As I sat at my desk yesterday afternoon another spectacle unfolded before my very eyes. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland webstream was on my desk top and the Council of Mission And Discipleship were presenting their excellent report on Singleness, asking that it be disseminated for study.
What followed was simply remarkable. Speaker after speaker condemned the report and one went as far as to move that the report should be received but not sent out. Why? What could the controversy be? Well, the report says that some people have sex outside marriage. I know. I was shocked by this revelation. Who knew???
This is the body that only the day before had said that it wants to have an open and frank discussion about sexuality and was now chastising Peter MacDonald for having the nerve to a) admit to pre-marital sex with his wife of 26 years and b) be funnier than them.
There is a serious underlying issue at play in all of this though, and the proposal to supress this report is just a symptom of it. Over the course of the past week the Church of Scotland has, in my opinion, trampled all over the human rights of all of its office bearers.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19 states that
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
On Monday the General Assembly banned anyone subject to its courts (all ministers and office bearers) from making public statements about the ordination of gay ministers. (UPDATE: the final wording of the motion was: Instruct all Courts, Councils and Committees of the Church not to issue press statements or otherwise talk to the media or to make decisions in relation to the contentious matter of himan sexuality, with respect to the Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland, until 31 May 2001.)
Article 30 states that
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
So, congratulations to the Church of Scotland. You must be very proud. Contravening at least two articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in one day and that’s before we even get started on the employment rights of gay ministers which were curtailed by the moratorium on them moving charge for 2 years.
What on earth do you think you are doing?
Do you think that avoiding the debate, the fight, the argument, the falling out is the best way? At any cost?
Or is their another way? Is it not possible just to agree to disagree? To give congregations the right to call who they want to be their minister? If they want to call a minister who is gay, let them. If you don’t want that then don’t call a gay minister.
Would that be so hard? To agree to disagree? To be grown up about it? To recognise a genuine difference of opinion which will NEVER be resolved no matter how may Special Commissions and gagging orders you issue.