The Kirk’s annual General Assembly atop the Mound spent the first day dealing with a contraversial issue of the Gay clergy. In order to adjust the Act last Assembly came up with a form of words with the help of the Theological Forum and thier Legal experts which had the blessing of the 2014 General Assembly and was transmitted down under the age old Barrier Act to Presbyteries throughout Scotland. Having got an overall majority, albeit narrow, it returned for final debate of the Commissioners at this General Assembly. With a large number of abstentions the move won the day with 302 votes to 182 against. with the total number able to vote being nearer 800 there was far from a large majority in favour and on such a difficult issue it will not solve the fragmentation of the Kirk.
It was also worth noting that what was voted means nothing changes yet everything changes. The default position stays on the status quo, however the wiggle room comes by delegating to the congregations the freedom to select a Gay minister even if they are in a legal partnership or gay marriage, since the new Scottish governments legislation in favour of this move. There are many who feel this is a back door too far. It seems that people on the evangelical side of the aisle like things black and white while the liberals see fifty shades of gray!
For some partner churches around Scotland and Ireland this is a step too far. Indeed it may be that more congregations in the west and highlands may well choose to leave over this difficult issue. However, it is worth noting that the status quo position stands and that such relationships are not acceptable, yet to leave room to avoid being sued under the human rights act a legal channel thourgh the local congregation are allowed to select someone of this persuasion. The whole issue came to light due to the selection of Rev. Scott Rennie, once in a straight marriage with a son, to Queens Cross Church, Aberdeen his position was challenged and the case came to a General Assembly, but due to technicalities the vacancy procedure being in the dock not his sexual persausion, it was the winner so he stayed in place. However, this triggered much controversy and a number of members and indeed large congregations left in objection to the move. Over a number of Assemblies a way forward has been sought with joint councils of the Kirk reaching the decision which came to the 2014 General Assembly commissioners who narrowly voted for the solution suggested which was as some said a “fudge”
After a nearly three hour debate with both sides speaking strongly for or against and many biblical quotations the time to take an electronic vote came around 3.15pm. The decision arrived in 30 seconds! at least that was the time for people to make up thier mind once voting machine was switched on.
Later the commissioners also discussed some other issues before taking abreak before the evening session.
The retiring Moderator, Very Rev. John Chalmers , gave his report on his leaving address a report on his year in office. He urged a year of peace and it was the year of the peace doves which came to him from all over the world. He also took gifts of Glass doves made from the fragments of glass in Gaza gathered by the children there and turned into beautiful doves by a craftsman there . He has gifted these doves to all who he met on his visits from the Pope in the Vatican City to ministers in charges such as Rev. Sarah Nicol, Midstocket Parish Church, Aberdeen, which was his last Presbytery visit of his moderatorial year. He highlighted how he has seen the Kirk at its best throughout the world and in Scotland and far from being pesimistic he sees the kirk move to the future with a vision. They aim to get 100,000 new members and attract more young people to the ministry with a decade of ministry project which was launched on Sunday AFternoon at the now annual HEART AND SOUL event in Princes Street Gardens., Edinburgh.
This event attracts church of scotland congregations from everywhere in Scotland and a number events throughout the afternoon. a large number of stalls from coconut shys to ice cream and a cafe to world mission, and other denominations tents advertising thier varied work. Thousands came to the afternoon which was treated kindly by the weather despite a bad forecast and it ended with a service in the bandstand area.
Afterwords the congregation spilled out onto Princes street noticeable to the local shoppers coming out of the closing shops. The new Moderator, Rt. Rev. Angus Morrison, attended the service too while the Lord High Commissioner, Lord Hope was another visitor to HEART AND SOUL!