The Kirk’s annual meeting, which takes place each May, in the General Assembly Hall atop the mound next to Edinburgh University’s New College was attended by nearly 1000 people. Some 800 plus commissioners and press from around U.K. came to what had been billed as a key year for the Kirk. Would there be a schism? would droves leave the Kirk over the issue of Gay Clergy? would the law of the land force the gay issue and would the Kirk continue being involved in Marriage?
The opening of the Assembly, an excellent visual enactment of the distinction between Church and State as the Ministers, Elders (commissioners as they are labelled) and the Moderator and former Moderators enter first before the State is invited to arrive and take its place in the Royal Gallery. This opening and the welcoming of the new Moderator, this year Rt.Rev. Lorna Hood, confirmed by the Assembly starts off the proceedings which last for seven days.
The key debate which highlighted the divisions was over the issue of Gay clergy. Since in 2009 the Rev. Scott Rennie, who was chosen by the Queens Cross Church, Aberdeen, congregation and as he was openly gay this was challenged as a result in 2011 the thological commission was asked to research the issue and report back to this General Assembly with a way forward in this thorny issue. Only two congregations have left the Kirk over this issue so far, however, whatever this Assembly decided was going to be controversial and perhaps divisive.
Yet again you could say divine inspiration moved the issue into the future. An eleventh hour move by the immediate former Moderator – Very Rev. Albert Bogle, worded a way through the divisions towards a more flexivble way forward in this issue. His move succeeded with a narrow majority and was accepted as the way ahead.
Convener of the Theological Commission.
Terms such as sea change for the kirk and departure from traditional ways were bandied around but in terms of what the move achieved there is no change in the Kirk. The freeze on Gays into the ministry remains at least for another two years. The Gay ministers in place and any who aquietly became mininsters prior to 2009 will remain in place. However, the Legal committee will have to work over the next year to form church legislation which will be in tune with government and european Human rights legislation to come to the 2014 General Assembly and the commissioners there that year will vote to accept it or not. However even if it is successful this will return to the Presbyteries before it can be ratified. If the more conservative Presbyteries vote down this legislation then it falls meaning that the way the 2013 voted means Status Quo could be what remains in place.