General Assembly continuing on path towards ordaining gay ministers

The minister writes-

The General Assembly today voted 369 to 189 to accept a proposal from its Legal Questions Committee on a possible way forward in the ‘gay ministers’ debate.

Last year’s assembly had accepted a proposal from former Moderator the Very Rev Albert Bogle which, while affirming a traditional view of sexual relationships as the norm in the church, sought to allow Kirk Sessions to ‘depart’ from tradition if they were willing to induct a minister in a civil partnership.

A report was accepted from the Theological Forum which spoke of the possibility of a ‘mixed economy’, in which a church might accept exceptions from normal practice in the case of issues which are not central to the Christian faith. They pointed to examples from the early church, the reformation and in recent years where congregations and individuals were given the freedom to deviate from the majority of the church. A fascinating debate, in which the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance fielded complex theological questions with grace and thoughtfulness on behalf of his Panel, prepared the way for the Legal Questions debate after lunch.

Moderator John Chalmers led the assembly through three amendments and a countermotion, as well as the original’ ‘Overture’. The final vote,¬†following prayer brought to an end hours of sometimes painful and passionate debate, from which the Overture survived unchanged.

The Overture now goes to presbyteries across the country to vote on over the next year. If a majority of presbyteries vote in favour, the legislation will come back to next Year’s assembly for final approval. Presbytery approval is no means guaranteed. However, the size of today’s majority, and the support the Overture has received from across the theological breadth of the church, may mean it has a good chance of receiving the presbytery approval, perhaps making it into law as early as next year.

Since the Overture deals only with civil partnerships, the Acting Principal Clerk, the Rev George Whyte, asked and received approval for the Theological Forum and the Legal Questions Committee to also consider whether the provisions of the Overture should also apply to ministers in same-sex marriages, which should become legal in Scotland in the course of the next 12 months.

Reports on today, as usual, are available from Life and Work and Douglas Aitken. There is also press release from the Church.

The big report tomorrow is from the Church and Society Council, of which I have been a member for the last year.