Today was an interesting day at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly. As I’ve outlined below, today was all about the Special Commission on Same-Sex Relationships and Ministry.
The debate was long and to be honest we didn’t hear an awful lot that hasn’t already been said in the discussion already. What was most interesting was that I got the impression the discussion seemed to be dominated by ‘traditionalist’ voices but that the votes, although close, went the other way.
I spent the day wondering why the Kirk couldn’t just get on with deciding. There was lots of talk about agreeing to differ, about the need for unity above all else and even about the need for the Church of Scotland to ‘set an example’. The choice looked like which variety of fudge you preferred but as the debate went on it became obvious that their was neither the appetite for a fight nor a form of words available that would precipitate one.
So, where does today’s decision leave the Church of Scotland?
Well, not really anywhere different but perhaps on an interesting ‘trajectory’. By agreeing:
(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 has set the tone for the next phase of discussion on a more permissive path.
Part of today’s problem was one I’ve mentioned before and one that is prominent in the deliverance, Civil Partnerships. By failing to accept Civil Partnerships the Kirk finds itself in a place where it can’t really discipline its ministers in a fair and equitable way. Without recognising partnerships there is no equivalent to marriage, and that’s going to continue to be problematic.
So, we’ll see where this goes but the BBC are reporting that the Kirk has lifted its ban on gay ministers. That’s at best simplistic and at worst going to inflame the discussion when calm is what the church wanted more than anything.