EDINBURGH, Scotland — The Church of Scotland, while stating that it “maintains its traditional view of marriage between a man and woman,” has voted to allow the appointment of clergy who are in same-sex “marriages.”
The 339-215 vote in Edinburgh allows individual congregations who disagree with the denomination’s stance on marriage to opt-out and select leaders who have “wed” their homosexual partners. The Assembly had been attended by 850 commissioners throughout Scotland, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
“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,” John Chalmers, principal clerk to the General Assembly, told the BBC.
He outlined that the vote does not allow clergy, however, to officiate same-sex nuptials.
“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 be conducting same-sex marriages,” Chalmers said. “It is an entirely different discussion.”
A vote on the matter will be held next year after the Theological Forum presents a report.
“[F]or many people, what today was about was simply tidying up and making the law of the church consistent with Scots law,” Chalmers explained. “Today I think people came to this decision with their minds on law and practice and not on theology and future practice.”
He opined following the vote that he hoped the denomination would 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.”
But others, such as David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, found the outcome of the vote to be disappointing.
“It is a sad day for all the Christian churches in Scotland when what used to be the National Kirk, has now departed so clearly from the Bible,” he said. “In adopting this policy the Church of Scotland has not only dissociated itself from the vast majority of Christian churches throughout the world, but has lost all claim to be the National Church for Scotland.”
“It no longer speaks for Scotland and it no longer represents Scotland’s Christians,” Robertson continued. “We simply state ‘not in our name.'”
The Church of Scotland is known for its part in the Protestant Reformation of the 1500’s, when it broke ties with Roman Catholics under the leadership of John Knox.
“But hereof be assured, that all is not lawful nor just that is statute by civil laws,” Knox once declared.
“Neither can oath nor promise bind any such people to obey and maintain tyrants against God and against His truth known,” he also stated.