Church of Scotland to allow same-sex marriage for ministers

The same-sex decision by the Church follows years of deliberation.
The same-sex decision by the Church follows years of deliberation.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - The Church of Scotland voted on Saturday to allow its ministers to be in same-sex marriages, following years of deliberation.

The national church's general assembly in Edinburgh voted to extend a law passed last May that permits its ministers to be in same-sex civil partnerships.

Commissioners in the Kirk, as the church is known in Scotland, voted 339 to 215 to allow ministers to be in same-sex marriages.

"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," said the Very Reverend John Chalmers, principal clerk to the general assembly.

"It is an entirely different discussion."

The Kirk retains the traditional view of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

However, individual congregations can "opt out" if they wish to appoint a minister in a same-sex marriage.

"In some ways, we crossed the Rubicon last year when it was agreed that Kirk sessions could call someone in a civil partnership and for many people what today was about was simply tidying up and making the law of the church consistent with Scots law," said Chalmers.

The Church of Scotland is Protestant, Presbyterian and has no bishops. Some 1.7 million people, or 32.4 per cent of the Scottish population, are members, according to the last census in 2011.

More than 850 commissioners from across Scotland, the rest of Britain, Africa, Asia, North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean registered to attend the 2016 general assembly.

Colin Macfarlane, director of gay rights charity Stonewall Scotland, said: "Today's result is great news for the Kirk and a progressive move forward.

"Empowering ministers to live their lives with honesty and integrity sends a powerful signal to faith communities and society as a whole."