The 2017 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland agreed on Thursday that the Kirk should apologise individually and corporately for failing to recognise the Christian vocation of gay people.
It also took a step closer to allowing church ministers to carry out same-sex marriages.
The General Assembly agreed to remit the question of ministers conducting same-sex marriages to its legal questions committee, to examine what issues needed to be explored, with a report being compiled for next year’s gathering. Right Rev Professor Iain Torrance, a former Moderator and convener of the Kirk’s influential theological forum, had presented a report saying there were no longer grounds for refusing to carry out such marriages.
Following yesterday’s decisions, Rev Scott Rennie, minister of Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen, whose appointment as the Kirk’s first openly gay minister in 2009 caused fierce debate within the Kirk, said he was “absolutely delighted” with the outcome.
“I actually thought they would be more reluctant than they turned out to be. But every year for the past ten years the Kirk has been moving forward. We first started talking about blessing civil partnerships in 2006.
“You can have theological discussions in abstract but we’re talking about people’s lives,” said Rev Rennie who spoke about his husband Dave during the debate.
Rev Michael Goss, from the presbytery of Angus, who opposed the move, said: “It’s frustrating, the debate became more polarised than it needed to be. We’re not in greatly different position than we were before. But I’m quite happy with the apology decision.”
Earlier, during the debate Rev Steven Reid, minister of Crossford and Kirkfieldbank in Lanark, took objection to the report and said: “I read this report with a heavy heart. I question the balance of this report … surely we need to listen to the one who is King and head of our church?”
But Rev Peter Johnston, from the presbytery of Aberdeen, spoke of the “excruciating” position he in as a Kirk minister regarding “inclusiveness” and his wish to officiate at the weddings of his four children.
He said: “My 17-year-old daughter is proudly lesbian. She wears a T-shirt which says ‘Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not’. What particularly drives me is the excruciating position I’m place in as a minister and a father.
“I could say to my three youngest children who’ve asked me to officiate at their weddings, ‘I’d be delighted to do so’. I’d have no issue officiating at my oldest’s wedding, but would have to say, ‘sorry the Church forbids me’.”
Last year the Assembly voted to allow people in same-sex marriages to become ministers. In 2015 it agreed people in same-sex civil partnerships could become ministers.