Church of Scotland to vote on priests in gay marriages

Ministers in same-sex marriages may be appointed by the Church of Scotland as the Church's General Assembly is set to vote on the historic move on Saturday.

The vote would not allow ministers to carry out same-sex weddings but would mean congregations could appoint a minister who is in a same-sex marriage. It comes after the Church's ruling body voted to recognise ministers in civil partnerships at last year's gathering.

The Church of Scotland's General Assembly voted to accept ministers in same-sex relationships last year. This vote is about ministers in same-sex marriages.Church of Scotland

A statement from the Church stresses that if passed, the proposed amendment to Church law "would not imply the Church will permit its ministers to solemnise same sex marriages.

"The Church maintains its traditional view of marriage between a man and woman," the statement continued, "but the change would extend individual congregations ability to 'opt out' if they wished to appoint a Minister or a Deacon in a same sex marriage as well as civil partnership."

The vote on Saturday comes in the middle of a two year study on same-sex marriage by the Church's Theological Forum. It will be presented at next year's General Assembly but the chair of the forum has warned "absolute victory" was not possible for either side.

In a report to go before this year's Assembly, Professor Iain Torrance, chair of the forum and former Moderator of the Church, said the debate over sexuality "threatens to polarise us into two camps". The forum would try to find an area of "constrained difference", Torrance said in the mid-term report.

"The notion of constrained difference has not been pulled out of thin air.

"Constrained difference has in fact been the flexible strength of the Church of Scotland through many historic disagreements and it is the embodied avoidance of polemic.

"It is a fundamental part of our faith in the Reformed Tradition that we permit each other in good conscience to interpret scripture differently but to keep any such interpretations in check by what we understand as the substance of the faith."

As well as the key vote on Saturday, the Kirk will welcome the Archbishop of Canterbury as the first Church of England leader to take part in a debate at the General Assembly on Wednesday. Justin Welby will address the General Assembly and debate an agreement known as the Columba Declaration between the two churches.

The Declaration would formalise a link between the two churches which have until now been separate. Welby's address follows Dr Angus Morrison's at the CoE's General Synod in February, which passed the Declaration by 243 votes to 50.

However the move is not without controversy. The Church of England has existing links with the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) which is unhappy with the new agreement. A rift has emerged between the CoE and the SEC after the SEC withdrew from discussions between the three churches over the Declaration.

If passed the Columba Declaration would allow clergy to minister in the other's churches as well as formalising an agreement to move "towards fuller communion".

Dr Morrison said he was "confident" the Assembly would pass the Declaration.

"In itself the Declaration is largely of a symbolic nature but it does pave the way for our further growth in fellowship and for extending partnership in mission as sister and national churches who share many common roots, challenges and opportunities.

"We wish this to happen in the closest possible fellowship with other sister churches in the United Kingdom as we seek together to address the challenges of mission in our country today."

The General Assmebly will also discuss the European Union referendum, corporal punishment of children, climate change, the refugee crisis and exploring ways of growing the Church via the Internet and social media.