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Church of Scotland votes to allow gay ministers

Church of Scotland votes to allow gay ministers

The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has voted to allow openly gay people to become ministers.

The church voted today (20 May) 340 for and 282 against to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian ministers but only next year.

The decision will have to be endorsed by the church’s regional presbyteries and officially approved next year.

The year’s delay is seen as a narrow victory for the traditionalist wing of the Church that threatened to split off.

Traditionalists, such as Fiona Cameron, said that the Bible does not commend ‘same-sex activity’, and that she was concerned with ‘the Kirk’s move away from Biblical truth.’

‘We are turning our backs on scripture. Throwing it out because of what society says. God does not use men and women to change the Bible, we must not get that the wrong way around.’

A compromise was reached today when the General Assembly backed a motion affirming the Church’s traditionalist ‘current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality’, but allowed liberal congregations to ‘opt out’ of the kirk’s policy and ordain openly gay and lesbian ministers if they wished to.

A Kirk spokesman stated: ‘On the one hand the report offers the Church a way of allowing the ordination of ministers in same-sex relationships who have entered into a civil partnership, while protecting both individuals and congregations who in conscience do not agree with the theological principles which underpin that choice.

‘On the other hand the report, while reaffirming its belief that homophobia is sinful, invites the Church to reaffirm its traditional stance that the only appropriate expression of sexual activity should be within marriage between one man and one woman’

The debates within the Church of Scotland were sparked in 2009, when an openly gay minister, Scott Rennie, was appointed to the Queen’s Cross parish in Aberdeen.

He was backed by most of his congregation and by the General Assembly, but the decision resulted in protest and the break-away of a small number of congregations and ministers.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Reverend Rennie said the General Assembly vote was a ‘good decision’ and a ‘fair compromise’.

Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network (EN), a Scottish gay rights advocacy group, welcomed the vote and said: ‘This is a positive step forward for a more equal society, and speaks to the progressive values of 21st century Scotland.’

Tim Hopkins, director of EN, told Gay Star News: ‘The decision to allow gay ministers needs to be decided by the churches. The General Assembly has done its part to keep the church as broad as possible.

‘They have thought very hard, they haven’t rushed it, they have taken a long look at it.

‘The process has been a good process, and the decision reflects that.’

He also pointed out there will be another motion to be passed by next year, so it’s certainly not the end of the debate.

Rob McDowall, chair of the Scottish LGBT Network charity welcomed the news, telling GSN: ‘It’s a significant achievement but it’s just the start of the journey.

‘I am pleased to witness that in 2013, the Church of Scotland has caught up with the notion that the calling of God is blind to ones sexual orientation.

‘I am happy to see such a progressive and reformist move on the Church’s part.’