I thought I’d have a go at exploring what the General Assembly has been up to because lots of people seem to be completely confused by what has been going on. I know how you feel! Let’s start with the part that has had all the headlines:
Did the Church of Scotland Approve Gay Ministers?
Contrary to what you have probably seen on TV or read in the papers, on Saturday the General Assembly did not vote to ordain homosexual ministers. The case being heard on Saturday was a complaint that the Presbytery of Aberdeen. The complainers were saying that the Presbytery hadn’t followed the procedures properly when they were dealing with Scott Rennie’s call to be minister of Queen’s Cross Church.
Their complaint was denied. The General Assembly found that the Presbytery had followed procedure.
Mindful that the implication of this decision was by default to approve the induction of Scott to his new charge the Assembly inserted a disclaimer… that this decision did not overrule or change the code of ministerial conduct.
Yesterday (Monday) the General Assembly was scheduled to hear the Overture from the Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye.
That didn’t happen because a motion was proposed by Dr McPake which was heard first. (I blogged about it yesterday)
The outcome of that discussion was to return the Church of Scotland to it’s pre-Assembly position. There was much discussion in Saturday’s debate that inducting Scott Rennie would set a precedent. The General Assembly was keen that this wouldn’t happen without a debate. That was partly the motivation for the Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye bringing their Overture which simply reaffirmed the historic orthodox position of the church.
The result of Monday’s deliberations was to:
- Set up another Special Commission to consult with Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions on the subject of human sexuality and report to the General Assembly of 2011
- impose a 2 year moratorium on inducting anyone who would bring a challenge to the potential outcome of that commission
- ban anyone subject to the courts of the church from making public statements about the ordination of gay ministers
Because of that return to the pre-Assembly position the Overture was withdrawn.
That might seem like a fudge and I know many who would have preferred the debate on homosexuality just happen and a decision be made but there seems still to be a greater desire to hold together the Church of Scotland.
Davslate on Twitter last night said: Prediction for GA2011 – Special Commission reports that there are a range of divergent and often irreconcilable views on sexuality.
There is a sense of inevitability about the discussion to come. There are quite simply two sides of this debate, neither likely to move. That said, there are probably more areas where those two side agree than disagree. I would think that all would agree that good relationships are important and that committed, faithful relationships are the ideal. That at least gives people a place of agreement to start at rather than starting at the point of most disagreement.
To me the ban on public comment makes no sense. I understand that people involved in case should not comment on it but to ban all comment on a topic which will be the subject of much debate and discussion in the media leaves a vacuum which will be filled by those less qualified or poorly informed.
I hope that makes a bit more sense of what has happened, and what is to come.