number of congregations who know that their minister is gay or lesbian, and perhaps in a relationship; and their ministries are valued by parishes and individuals."


Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He is reporting from the Church of Scotland General Assembly meeting in Edinburgh this week.

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