Church of Scotland urged to apologise for gay discrimination

General Assembly of The Church of Scotland. Picture: Andy O'BrienGeneral Assembly of The Church of Scotland. Picture: Andy O'Brien
General Assembly of The Church of Scotland. Picture: Andy O'Brien
The Church of Scotland has been asked to apologise for its 'history of discrimination' against homosexual people and could be a step closer to allowing ministers to perform same-sex marriages.

A report to be debated at the Kirk’s General Assembly in May proposes having a church committee research allowing nominated ministers and deacons to carry out the ceremonies but wants to retain the ability for “contentious refusal” from those opposed to same-sex marriage.

The report by the Theological Forum of the Church of Scotland also calls for “the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologise individually and corporately and seek to do better”.

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The report states: “We recognise that as a Church we have often failed to recognise and protect the identity and Christian vocation of gay people and believe that the Church as a whole should acknowledge its faults.”

A range of theological perspectives on same-sex marriage are examined in the paper.

These range from the traditionalist opinion based on the view that biblical writers condemned same-sex acts meaning the Church had to forbid it to more “inclusive arguments” that the writing was made in “cultural contexts very different from our own and referred to individual acts rather than committed and faithful people willing to enshrine their relationships in vows before God”.

The report continues: “There are those who are reluctant to extend use of the term ‘marriage’ to same-sex couples on the grounds that what they do is intrinsically unnatural and a violation of the oft-claimed complementarity of a man and a woman.

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“The counter argument is evidently that it is natural to them (homosexuality is more common in nature than may be realised).”

It concludes: “The Forum does not believe there are sufficient theological grounds to deny nominated individual ministers and deacons the authority to preside at same-sex marriages.”

The proposed major shift in policy follows controversial moves to appoint the first openly gay minister Rev Scott Rennie in 2009 and last year’s decision to allow ministers to be in same-sex marriages.

Gay marriage became legal in Scotland in 2014 but the Church of Scotland has protection under the equalities legislation and the research by the Legal Questions Committee will aim to ensure officials who refuse to carry out the services cannot be prosecuted.

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Rev Rennie welcomed the report and said he hoped it would lead to ministers being able to carry out same-sex marriages.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “I would be surprised if it doesn’t.

“Over the last 10 years or more the Church has step by step being taking a move to more inclusion.

“Up to now the General Assembly has constantly moved, some would say too slowly but I’m more pragmatic, I think it has moved in a good direction.

“It has recognised and this report recognises the place of the Christian vocation of thousands of LGBT people within the Kirk’s membership and adherence so I would be quite hopeful that we would move forward.”

He added: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with apologising but what I think is more important than apologising is having the commitment to stop discriminating and to move forward for the future.”