General Assembly decides…

Today the Church of Scotland debated the Report of the Special Commission on Same-sex Relationships and the Ministry.

They decided:

1. Receive the Report.
2. Adopt as the proper approach to homosexual Christians the recommendations of the Special Commission,
(i) The pastoral care of homosexual Christians
(1) It is contrary to God’s will that Christians should be hostile in any way to a person because he or she is homosexual by orientation and in his or her practice. In other words we view homophobia as sinful. We do not include in the concept of homophobia both the bona fide belief that homosexual practice is contrary to God’s will and the responsible statement of that belief in preaching or writing.
(2) It is the duty of the Church to welcome, minister, and reach out to people regardless of their sexual orientation and practice. The Church should strive to manifest God’s love to all of his people.
(3) In particular, the Church should recognise the heavy burden which a homosexual orientation continues to place on some who find it difficult or impossible to reconcile their orientation with their understanding of God’s purposes as revealed in the Bible. There is a particular need for the Church to reach out pastorally to them and to make them welcome.
(ii) The eligibility of homosexual Christians to hold office
(4) People who are homosexual by orientation are not barred by their orientation from membership of the Church or from taking up leadership roles in the Church, including the ministry of Word and Sacrament, the diaconate and eldership.

3. Subject to the moratorium set out in 8 below, maintain the unlawfulness of discrimination in the Church on the grounds of sexual orientation in terms of the Act anent Discrimination (Act V 2007).

4. During the moratorium set out in 8 below, allow the induction into pastoral charges of ministers and deacons ordained before May 2009 who are in a same-sex relationship.

5. During the moratorium set out in 8 below, instruct all Courts, Councils and Committees of the Church not to issue press statements or otherwise talk to the media in relation to contentious matters of human sexuality, in respect to Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland.
6. In the light of the experience of the Special Commission and, in particular, the need for a sustained theological addressing of the matters before the Church, establish a Theological Commission of seven persons representative of the breadth of the Church’s theological understanding, with the task of addressing the theological issues raised in the course of the Special Commission’s work; and instruct the Selection Committee to bring names to a future
session of the General Assembly.

The bulk of the debate was around 7:

(a) Resolve to consider further the implementation of an indefinite moratorium on the acceptance for training and ordination of persons in a same-sex relationship thus maintaining the traditional position of the Church, and to that end:
(1) instruct the Ministries Council and the Legal Questions Committee in collaboration to address the pastoral and procedural implications of such a moratorium on (i) the selection process, (ii) discipline, and (iii) the position of ministers who were ordained and inducted prior to May 2009; and to report to the General Assembly of 2012.
(2) instruct the Theological Commission to continue the process of discernment initiated by the Report received by the General Assembly of 2007: “A Challenge to Unity: Same-sex relationships as an Issue in Theology and Human Sexuality”, taking account of the further work of the Working Group on Human Sexuality, with respect to Being Single and Marriage, and to report to a future General Assembly.
(b) Resolve to consider further the lifting of the moratorium on the acceptance for training and ordination of persons in a same-sex relationship, and to that end instruct the Theological Commission to prepare a report for the General Assembly of 2013 containing:
(i) a theological discussion of issues around same-sex relationships, civil partnerships and marriage;
(ii) an examination of whether, if the Church were to allow its ministers freedom of conscience in deciding whether to bless same-sex relationships involving life-long commitments, the recognition of such lifelong relationships should take the form of a blessing of a civil partnership or should involve a liturgy to recognise and celebrate commitments which the parties enter into in a Church service in addition to the
civil partnership, and if so to recommend liturgy therefor;
(iii) an examination of whether persons, who have entered into a civil partnership and have made lifelong commitments in a Church ceremony, should be eligible for admission for training, ordination and induction as ministers of Word and Sacrament or deacons in the context that no member of Presbytery will be required to take part in such ordination or induction against his or her conscience; and to report to the General Assembly of 2013.

The Assembly voted in favour of B

8. Instruct all Courts, Councils and Committees of the Church not to make decisions in relation to contentious matters of same-sex relationships, accept for training, allow to transfer from another denomination, ordain or (subject to 2 above) induct any person in a same-sex relationship until 31 May 2013 until the General Assembly of 2013 has heard the report of the Theological Commission.
9. Thank and discharge the Special Commission.