The Church of Scotland has voted to allow its ministers and deacons to be in same-sex marriages, in a decision described as ‘unbiblical and damaging’.
At the weekend, commissioners at the Kirk’s General Assembly voted by 339 to 215 to extend last year’s decision to recognise ministers and deacons in civil partnerships, to cover gay marriages as well.
During a debate at the annual meeting several ministers stood up to oppose the move, which has caused serious division in recent years.
Contrary to scripture
Revd Andrew McGown, of Inverness East Church of Scotland, said allowing ministers to continue to serve in the church when they are in a same-sex marriage “stands contrary to the plain teaching of scripture”.
“This matter has decimated the Church. Thousands of members and adherents have left the Church, sometimes whole congregations. This has been particularly damaging in the highlands and islands”, he added.
Since 2008, 25 ministers have left the denomination due to discussions over ministers who are in homosexual relationships. Several large congregations, such as St George’s Tron in Glasgow and Gilcomston South in Aberdeen, have come out altogether.
This matter has decimated the ChurchRevd Andrew McGown
The Kirk claims that the move “does not compromise the Church’s traditional view of marriage as a union between one man and one woman”.
Under the new policy, individual congregations will be able to “opt out” of the Church’s conventional stance on marriage and appoint ministers in same-sex relationships. A statement on the Kirk’s website said the vote will “update Church law to keep pace with Scots Law”.
Speaking at a press conference last week former moderator of the Kirk, the Very Revd John Chalmers, claimed: “We had a debate which made very clear that we were not interfering with our theological definition of marriage”.
He added: “I hope we have now put this issue to one side and we can now get on with what I believe are important issues”.
Last year, the Church of Scotland voted to allow gay ministers who are in civil partnerships to be ordained.
It also announced that it would consider ordaining ministers who are in same-sex marriages, and pledged to consult local areas, known as presbyteries, on the matter.
Presbyteries voted 26 to 19 to refer the issue to the General Assembly, paving the way for last week’s vote.