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Scotland’s church General assembly voted on Monday to allow ministers and deacons to marry same-sex couples.

By a vote of 274 to 136, ministers and deacons in the reformed Calvinist denomination can now apply to become authorized celebrants to conduct same-sex ceremonies.

According to a statement released by the Church of Scotland, “no person [will]be required to participate in or be involved in the arrangements for the same-sex marriage unless they explicitly wished to do so.”

“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,” General Assembly Moderator the Rev. Iain Greenshields said in a statement.

Greenshields said that the Church of Scotland is a broad church with many diverse views on marriage among its over 300,000 members, noting that the church is committed to handling the topic in “grace and humility.”

“The tone and tenor of discussions are civil and people are respectful of those who hold opposing views,” Greenshields added. “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.”

Under the new rules, pastors who want to conduct same-sex marriages would first have to apply to the principal clerk’s office, which will send an application to the Registrar General of Scotland on their behalf.

The principal clerk plans to maintain a record of those who conduct same-sex weddings. And church leaders are responsible for renewing their status to perform same-sex ceremonies every three years.

The Church of Scotland is a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches founded in 1560. It has over 800 ministers serving in parishes and chaplaincies, mostly in Scotland but also in England and Europe.

The Rev. Phil Gunn, minister of Rosskeen Parish Church in Ross-shire, believes the overture is “not biblical.”
“A Church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a Gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a Word of God that does not get under anyone’s skin or a Word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed, what kind of Gospel is that?” Gun asked in a statement.

“We see the scriptures, old and new, that point to God’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality. We are called to love everyone as Christ commanded us. We are to demonstrate God’s love to the world so they might recognize something different in us, but that does not mean we have to conform to the ways of society or the world.”

Gunn said that “the Bible is the supreme rule of faith and life for the Church.”
“God has called us as His followers to be bold and make a stand for what is right in his eyes,” Gunn proclaimed. “If we choose to turn our back on scripture how can we stand up and say we are ministers of God’s church if we then change what God says?”

The Rev. Lezley Stewart, a minister and a commissioner, agrees with the Church of Scotland’s new policy to allow same-sex marriages.
“We have always lived with differences and we always will. No one in this General Assembly hall is the same as you and no one thinks the same as you and maybe we should thank God for that,” Stewart said.

“But we are the Church together and if you look to your right, to your left, look in front of you and look behind you, hopefully, what you can see is simply a reflection of Christ — we are the Church together.”


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