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.