Legislation which could pave the way for same sex marriage in the Church of Scotland is to be debated at its General Assembly later this month.
The Church of Scotland has been considering the issue for some years and a legal framework has been drawn up to consider how it could be permitted - and also how to protect those ministers who are opposed to the idea.
Rev Dr Grant Barclay is Convener of the Church of Scotland Legal Questions Committee. He told Premier that this is an opportunity for the Church to debate the issue and there won't be a final decision until next year's General Assembly.
“What the legal questions committee is bringing to this year's assembly is effectively our homework. It is legislation, so that the assembly can see a way in which the church might sufficiently protect those who do not wish to solemnise same sex marriage and also permit those who wish to do so, all within the context of the equalities legislation of the country and the practices of the church.”
He told Premier that the General Assembly will need time to consider the legal documentation and that same sex marriage within the Church of Scotland was not a definite outcome.
“We are simply at this stage presenting a mechanism by which that might happen. The General Assembly may in fact depart from an article together. But if it doesn't, presbyteries across Scotland will consider the matter and more than half of those presbyteries would require to vote in favour of this proposal for the proposal then to be considered by next year's General Assembly. Only if that General Assembly approved the proposal, would it then become part of the practice of the law of the church. There are various stages which need to take place before this will become the law of the Church. That will certainly not happen at this general assembly.”
The legislation has taken two years to write and Revd Dr Barclay says there have been many scenarios to consider.
“For example, what would happen if an organist or a church officer did not wish to be involved in the celebration of a same sex marriage? And what would we do if a same sex couple found themselves living in a parish where the minister of that parish was not an authorised celebrant, would that mean that they could not be married in the Church of Scotland? That seemed to us to be somewhat unfair. And so we had to make other changes to allow them also to benefit from the churches’ provision, if this is what it eventually allows. It was a hugely complicated and intricate process. And I have to say, it was also fascinating.”
The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly begins on 22nd May 2021.