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Church of Scotland to Allow Gay Clergy in Historic Shift

The Church of Scotland today narrowly approved a rule which would allow gay and lesbian ministers, reports The Guardian:

Church of Scotland crestThe church's ruling general assembly voted to allow congregations to admit gay ministers but only if they specifically elect to do so, in a radical departure from more than 450 years of orthodoxy set in train by the protestant reformer John Knox.

Despite the new regulations, the general assembly voted down a proposal that would have made acceptance of gay and lesbian clergy the church's default position by a vote of 340 to 282.  The new rule will effectively decentralize the decision-making process, leaving it to individual congregations to choose whether or not to ordain gay ministers in a system known as a "mixed economy."

According to The Guardian, the new rule will likely not take effect until 2015, and must first be written into church law and approved by next year's general assembly.

The BBC adds that the push for consideration of gay clergy began when the first gay minister was appointed by the church four years ago:

The dilemma faced by the Church of Scotland goes back to 2009, when the openly gay minister Scott Rennie (below) 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.

RennieIn 2011, the Church of Scotland's general assembly voted to allow gay and lesbian clergy to remain in their posts, as long as they were either celibate or in civil partnerships.

The church's new rule comes at a time when the debate over marriage equality is in full swing in the UK and the issue of allowing gays to marry in religious ceremonies has caused significant division.  

The UK House of Commons is scheduled to debate the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill today--which would establish marriage equality in England and Wales but not Scotland--although advocates are wary of a last minute push by opponents of marriage equality to include a provision that would extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.  The proposed legislation would allow same-sex couples access to civil marriage ceremonies only, and would bar them from marrying in the Church of England or the Church of Wales.

In December of last year, the Scottish government announced its own draft legislation to legalize marriage equality in the region, and is currently seeking public feedback on the measure.  Under the Scottish proposal, religious institutions would be allowed to "opt in" to wedding gay and lesbian couples.  Up until this point, the Church of Scotland has opposed the marriage equality bill, and while it seems unlikely that will change any time soon, the inclusion of gay clergy is certainly a step towards greater acceptance of the Scottish LGBT community. 


Church of Scotland Votes to Lift Ban on Gay Clergy

Rennie

Back in 2009, shortly after the Church of Scotland voted 326-267 to support the appointment of openly gay minister Rev. Scott Rennie, the body took another vote, declaring a two-year moratorium on allowing gay clergy.

Protester Yesterday, the body voted to lift that moratorium and welcome openly gay clergy into the church, the Guardian reports:

The church's general assembly, its law-making body, voted on Monday to lift that moratorium, officially officially allowing gay ministers to take on parishes for the first time since its formation 450 years ago.

The general assembly also allowed serving gay and lesbian ministers who have kept their sexuality private to openly declare their sexuality – a proposal bitterly resisted by evangelical and conservative ministers.

In one of the final votes, the general assembly chose by a small majority to lift a parallel ban on ordaining and training people who are in same-sex relationships, and gay and lesbians in civil partnerships. It called for a new report by 2013 on both proposals and on allowing ministers to bless gay and lesbian relationships.

The vote was 351-294 to lift the moratorium, the Daily Record adds:

At the start of the debate, newly appointed Moderator the Rev David Abbot said: "It is no exaggeration to say that it is not just the eyes of the Church that are on us today but the eyes of the world."

A report on the issue said the Church were "divided" by the issue of ordaining people in same-sex relationships.

The Very Rev Dr Findlay Macdonald supported the move to lift the ban.

He said: "We affirm the word of God but we must also be open to new directions."

Was there protest? A video from the Zion Baptist Church, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Church of Scotland Votes to Lift Ban on Gay Clergy" »


Church of Scotland Approves Two-Year Ban on Gay Ministers

Rennie

After four hours of debate on Saturday, the Church of Scotland voted 326-267 to support the appointment of openly gay minister Rev. Scott Rennie: "The 37-year-old divorced father-of-one plans is now free to take up his new post at Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen, where he plans to share the manse with his boyfriend."

However, Sunday night, desperate church leaders approved a two-year moratorium on gay ministers: "Desperate not to allow the schism that had been forecast, the General Assembly postponed making a final decision on the issue by setting up a working group to report back in 2011, effectively kicking the issue into the long grass. Delegates also agreed not to talk to the media on sexuality issues for the two years, a move that was later condemned as 'suppressing the debate'. Membership of the special commission - which will examine the issues thrown up in recent weeks, since the appointment of Mr Rennie, and the wider issue of same-sex relationships - will be appointed at the end of the General Assembly, which is sitting in Edinburgh...The decision on Mr Rennie...will not be affected by last night's vote."


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