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Church of Scotland Votes to Allow Ministers to Perform Same-Sex Marriages

Ministers with the Church of Scotland may soon be permitted to perform same-sex marriages following a historic vote on Saturday.

The Church’s Edinburgh-based General Assembly voted 345 to 170 in favor of a proposal which would grant religious authorities the ability to consecrate LGBTQ unions “if they wish.” The draft law was introduced by Rev. Bryan Kerr, a minister in the Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark. The rural Scottish town is about an hour’s drive from both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Kerr said he was “pleased” the church is taking up the issue, as Attitude reported.

“I have already had reaction from parents of people in same-sex relationships who are overwhelmed that the church accepts that God loves them,” he claimed.

During deliberations in the Church of Scotland’s governing body, Rev. Tom Gordon of Edinburgh testified that he has two daughters: one who is straight, while the other is a lesbian. He said the issue is about giving everyone “a choice.”

“I have two daughters, both of whom are married,” said Gordon, according to The Guardian. “I have one gay daughter in a same-sex marriage. When my older daughter got married she had a choiceto ask me to conduct her service as a minister or for me to walk her down the aisle as her dad.”

“But when my younger daughter got married, she had no such choice,” he added.

Others in the Church’s highest court, however, were concerned the new laws would infringe on the rights of ministers who do not wish to recognize same-sex marriages.

“This has not been a happy or peaceful process and people are largely weary and tired of this debate,” claimed Rev. Mark Malcolm of Glasgow. “They just want to get on with what it means to be the church and proclaim the Gospel.”

But Malcolm signaled his willingness to compromise for the sake of “peace” within the Church of Scotland, saying he would forgo his right to recognize any marriages within the Church if it meant being forced to conduct same-sex unions. Instead Malcolm claimed he would solely perform “blessings.”

It may be years before the Presbyterian body reaches a conclusion on the subject.

The proposal to recognize same-sex unions will now be submitted to the legal questions committee within the General Assembly, which doesn’t have to respond with its input until 2020. Should the committee take the full two years to respond, its report would be expected to be delivered the following year.

Should the Church of Scotland allow ministers and deacons to perform LGBTQ weddings, it would be the second entity in the U.K. to do so after the Scottish Episcopal Church. The Anglican body began recognizing same-sex unions last year.

Marriage equality was first legalized in Scotland in 2014.

The potential move comes in the midst of wider progressive changes within the Church of Scotland, the country’s national church. Right Rev. Susan Brown became just the fourth female moderator in the history of the General Assembly when she was installed in the position earlier this year, an event which coincides with the 50-year anniversary of women’s ordination within the faith.

Brown claimed that her goal as moderator would be “meeting people and hearing their stories.”

“The prospect of becoming Moderator of the General Assembly is slightly scary but incredibly exciting,” she said prior to May’s swearing-in ceremony. “It will be a challenging year but I am really up for it.”

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

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