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Church Of Scotland General Assembly votes in favour of ministers conducting same sex marriages

By Kirsty Brown

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A historic vote has taken place which will allow Church of Scotland ministers and deacons to marry same-sex couples.

The General Assembly voted to change a standing church law to allow the right to apply to become an authorised celebrant to conduct same-sex ceremonies by 274 votes to 136 against.

The decision, which would enable ministers and deacons to opt-in to a new scheme, came after a majority of presbyteries – 29 out of 41 - approved the "Solemnisation of Same Sex Marriage Overture".

A report to the General Assembly made it clear that no person would be required to participate in the solemnisation of, or be involved in the arrangements for, a same sex marriage unless they explicitly wish to do so.

Moderator of the General Assembly Right Reverend Dr Iain Greenshields said: "The Church of Scotland is a broad church and there are diverse views on the subject of same-sex marriage among its members.

"There has been a lengthy, prayerful and in-depth discussion and debate about this topic for many years at all levels of the Church to find a solution that respects diversity and values the beliefs of all.

"The Church is committed to ensuring that debates on this subject are held in a spirit of humility and grace, the tone and tenor of discussions are civil and people are respectful of those who hold opposing views.

"The General Assembly has today approved the Solemnisation of Same Sex Marriage Overture to change a standing Church law to enable Ministers of Word and Sacrament and deacons to apply to become authorised celebrants if they wish.

"However, no minister or deacon would be required to participate in the solemnisation of, or be involved in the arrangements for, a same sex marriage unless they explicitly wished to do so.

"All celebrants would be expected to take account of the peace and unity and pastoral needs of the congregation and any parish or other grouping of which it is a part while considering to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony."

Moderator Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields.
Moderator Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields.

Under the terms of the legislation, an individual would have to apply to the Principal Clerk's office to become a celebrant and an application would then be made to the Registrar General for Scotland on their behalf.

The Principal Clerk would maintain an up to date record of celebrants and they would be personally responsible for renewing their status every three years.

Only a parish minister who has become a celebrant will be permitted the use of a church building in their charge for the solemnisation of same sex marriages.

They would be able to grant consent to other celebrants to use the building for this purpose, however.

The issue sparked a lively debate among ministers and elders on both sides of the argument.

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