The Kirk side-stepped an immediate decision on same-sex relationships yesterday, when it voted to support a report advocating further study and discussion on the issue.
In a confused debate, the General Assembly refused to endorse a statement calling on the Kirk to recognise that gay people should not be prevented from holding positions of leadership in the Church, believing it could be seen as potentially affirming same-sex partnerships and practice, an issue which the Kirk has yet to tackle.
The report, brought by the human sexuality working group of the Mission and Discipleship Council, examined how the Kirk could come to terms theologically with homosexuality.
Despite an initial acceptance and support of the report, which acknowledged a “historical intolerance” of gay people by the Church, divisions developed when the Rev Sandra Black, presbytery of Glasgow, tried to move a deliverance which asked the Assembly to “affirm that whilst theological approaches to homosexuality differ, any approach which presents lesbian or gay people as less loved by God than any other people is unacceptable; further affirm that sexual orientation is not in itself a bar to baptism or communion or to serving God in the Church as a Church member or in any leadership capacity”.
This brought immediate opposition from self-proclaimed members of the conservative wing of the Church.
Many of those who spoke claimed the wording was too vague and could be seen more as support for homosexual partnerships and practice than the acceptance of gay people.
Dr Bruce Gardner, presbytery of Kincardine and Deeside, said it was trying to settle the debate before it could start: “I feel that this is a section too far. We have tried to introduce this matter sensitively to the Church and we’re giving people an opportunity to reflect on these very issues. It’s not true to say that everybody present would be in total agreement with the second half of this addendum. That homosexual people are loved by God is something that none of us, I hope, would wish to question in any way, because we believe God’s love is for everyone.”
But Professor Ronald Fergusson, a supporter of the motion, brought confusion to the debate when he produced evidence showing the substance of the deliverance was already the “de facto position of the Church” since 1958, when it fought against the decriminalisation of homosexual acts.
“Even then, it was said by the Church quite clearly that being homosexual by orientation was no bar to holding office in the Church; that homosexual people exercised many valuable gifts and were to be affirmed as full members of our communion,” he said.
“It seems to me that the motion as we have it re-affirms the position as we have had it for quite a long time.”
Full story at The Scotsman.