April 21, 2014

What route will the Church of Scotland take to enable its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages?  There’s no doubt that there are ministers and deacons eager to do so; not mention those ministers and deacons already in a same-sex relationship and who wish to marry their partner.  There are clergy in civil partnerships, after all. 

 John Chalmers, the Principal Clerk, and now the Moderator Designate, has published advice on the matter, which I have had sight of.  He makes it quite clear that as things stand Church of Scotland clergy cannot solemnise a SSM.  To do so would require a decision of the General Assembly.  The General Assembly is now a month away—just enough time for SSM enthusiasts to put something together.  If they don’t do it now, they’ll have to wait a year for their next chance. 

 The Principal Clerk states that when the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 comes into force, there are two ways in which a Church of Scotland minister or deacon could become eligible to conduct a same sex marriage:

  • Route 1: The Church of Scotland could request the Scottish Ministers to prescribe it as a body whose ministers and deacons are authorised to solemnise marriage between persons of same sex, and the Scottish Ministers would have to consider whether to grant that request, or
  • Route 2: Rather than becoming a “prescribed body” under Route 1, the Church could nominate to the Registrar General individual ministers and deacons who wish to conduct same sex marriages as persons who it desires should be entitled to solemnise same sex marriages.

 Apparently, “the Scottish Government has indicated that it would not expect Route 1 to be used where a Church has celebrants who object to solemnising same sex marriage.  However, were Route 1 to be followed, so that Church of Scotland ministers and deacons generally became able to conduct same sex marriages, individual ministers and deacons would have to decide whether they wished to conduct same sex marriages and there would be a protection on grounds of conscience for those who did not wish to do so.”  

The 2014 Act states that its provisions do not impose a duty on any person who is eligible to conduct marriages between persons of the same sex actually to conduct such marriages.  Of course, no minister is obliged to marry anyone.  There are still some who will not marry couples who have been living together or who are divorcees.  Thus Progressives can push this agenda safe in the knowledge that evangelicals will not object, since no clergy can be forced to conduct a wedding—heterosexual or homosexual–contrary to conscience. 

As the Established Church, the Kirk seeks to bring the ordinances of religion to all of Scotland and to all Scots and now that the law will soon allow SSM, it would be anomalous if the Kirk excluded itself from this.  So we can fully expect moves in May to ensure that those who wish to solemnise SSM can do so.  But I can’t predict what route the Kirk will take.

Far more interesting is how the Kirk will deal with a minister who enters into a SSM. 




One Response to “ROUTE 1 OR 2”

  1. Interesting to see the article in the Herald that says the majority in the new “evangelical network” favour the suggested compromise and can accept the proposed legislation to allow congregations to call practicing homosexuals:

    The article may of course be misquoting, or the unamed source within the network may be unrepresentative. Nevertheless it looks like compromise and accommodation will be the guiding principle for many.

    Robert M Walker.

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