Church of Scotland Society Theology

All is not yet said and done…

Last night’s decision by the General Assembly was only the first of two crucial discussions to be had this week.  The Overture from the Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye is still before the Assembly and has been moved from last night to Monday at 4pm due to the length of time the Assembly took to hear the case against Aberdeen Presbytery last night.

Today’s headlines proclaiming that the Kirk has welcomed a gay minister are potentially misleading.  Last night the General Assembly upheld the Presbytery of Aberdeen but also added a caveat.

The following motion was agreed by the Assembly:

a) refuse the dissent and complaint of Aitken and others and sustain the decision of the Presbytery of Aberdeen on the basis that the Presbytery followed the vacancy procedure correctly in Act VIII 2003.

b) affirm for the avoidance of doubt that this decision does not alter the Church’s standards of ministerial conduct.

The complaint was that the Presbytery had not followed the vacancy procedure.  The Assembly disagreed…

However, what the decision did not do was preempt the discussion of the overture which will decide who can and can’t be ordained.  It remains to be seen how the Assembly will decide on the issue of homosexual ministers and elders.

“That this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman”

There are a number of notices of motion which will suggest alterations to this motion, including one to add ‘or civil partnership’ to the end.  In many ways that would make sense of the decision last night, both to uphold the Presbytery of Aberdeen and also fulfil the second part of the motion reaffirming that the Church still has agreed ministerial standards.  That gay ministers would be expected not to engage in sexual relationships outside a civil partnerships would seem to be the most appropriate addition to those standards, but the General Assembly doesn’t always agree to things which might seem obvious!

What was obvious was that the discussions last night were conducted in a spirit of gracious understanding and patience.  I pray that the same spirit continues on Monday.

Church of Scotland God, Faith & Church Society Theology

Decision Day For General Assembly

The Case

This evening the Church of Scotland hears the Case of the Dissent and Complaint against Aberdeen Presbytery who upheld Queen’s Cross Church in their call of Scott Rennie to be their minister on the grounds that Scott, an openly gay man in a relationship with his partner David, is unsuitable to be a minister because in their opinion homosexual activity is prohibited in the Bible.

This is a case about many things.  It questions the right of a congregation to call a minister.  It questions the right of a Presbytery to uphold that call by majority voting.  It questions the basis on which a minister can be excluded.

I’ve blogged before about my hope for a gracious and ordered debate and I still hold out some hope for that, even given the things said in sermons and reported in the press over the past few weeks.

Because it is a case and the General Assembly meets as a Court, as with any other court proceedings, there will be no live webcast while the case is being heard.  I’m sure that given the proliferation of communication technology news of what’s happening will filter out and it might be worth keeping an eye on #GA2009 on Twitter for any news.

The Overture

Following the case an overture (motion) from the Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye will be heard.  These are the terms:


From the Presbytery of Lochcarron-Skye


1. the Church’s historic understanding of the Biblical teaching on homosexual practice has been questioned in recent years.

2. a lengthy period of reflection has elapsed without a resolution of the issue.

3. it is undesirable that the courts of the church should be asked to judge on individual cases in advance of any such resolution.

It is humbly overtured by the Reverend the Presbytery of Lochcarron-Skye to the Venerable the General Assembly to receive the Overture set out below,

“That this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman”.

There are a number of Notices of Motion already submitted and the discussion of the Overture will be streamed live.

Tonight will a defining moment for the Church of Scotland.  The outcome of this case may cause a split in the church.  It will cause hurt, no matter the decision.  I pray that God is with all of  those who are faced with this task and with Scott as he awaits the outcome.

Church of Scotland Events God, Faith & Church Society

And so it begins…

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland began this morning and a couple of things have jumped out at me already.

The first is the presence of ‘The Queen’.  She’s not there in person this year but when she can’t make it she sends someone in her place, a Lord High Commissioner.  The Queen or Lord High Commissioner sit outside the Assembly, technically.  They sit on a throne in the gallery behind the moderator.

The State being outside the Assembly is important.  The General Assembly is separate from the state and yet this morning found itself discussing whether or not business could be done at Assembly on Saturday afternoon because it clashed with the Garden Party at the palace.

Now, I’ve been to the Garden Party, so I speak from experience… (I have an invite for this Saturday but I’m not going) when I say that the cosy relationship between the church and state seems to be one the Church of Scotland should be wary of.  The Church of Scotland has for almost all of its history believed its own press that when Scotland had no parliament that the General Assembly was the next best thing.  Well it wasn’t and isn’t.  There must be a role for the church in holding the state to account.  I sometimes wonder if the cosy relationship helps or hinders that.

The second thing to note from a procedural debate this morning is that it seems to be an Assembly with some sense of what is being asked to do this week and the importance of the decisions it will make.

There was much discussion about the order of the Overture from Lochcarron and Skye and the case being brough against the Presbytery of Aberdeen for upholding the call of Scott Rennie, an openly gay minister to Queen’s Cross Church.  Common sense won I think and the case will be heard first.

It seems nonsensical to legislate in hindsight and then hold people to that new rule for something that happened before its introduction.  I’m glad the case will be discussed in full rather than being potentially curtailed by a previous decision.

You can watch the General Assembly online with live streaming, follow generalassembly on twitter and watch the conversation using twitter search #GA2009.

Blogging Change The World God, Faith & Church Society Theology

Petition Posters

Some of the bloggers I read have been posting their thoughts on the petition to the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly regarding the ordination of ‘practicing’ homosexuals.  I wrote about it in my posts ‘Not In My Name‘ and ‘How Would Jesus Behave?‘ but there are some other interesting thoughs:

John Orr has posted some interesting thoughts on Biblical interpretation to follow up his initial post.

Chris Hoskins asks ‘Where’s the Grace?‘.

Iain McLarty has some posts on the implications of the Lochcarron and Skye overture, the logical problems with it and a summary of some of the blogging on the subject.

Bryan Kerr asks what happened to a God of love for all?