General Assembly allows ministers and deacons in same-sex marriages

The General Assembly opened this mornng.

The historic decision by the Church of Scotland to recognise Ministers and Deacons in same-sex civil partnerships has been extended to cover same-sex marriage.

Commissioners decided by 339 votes to 215 to update Church law to keep pace with Scots Law.

The decision made earlier today does not compromise the Church's traditional view of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

And it does not mean church ministers will be able to register same-sex civil partnerships or solemnise same-sex marriages themselves.

Since 2008, 25 ministers have left because of discussions over ministers in same sex relationships. This represents 3% of the total number of ministers.

No interference

The vote today followed the measure being approved by Commissioners at last year's General Assembly, who then passed it for scrutiny by the church's presbyteries, under the special provision known as the Barrier Act.

Presbyteries voted 26 to 19 to refer the issue to the General Assembly.

Speaking at a press conference, the Very Rev John Chalmers, Principal Clerk to the General Assembly, said: "We had a debate which made very clear that we were not interfering with our theological definition of marriage and were not going to the place where ministers or deacons could themselves conduct same sex marriages.

"It is an entirely different discussion.

"Today's decision means it will be possible for kirk sessions and congregations to depart from the traditional understanding of marriage to call not only potentially a minister in a civil partnership but one who is in a same-sex marriage.

"In some ways we crossed the Rubicon last year when it was agreed that kirk sessions could call someone in a civil partnership and for many people what today was about was simply tidying up and making the law of the church consistent with Scots law."

Law and practice

Mr Chalmers said a report on Christian understanding of marriage would be presented to the General Assembly next year.

But he said it was not inevitable that commissioners would endorse same-sex marriage ceremonies being held in churches because each General Assembly is unique and has a mind of its own.

Mr Chalmers said: "Today I think people came to this decision with their minds on law and practice and not on theology and future practice."

The Principal Clerk said:"I hope we have now put this issue to one side and we can now get on with what I believe are important issues – developing our vision for the church, increasing membership and developing our work around mission."