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Church Moves Towards Conducting Same-Sex Marriages

Saturday May 19 2018

  • Legislation to come to 2020 General Assembly.

  • Warning about finances as giving falls.

Picture by Derek Fett


The Church of Scotland has taken another step towards allowing its ministers to conduct same sex marriages.

The Church’s Legal Questions Committee was today instructed to produce legislation that would permit ministers to ‘opt in’ to marry same-sex couples, as long as the rights of those who do not wish to do so can be safeguarded. The legislation will be brought to the 2020 assembly.

Introducing the motion, the Rev Bryan Kerr, minister of Lanark Greyfriars Parish Church, said: “We have people in our congregations week-in week-out who contribute, fund, serve as elders, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, organists administrators and more whose earnest wish is that their special wedding day can be one that also recognises their faith and God’s blessing in their church.

“We can picture I’m sure legislations which allows individual ministers and deacons to opt in to officiate same sex marriages while still maintaining the church’s historic and current doctrine and practice, as we do with kirk sessions and vacancies. Legislation that provides assurance and confidence to others who would normally be involved in marriage services that they wouldn’t be compromised in terms of the Equality Act. Legislation that provides constrained difference in these matters. Historic and current doctrine and practice doesn’t change.

“I recognise for some giving this option to others to depart from that doctrine would be difficult. For me, I have to admit it would be difficult to be part of a church that does not allow me to move on and move forward.”

The assembly accepted an amendment from the Rev Peter White which added that the legislation should be produced ‘but only if the Committee finds that the said safeguards, in their opinion, sufficiently protect against the risks they identify’.

The motion was passed by 345 votes to 170.

Before the debate began, a proposal from the Rev Andrew Moore that the General Assembly simply not receive the motion was defeated.

Also this afternoon, the convener of the Council of Assembly warned that there had been a reduction in giving to the church of approximately £1m in the past two years, and warned that the trend was likely to continue. There has also been a sharp reduction in income from legacies.

She said: “Against this scenario, it is all the more important we are strategic in our decision making and prioritising… It is critical at this time to reshape our spending to fit with our strategic priorities.”

She warned that an extra £1 million would be needed to maintain reserves at a safe level. The central church has committed to £500,000 of savings, but that the rest would be taken in a rise of approximately one per cent in mission and ministry contributions from congregations.

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