The Church of Scotland has become embroiled in more controversy after its moderator, Rt Rev. Dr Derek Browning, took steps to allow its ministers to perform same-sex weddings, after the debating of a report in its General Assembly.
According to the BBC, the report, put forward by its Theological Forum, acknowledged the Bible condemns same-sex acts, but claimed Scripture was framed by cultural context. Therefore, it suggested there was a ‘spectrum of interpretation’ among the Assembly.
Rev. Prof. Iain Torrance, convener of the Theological Forum, said there was no theological reason not to allow ministers to conduct same-sex weddings. The report acknowledged ‘conservative arguments’ are based on the Bible’s recognition of sexual immorality, including same-sex acts, as sinful. Yet it justified its decision on the grounds that ‘Scriptural condemnations of same-sex sexual activity were framed in cultural contexts very different from our own’.
During the debate, a series of amendments put forward by supporters of biblical marriage were defeated, and the Kirk will now conduct legal research to determine how same-sex weddings in churches can be allowed.
The decision looks likely to cause further division within the Church of Scotland. Opposing the decision was Rev. Dale London, a Church of Scotland minister in Angus. He said homosexuality was against the Word of God, and that, ‘We cannot call good what God has called evil’.
Speaking to the BBC shortly after the decision, a spokesman for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), said, ‘Many people in the PCI will be deeply saddened by these developments in Scotland, which we believe is at variance with the traditional biblical understanding of marriage between one man and one woman’.
The report conceded no change should take place unless freedom of conscience is upheld for ministers or deacons who object. It comes as another report from the BBC revealed the Scottish Episcopal Church has voted to allow gay couples to marry in church.
Rev. Dr Stafford Carson, principal of the PCI Theological College, called the issue ‘serious and profound’. He said, ‘The Church of Scotland, by its decision to move towards celebrating same-sex marriages, has taken a significant step away from orthodox Christianity.
‘Christianity is not a disembodied faith but an incarnational one. God came to us in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, and he redeems us, body and soul. The way we treat our bodies says something about the way we regard the one who gave our bodies to us and whose presence fills all things. That’s the gospel.
‘Our task in life is to be a means by which God orders creation, bringing it into harmony with his purposes. Sexuality is an inextricable part of that work. Sexual practices are so central to the Christian life that when believers cease to affirm orthodoxy on the matter of sexuality, they cease to be meaningfully Christian’.