That might seem like an overly dramatic headline, but this afternoon the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly agreed to ban all those subject to it’s courts, that’s Ministers and Elders, from talking about discussions relating to the ordination of gay ministers.
In a confusing and lengthy session the Assembly decided (I think):
1. Appoint a Special Commission composed of nine persons, representative of the breadth and unity of the Church, to consult with all Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions and to prepare a study on Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland in the light of the issues (a) addressed in the report welcomed by the General Assembly of 2007: “A challenge to unity: same-sex relationships as an issue in theology and human sexuality”, and (b) raised by the case of Aitken et al v the Presbytery of Aberdeen, and to report to the General Assembly of 2011;
2. Instruct all Courts, Councils and Committees of the Church not to issue press statements or talk to the media or to make public comment, whether in publications or otherwise, on decision-making in relation to contentious matters of human sexuality, with respect to Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland, until 31 May 2011; and
For the avoidance of doubt, affirm that the provision of this whole motion shall in no way be interpreted as offering grounds for challenging the decision in the referred case Aitken and others against the decision of the Presbytery of Aberdeen.
3. Urge all members who are subject to the discipline of the Courts of the Church of Scotland to act in accordance with the process outlined in 1 and 2.
So, what does all that mean?
What is clear is that the Kirk will appoint a Special Commission, a committee, of nine people to consult with Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions about the issues surrounding human sexuality. This will report to the General Assembly of 2011.
Scott Rennie will (probably) be inducted to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen, but the unclear position I blogged about previously came up towards the as the Assembly did not decide on anything other than the function of the Presbytery in this matter in their discussion on Friday night. A motion to clarify was needed.
Then came what is possibly the biggest ‘sledge-hammer to crack a nut’ piece of legislation I’ve seen in years.
No-one who is a minister, elder or holds any other ordained position in the church, can talk to the press or make public statements about the issue of ordaining gay ministers.
It is hugely unclear what ‘public statements’ means. Clarification was sought but was never really achieved. Specific clarification was sought on blogs. This was not given but it must be assumed that blogging would be a ‘public statement’.
This was prompted by the press coverage of Scott Rennie’s case. Just as in civil law, there is already legislation in the church to stop people involved in a case from discussing it until the case is over. This piece of unclear and unworkable nonsense goes way beyond what was needed and is completely unenforceable.
The Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye graciously withdrew their overture in light of the appointment of the Special Commission.
The question has to be asked, will anyone really be any further forward in two years? Is another committee really going to help?
Only time will tell… because no-one else is allowed to!