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Home  >  News  >  Same Sex Marriage to be Allowed in Church of Scotland


Same Sex Marriage to be Allowed in Church of Scotland

Monday May 23 2022

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has agreed to allow its ministers to officiate same sex marriages.

The Assembly voted by 274 to 136 to approve the Same Sex Marriage Act, first passed last year and agreed by a majority of Presbyteries, that will allow Kirk ministers to register to become celebrants of same sex marriages if they wish. However, no minister will be forced to conduct such ceremonies.

In the debate, holders of the traditional view that marriage should be between a man and a woman continued to argue that same sex marriages are unscriptural. The Rev Scott W Burton said the position against same sex marriage was ‘about a faith that says it’s more important to be in line with God and his Word than what my community, my nation or my world might say otherwise’.

The Rev Philip Gunn said: “A Church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a Gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a Word of God that does not get under anyone’s skin or a Word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed, what kind of Gospel is that?

“Quite simply put, this overture is not biblical and we see the scriptures, old and new, that point to God’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality.”

Dr Michael Stewart said: “The people of Scotland need guidance in a world where right and wrong are continually questioned, as individual views take primacy over society… our church used to be the guardian of our standards if we continue to affirm God’s word as our supreme standard we must continue, even in our parlous state, to state these standards.”

He also asked whether the church could financially support a minister who was taken to court over refusing to officiate a same sex marriage. Procurator, Laura Dunlop QC, said that his points ‘have been considered in some detail over a number of years’ and that she considered the protections built into the scheme, under which ministers must ‘opt in’ to be able to officiate same sex weddings, to be sufficient.

Asking the Assembly to pass the proposals, the Rev Craig Dobney said: “I have seen the heartbreak of those in same sex relationships in our congregations who are unable to marry in their home church, devout Christians though they are. To be married in front of their church families would mean everything to them.”

The Rev Bryan Kerr said: “I urge this Assembly to allow me, and other ministers like me, to be able with good heart and good cheer, knowing the Church is behind us, to stand and allow people to proclaim their love for each other in their church as an expression of their faith and their status in God's eyes.”

And the Rev Lezley Stewart pointed out that the debate had been going on for years, and at every point the church had continued its trajectory towards allowing same-sex marriage, and that a majority of presbyteries and members of presbytery had voted in favour. “It’s General Assembly 2022 and we need to take account of that collective voice over many years,” she added.

The Assembly also agreed that the Legal Questions Committee should review the Ministers in Same Sex Marriages legislation passed in 2016. The report states that this is in response to changes in civil law and ‘in light of experience’. The Rev Dr Marjory MacLean asked that the Committee consider moving away from a ‘default view’, saying the current default that the Church adheres to the traditional view on marriage caused hurt to LGBTQ ministers and deacons.


Also during the Legal Questions report, the General Assembly voted to press ahead with proposals to develop a process of Presbytery Review, despite one commissioner arguing that it was unnecessary and would take time, money and energy away from the church’s ‘frontline’ work. The committee will bring the principles to be agreed next year and final legislation in 2024.


Earlier the Assembly was addressed by Professor Jason Leitch (above), the National Clinical Director of the Scottish Government. Professor Leitch thanked the Church for everything it had done during the Covid-19 pandemic: “Whether you run the tiniest, tiniest church in Scotland or one of the largest fellowships, the work you’ve done for those you serve has been absolutely without precedent.”

He also urged the Church not to forget about Covid-19, and particularly people who are still vulnerable; and also to ‘think globally’, reminding the Assembly that in many poorer countries vaccination levels were still low.

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