Kirk wobbles on sexual morality

Woke up this morning to the news that the Church of Scotland had overturned a complaint about a newly installed prebyter who “shares a committed relationship with his Christian partner David”. Ruth has more:

The unity of the Church of Scotland could be at stake tonight as the General Assembly has upheld the appointment of the openly-gay Scott Rennie election to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen. Pink News reports that Rennie has the backing of ten ‘evangelical’ groups. Stewart Cutler has precise details. Looks like Thurible was among the first with the news.

Of course, the “evangelical” groups are no such thing. Organisations like Changing Attitude don’t even vaguely fall into that categorisation.

The vote was 55% to 45% in favour of Rennie, and that means that the game isn’t yet up. In particular, an “overture” to the General Assembly has been made that will  be heard Monday evening, and the wording of that is as follows:

That this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, readmit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

Given that last night’s vote was more to do with legal technicalities rather than doctrine, there is still a good chance that this Overture will pass and that Rennie will therefore not be able to take up his post afterall. It needs to be pointed out that the Overture is completely in line with orthodox Christian teaching. While the attempt to remove Rennie was questionable because nothing in the process to appoint him was done incorrectly (apart from the fact that he didn’t reveal his living arrangements until late in the process) and the appointment process doesn’t technically cover the issue of sexual practice, passing the Overture would change that. It would permit Presbyteries to ask direct questions about sexual practice and then to make decisions in response to that. It would also mean that any Presbytery that made a decision in contradiction to the language of the Overture could itself be open to censure from the wider Kirk.

So, the Kirk wobbles, but the final result in this saga may not be known for another 48 hours.

One more thing – the Herald raises this very interesting legal point:

Two years ago, this was acknowledged in the Kirk’s Act Anent Discrimination, which included sexual orientation among a list of grounds on which it would be illegal to discriminate. The intention was to give ministers an “equivalence” to the protection they would have under civil law.

The crucial difference, of course, is that sexual orientation is not the same as sexual practice. Mr Rennie’s application to be minister of Queen’s Cross was accompanied by a biographical statement which made clear that he is now divorced and “shares a committed relationship with his Christian partner David”.

What this country really needs is a test case to clarify the difference between sexual orientation and sexual practice. That is long overdue and would help to make the law in this area less muddy.

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