The Church of Scotland has taken steps to allow its ministers to perform same-sex weddings, after debating a report in its General Assembly.
The report, put forward by the influential Theological Forum, acknowledged that the Bible condemns same-sex acts, but claimed Scripture was framed by cultural context.
Marriage was redefined in Scotland in 2014, but individual churches are not required to participate in same-sex ceremonies.
‘Spectrum of interpretation’
Revd Prof Iain Torrance, Convener of the Theological Forum said everyone in the Assembly was on “a spectrum of interpretation”, and suggested there was no theological reason not to allow ministers to conduct same-sex weddings.
A series of amendments put forward by supporters of biblical marriage were defeated.
The Kirk will now conduct legal research to determine how same-sex weddings in churches can be allowed.
But the report was not without opposition.
Revd Dale London, a Church of Scotland minister in Angus, said that homosexuality was against the word of God, and that “We cannot call good what God has called evil.”
A spokesman for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said: “many people in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will be deeply saddened by today’s developments in Scotland, which we believe is at variance with the traditional biblical understanding of marriage between one man and one woman”.
Revd Mike Goss spoke against changing the Kirk’s doctrine when the report was released in April.
He said at the time that “same-sex relationships are not what God has planned for us as human beings”.
He added that no-one was without fault, even in heterosexual relationships, but that “we don’t bless that which is wrong and that has got to be key in terms of the Gospel”.
The report acknowledged that “conservative arguments” are based on the Bible’s recognition of sexual immorality, including same-sex acts, as sinful.
But it justified its decision on the grounds that “Scriptural condemnations of same-sex sexual activity were framed in cultural contexts very different from our own”.
The report did concede that no change should take place unless freedom of conscience is upheld for ministers or deacons who object.