General Assembly to debate Overture

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is to debate whether congregations should be allowed to consider calling a person in a same-sex marriage as a minister or deacon.

The discussion will take place in May, 2016 after a majority of Presbyteries voted in favour by approving an Overture amending the Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships Act (Act I 2015).

At the General Assembly in May 2015 the Church of Scotland approved legislation which gave leave to individual congregations to call a minister or appoint a deacon who was in a civil partnership.

This legislation, however, did not include recognition of ministers or deacons who might be in a same-sex marriage.;

An amendment was proposed which would extend permission to allow congregations to consider inducting or appointing a minister or deacon who was in a same-sex marriage.

The General Assembly was careful to note that the matter under discussion was simply to permit ministers in same sex marriages to be inducted or appointed on the same basis as those in civil partnerships.

This acknowledgment of legal standing is quite separate from and does not prejudge the Church's theological understanding of marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.

The question of the theology of marriage is not under discussion in relation to consideration of this Overture.

The proposed legislation was sent to Presbyteries as an Overture for consideration under a process known as the Barrier Act.

Returns were due by December 31, 2015 and all of these responses were received by the Principal Clerk the Very Rev John Chalmers.

A total of 26 Presbyteries voted in favour and 19 were counted as voting against the Overture, which included one Presbytery where the vote was tied.

Presbyters for - 1,207. Presbyters Against - 1,096.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: "Now Presbyteries have returned their votes, we will begin making arrangements to report the outcome of the vote to Commissioners at the General Assembly next May.

"They will hold a debate and vote on whether to make this proposed legislation into standing Church Law through the passing of the Act."

The General Assembly will have the final say on this matter.