Same -Sex Relationships and the Ministry - the Press got it Wrong!

I listened with interest on the comments relating to General Assembly's position on the ordination of people in same-sex relationships. On the whole the exchange between the commissioners was respectful and polite. The Moderator David Arnott handled the proceedings with a certain amount of humour and a great amount of integrity. Both he and Lord Hodge, who was presenting the Report got a standing ovation. Reflecting on the debate itself there was very little new light shed on the issue. After five or six hours of debate, commissioners voted by 351 to 294 to adopt deliverance 7B, which means a Theological Commission will be set up to consider the implications of accepting for training, induction and ordination those in same-sex relationships for the ministry. When this Commission reports back the danger is that it will be just as equally divided. However it may well have to come forward with creative proposals that will prevent the church from splitting over this issue. It is almost certain that accommodation will have to be made for both sides of the argument and accommodation with integrity! Some will argue that they can't stay in a church which has divided opinions on how to interpret scripture. However the facts are that the church is already divided over what some might consider even more weighty theological issues. The truth is that no definitive decision has been taken on this issue. No doubt supporters of the revisionist standpoint see this as a step towards a radical new position on Christian sexuality. Traditionalist may need to reflect on their presentations asking themselves about the style and tone they adopt when delivering the substance of their arguments. It is not enough to quote scripture as though it was only the traditionalist that has a high regard for biblical truth. Despite what you read in the papers or hear on television the Church simply voted to continue dialogue on same-sex relationships agenda relating to ministry. The change is that it has allowed this new theological commission to open up the debate again about ministers blessing civil partnerships. Some may want to read into this a turning of the tide, however it is a brave person that can predict what a future General Assembly will do. One year an Assembly can think a particular way, in two years a different lot of commissioners can quite easily deliver a different outcome. The Assembly also voted to allow ministers and deacons in same-sex relationships ordained before 2009 to be inducted into pastoral charges by 393 to 252. The reason behind this proposal was simply to be fair to any who were in the same position as Scott Rennie. However it is a bit of a red herring because there will be very few if any ministers ordained before 2009 who have openly reported to their Presbytery that they are gay. Equally it will be a brave Kirk Session that openly seeks to appoint a gay minister while all this debate is currently being discussed. So a theological commission will be set up to bring recommendations to the 2013 General Assembly, as well as considering whether ministers should have freedom of conscience to bless civil partnerships and possible liturgy for such occasions. It a bit like Mr Salmond preparing proposals for a referendum on nationalism. In the end the country may vote for a Scottish Nationalist First Minister but will they vote for an Independent Scotland? The skill and success of this new theological commission will be if they can manage to discover a compromise that will keep both halves of the church happy. However if the General Assembly of 2013 enact a substantive change from the traditional view of marriage and Christian sexuality there will need to be a consultation with the Kirk Sessions using the Barrier Act. Speaking after the debate, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Right Reverend David Arnott, said: "This direction is one that explores inclusion but the new theological commission will report in two years time on that matter and no decisions have yet been made. I guess those on both sides of the debate can take comfort that there is still everything to play for and if hearts and minds are to be won over, by either side, gospel love needs to be at the centre of a persuasive argument.

Posted By: Helmut   On: 26 May 2011   At: 12:48pm

Just realizing: What I meant in my first post was the moratorium on speaking about it, not the one on acceptance etc.


Posted By: D   On: 25 May 2011   At: 11:22pm

If I may respond to Ron’s point (moderator - I won’t be offended if you prefer not to post this, as I don’t wish to offend Ron), the “problem” is that only a few verses further on in Leviticus, it says we are not to have tattoos or cut the hair on the side of our heads.  You are right that the words don’t change, but there is an argument that these verses could be relating to temple prostitution and keeping a clear distinction between pagan worship and Israelite worship.

The section in Corinthians reads “homosexual offender” in the NIV.  An interesting point is that a sexual offender does not mean it’s wrong to be sexual, only that it’s wrong to do an offence that is sexual in nature.  Whether you translate it as offender or abuser, there is an argument that it’s not a scripture about all forms of same sex relationship.


I’m not trying to convince you otherwise, and respect the traditionalist viewpoint, but I think people need to know that there are different interpretations out there.  The biggest one for me is 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul says celibacy is a gift from God, but not all have this gift, so it is better to marry than burn with passion.  This to me would apply equally to homosexuals - it is better to be celibate and single if you have this gift, in order to serve God more fully in your life, but if you do not have this gift, it’s better to commit to a life-long faithful relationship than be tempted by promiscuity and lust.  For this reason, I would support civil partnerships or same sex marriage for Christians.


The scriptures are not crystal clear on this whole topic - which is why the Holy Spirit is needed to help us interpret and apply.  Paul teaches about marriage and the Bible is full of pro-marriage teachings, but Paul is also pro-celibacy.  It’s not a contradiction, it just shows we have to seek God’s mind in our own lives on all matters.  We will each be accountable one day to God, and that includes not just our theology, but our love and actions too.

I sincerely don’t wish to cause offence by expressing a contrary view, but hope it highlights that some who take a “revisionist” approach are not necessarily abandoning the Word of God.  God bless <


Posted By: italker   On: 25 May 2011   At: 7:02pm

Thank you all for sharing your views on the blog I really do appreciate you thoughts and comments. It is also such an encouragement that we can have this discussion within a context of respect and I hope a realisation that those who hold differing views may indeed also love our Lord and be seeking to struggle with their personal views while engaging with the meaning of scripture.  I may interject from time to time but I think it is interesting to read your views and to reflect upon them.


Posted By: Helmut   On: 25 May 2011   At: 6:32pm

But when I look at my assortment of Bible versions and translations (in English and German) I find that they differ in the “small print”, as some translated along the lines of homosexuality, some along the lines of pedophiles. Not being an expert on the matter, not knowing enough Greek or Latin, and no Hebrew or Aramaeic, I could not possibly give the ultimate answer. But being very interested in history I am aware of the fact that at those times there were indeed distinctions being made, possibly influencing the original words being used in the Bible, and influencing translators.


Posted By: Ron   On: 25 May 2011   At: 4:36pm

If I may add my two pense. I don’t see what the problem is. God says it quite plain in the Old Testement, “Leviticus 18:22 (KJV) Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” and then again in the New Testement “1 Corinthians 6:9 (KJV)

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind”.

Sounds pretty straight forward to me. So all that is going on is man trying to get his own way and ignore God. Never mind interpretation, Gods word is straight forward, you don’t need a PhD to understand it.


Would I want to see any church split? No, not at all, but sometimes you have to make a stand. Luke 16:13 “A servant cannot serve two masters. He will hate the first master and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and despise the second. You cannot serve God and wealth.” One can take weath here as the worldy way.


Anyways enough spouted. Lord help the governing body of the Church of Scotland see your words have not changed, and that the meaning from the time began till now mean the same thing, whether we like it or not.


God Bless.


Posted By: Dave   On: 25 May 2011   At: 10:30am

What I found challenging throughout it was to keep my prayers focused on “thy will be done” and not “my will be done”. 

I find the approach of Albert very refreshing and inspiring, and accepting of different perspectives.  I’m reminded of the teachings of Paul in Romans 14 when he dealt with a big divide in the church between “conservative” Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Paul did say which group he agreed with in their debate, but didn’t urge them to change their minds to agree with him, but rather to act in love towards one another.  I applaud the C of S for its approach and love.


Posted By: Mike Munro   On: 24 May 2011   At: 11:12pm

As I said, why has the mis-reporting not been challenged, or is it because there does appear to have been movement regarding anyone ordained pre 2009. I accept Albert’s point regarding individuals, but the principle appears to have changed.


Posted By: rae   On: 24 May 2011   At: 10:59pm

This is the link to the moderator’s statement


Posted By: rae   On: 24 May 2011   At: 10:30pm

The moderator did issue a statement, they held a press conference on Monday evening after the debate had finished.  You can read all about what actually happened on the church of scotland website.


Posted By: Mike Munro   On: 24 May 2011   At: 8:31pm

If every newspaper is saying the same thing ie that it has been accepted, shouldn’t the Church of Scotland be issuing a statement saying that they have all got it wrong?


Posted By: h   On: 24 May 2011   At: 5:51pm

...and, hopefully, love will win through in the end.

I am sure God loves us all, regardless of whatever gender we may be.

It could be any one of us that was born with different feelings - is it so important what we are - or is loving and sharing God’s love not more what our lives should be about?

I wonder what Jesus, Himself, would say to us today - the following comes to mind-

“..Love your neighbour as your self?”


Posted By: Helmut   On: 24 May 2011   At: 9:27am

Half-way through the debate my internet failed… I have had a bit of catching up to do.

Once again I would like to recommend the GA for its serious, amiable, and unbelieveably good-humored way of conducting business. Relaxed smiles and laughter at the most unexpected times - a shining example for others to adopt.-

A question in the matter, probably already answered by somebodies’ tweets: Does the moratorium still stand?


Posted By: Paul   On: 24 May 2011   At: 2:49am

My mind is already made up in regards to gay people in the church generally, and I see no harm at all with having gay ministers.

What I do admire with our church is that they are taking it seriously, and not just jumping in with both feet.


The parts of the bible have been debated ad nauseum on the other side of the pond where to my mind it is a much bigger issue.


There was one particular “West Wing” episode which summed it up for me.  The bible says not to do a lot of things and allows you to do a lot as well.  Like slavery is fine!  Somehow we don’t hold that opinion anymore!


My point is this.  If God is Love then we have to accept that gay people have the same standing in his eyes as us.  they don’t choose to be gay, they were born that way like I was born straight.  No one has yet convinced me that it is a “choice” for a “way of life”.  Gay people throughout history have been persecuted for the way they were born.  No one would choose that.


So if gay people are born that way.  It means they are part of Gods plan.  It really is that simple, and it’s time the church got over itself, and realised that.  There are MUCH more important things to be worried about.  Love is love, and if God is love then that should be the end of it.

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