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Church of Scotland votes to approve same-sex marriages for ministers

New Moderator Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr (left) with Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison was installed at the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.
New Moderator Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr (left) with Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison was installed at the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has voted to allow its ministers to be in same-sex marriages.

The gathering, which opened in Edinburgh today, voted in favour of extending a law passed last May that permits ministers to be in same-sex civil partnerships.

The outcome follows years of deliberation on the issue within the Church.

The decision means the Kirk adopts a position which maintains a traditional view of marriage between a man and woman, but allows individual congregations to “opt out” if they wish to appoint a minister or a deacon in a same-sex marriage or a civil partnership.

Any wider consideration of the theological understanding of same-sex marriage will not take place until the Theological Forum presents its report to the Kirk next year.

More than 850 commissioners from across Scotland, the rest of the UK, Africa, Asia, North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean have registered to attend this year’s assembly, which began with a formal ceremony attended by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The opening saw the appointment of a new Moderator.

The Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison stood down from his 12-month role and was replaced by the Rev Dr Russell Barr, the founder of Edinburgh-based homelessness charity, Fresh Start.

Dr Morrison said he felt a “sense of gratitude, relief and heartfelt appreciation” as he left the post.

Dr Barr said his predecessor was a “great ambassador for the Church of Scotland”.

A letter from the Queen was also read as the assembly got under way.

She wrote: “At a time of such upheaval and unrest across the world, it is reassuring to hear that the Church of Scotland has made a particular priority of working to develop a co-ordinated response to the issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers.

“This international crisis requires a compassionate and generous response and we are pleased that in keeping with your priority to serve the poorest and most vulnerable, you are making such a valuable contribution.”

The Queen also acknowledged the Church’s contribution to the United Nations climate change conference in Paris last year.

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