Church of Scotland leaders who support the biblical definition of marriage are concerned about legal threats as the Church moves towards backing same-sex marriage.
On Saturday, the General Assembly voted by 345-170 in favour of a motion instructing a committee to create legislation for the Church to host homosexual unions.
Although “safeguards” will be considered, some in the Church said they are nervous about being sued if they – or others – refuse to take part.
Separately, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that his views on sexuality have changed over the decades and he wants to ‘properly interpret’ scripture on the issue.
But Justin Welby told The Guardian that he had not fundamentally changed his mind since becoming Archbishop in 2013.
He said: “I’ve not changed in the sense that I believe the scriptures, properly interpreted, remain for me the final authority in matters of doctrine, in matters of practice. But the phrase is ‘properly interpreted’.”
Decision in 2020
The Church of Scotland’s decision to take forward plans on allowing same-sex marriage – albeit not imminently – will see the Legal Questions Committee preparing legislation and reporting back in 2020.
During the debate, an amendment was inserted stating that any risks the committee identify must be mitigated by safeguards.
Revd Bryan Kerr, of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark, proposed the motion and welcomed its passing.
But Covenant Fellowship Scotland, which works for the “reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland” reported worries that legislation would put pressure on congregations which disagreed.
“A number of Commissioners were concerned about the legal position that Ministers or others refusing to take part in such ceremonies would find themselves in”, it stated.
In May last year, the Church officially backed same-sex unions after debating a report which acknowledged the Bible condemns same-sex acts, but claimed Scripture was framed by cultural context.