23 June 2011
Church of Scotland moves towards ordaining ministers in same-sex relationships
The Assembly of the Church of Scotland has moved towards the ordination of ministers in same-sex relationships. Although no final decision was made, after a day-long debate at the Kirk's General Assembly in May, members voted by 351 to 294 to "consider further the lifting of the moratorium on acceptance for training and ordination of persons in same-sex relationships".
The Assembly gathers annually to make laws and set the agenda for the future of the Church. The Assembly is made up of around a third of ministers, elders and members of the diaconate from across the Church's 48 presbyteries.
This decision is seen by many evangelicals as a strong trajectory towards the ordination of ministers who are in same-sex relationships, the substance of which will be worked out by a new Theological Commission. Over the next two years this commission will continue dialogue within the Church and investigate the theological justification, bringing recommendations to the General Assembly with a subsequent final vote in 2013. The Assembly also agreed that those in same-sex relationships already ordained before 2009 would remain as ministers or deacons, and be allowed to move from one church to another without fear of disciplinary action, until a final resolution is determined.
Evangelicals within the Kirk have reacted with sadness, frustration and dismay by a decision which clearly goes against biblical teaching that practising homosexuality is incompatible with church leadership. For many evangelicals the recent decision by the Kirk was the straw that broke the camel's back. The move towards ordination of practising homosexuals represents a much wider and systemic disregard for the authority of Scripture, many feel.
In the coming months many minsters and churches will be seriously and prayerfully considering their future within the Church. Already, a number have made their position clear. The Rev Roddy MacRae of Glenelg and Kintail in the Highlands became the first Church of Scotland minister to announce he is leaving the Kirk following the decision. Similarly other church congregations have made decisions to hold a church presbytery vote which if passed would separate them from the wider Kirk.
As an alliance of evangelicals across the nation we feel it is important to support and encourage one another at this time. Many ministers with the Church of Scotland will be feeling isolated and under threat. It is critical that those from the wider evangelical church get alongside and support through prayer and friendship.