Church finds common ground in sexuality debate

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in a groundbreaking decision called for the Church to maintain its historic doctrine in relation to human sexuality but, in line with the Kirk’s historic position of allowing congregations to call their own minister, to permit an individual Kirk Session to call a minister in a civil partnership if it chooses to do so.

The Legal Questions Committee and the Theological Forum will bring reports to next year’s General Assembly about how this will be achieved. In the meantime courts and committees of the General Assembly will maintain the status quo.

Commenting on the decision, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Lorna Hood said: “This is a massive vote for the peace and unity of the Church.”

The Report of the Theological Commission was published in April as the culmination of two years of theological reflection and debate, and it described the breadth of theological opinion which exists within the Church of Scotland on whether it should ordain ministers who are in same-sex relationships. The General Assembly was offered a choice of either legislating to allow for such ordinations where those concerned are in a Civil Partnership or of reaffirming the traditional understanding that it is inappropriate to ordain ministers who are in same-sex relationships. The Report did not offer a recommendation of one option over the other but rather was written in such a way as to leave the outcome open for the General Assembly to decide. The Very Reverend Albert Bogle in the course of the debate proposed a third motion which enabled traditionalist and revisionist supporters to move closer.

The report was presented to the Assembly by the Commission’s Convener, the Reverend John L McPake. A full but gracious debate followed in which the Church affirmed its historic and current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality nonetheless permitting Kirk Sessions who wish to depart from the Church’s traditional position to do so.

Mrs Hood added: “This was a major breakthrough for the Church but we are conscious that some people remain pained, anxious, worried and hurt. We continue to pray for the peace and unity of the Church.”