Yesterday I was happily settled at my computer watching the live debate from the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, which is sitting in Edinburgh this week. A number of years ago I had been a member of a group set up to look at the Theology and Practice of Ordination. During the course of discussions at that time, we also thought about the ordination of gay and lesbian ministers and the view was reached that the Church of Scotland was not yet ready to accept this; as a result I put forward the view that as a Church we were encouraging secrecy and hypocrisy by omission.
This background was very much in my mind as I continued to follow the debate on same-sex relationships and the ministry. The morning session of 2 hrs demonstrated the high regard and respect shown amongst members of the Assembly. Even though it was obvious that feelings ran high there was a reasonableness which gave me hope that the report would be accepted and a way forward found for the future.
Lunch break followed, then another half-hour of build-up of tension. Then, drat…… the power went off. I should have said that the weather of late in Scotland has been diabolical – no pun intended. The high winds prevented repairs and we were left without electricity, ergo radio, tv, internet until 11-30pm at night. By then, it was too late to do more than have a quick glance at the news headlines. It seemed that there had been an unexpected turn of events. Kirk lifts ban on appointing gay ministers, (Herald); Kirk split looms as members vote to back gay ministers, (Scotsman)’ and the Guardian – Church of Scotland votes to allow gay and lesbian ministers. The headlines were either misleading, sensationalist or downright innaccurate.
Unless the text of the Deliverances on the Report had been totally changed, it appeared that what had happened was the choice of continued dialogue via a Theological Commission which would consult, consider and come back to the General Assembly of 2013. Yes, there was a clause which allowed gay clergy ordained prior to 31 May 2009 to be inducted into parishes. This was for pastoral and “tidying-up” purposes. Boards, Councils and Committees of the Church were required to refrain from making contentious statements or decisions. Thus the moratorium on discussion by individuals seems to have been lifted – hence this post.
To be clear on what I am trying to say, you can look at the news release by the Church of Scotland. We are in a process of listening, talking, praying and finding ways that are honouring to God and just to one another. And let’s face it – committees are what the CofS does very well.