Church Theological Report published
16 April 2013
The 2011 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland appointed a Theological Commission to bring to the General Assembly of 2013 a report on same sex relationships and the Ministry.
The report describes the breadth of theological opinion that exists within the Church on the question of whether the Church of Scotland should ordain ministers who are in same-sex relationships. It also offers the General Assembly a choice of either legislating to allow for such ordinations or reaffirming the traditional understanding that it is inappropriate to ordain ministers who are in same-sex relationships.
Neither the report in its entirety nor any individual proposal, represents the considered view of the Church of Scotland. The report and the diverse proposals have been put forward by the seven members of the Commission who have a broad spectrum of views.
The General Assembly which is the sovereign body of the Church, will consider the various proposals.
On one hand the report offers the Church a way of allowing the ordination of ministers in same-sex relationships who have entered into a civil partnership, while protecting both individuals and congregations who in conscience do not agree with the theological principles which underpin that choice.
On the other hand the report, while reaffirming its belief that homophobia is sinful, invites the Church to reaffirm its traditional stance that the only appropriate expression of sexual activity should be within marriage between one man and one woman.
The report does not offer a recommendation of one option or the other but leaves this open for the Assembly to decide.
The Rev John Chalmers the Principal Clerk to the General Assembly said:
“The Report and the options which it provides are offered at this stage without comment from the Convener or members of the Commission; it will be for the General Assembly alone, based on the substance of the theological arguments to come to a mind on this matter. In the meantime, the report which is wide ranging and detailed is commended to the whole Church for prayerful study and consideration.”
“On the one hand….And on the other hand….”. Does this sound like equivocation – on the subject of Same-Sex relationships in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland? If so; it is.
On the other hand – it does offer some prospect of the Church of Scotland emulating the trajectory of some other national Presbyterian Churches around the world – for instance, here in New Zealand, the NZPC accepts the fact that Gays are part and parcel of the Church and have a legitimate claim to be part of the ordained ministry. In the wake of the N.Z. government legislation which will soon allow provision for Same-Sex Marriage; it may even be that the local Presbyterian Church could opt for either a Marriage Blessing after a Civil Ceremony; or even the opportunity for a full marriage service in Church.
In the meantime, we Anglicans in Aotearoa/New Zealand/Polynesia (ACANZP) are still in a situation very much like that of the Church of England. We have not yet officially made up our minds whether or not to Bless a Civil Partnership, never mind affirming the prospect of actual Same-Sex Marriage, in our churches. A recent Theological Hui on Marriage – together with a discussion on Same-Sex relationships – does seem to have ended up with a more positive outlook for the possibility of a form of Blessing for Same-Sex monogamously committed relationships, but whether an actual Same-Sex Marriage ceremony will ever be allowed to be conducted in our churches, that is a matter for further discussion and resolutions in our General Synod next year.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand