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First hybrid General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to open

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh is opening (Jane Barlow/PA)
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh is opening (Jane Barlow/PA)

The first hybrid General Assembly of the Church of Scotland opens this weekend and will consider issues including voting on whether clergy can conduct same-sex marriages.

Around 400 ministers, elders, deacons and special guests will gather in Edinburgh from Saturday with a further 200 expected to join online.

Commissioners to the annual gathering will on Monday be asked to consider approving an overture to change a standing Church law to enable parish ministers and deacons to apply to become authorised celebrants to conduct same-sex ceremonies.

If the overture is approved, ministers and deacons will be able to conduct same-sex ceremonies if they wish but they would not have to participate in marriage ceremonies if they do not wish to do so.

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Dr Iain Greenshields is the next Moderator General of the Church of Scotland (Andrew O’Brien/Church of Scotland/PA)

A report earlier this month found the majority of presbyteries in Scotland were in favour of same-sex marriages. The kirk will also call for a ban on conversion therapy.

New moderator Dr Iain Greenshields is expected to be officially installed and will chair proceedings until Thursday.

He said: “I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen and I aim to represent the Church and God in a way that is positive, instructive and hopeful.

“There are a great many challenges facing our society today including poverty, mental health, social isolation, addiction and climate change and the Church is active in supporting those in genuine need.

“Ultimately the greatest need in our society is the spiritual vacuum that exists in the lives of so many.”

The General Assembly is also expected to welcome a historic declaration of friendship with the Catholic Church in Scotland, based on their shared faith in Christ.

The kirk’s financial position will also be discussed and the assembly will look at a programme of “radical reforms” to streamline church structures such as reducing the number of presbyteries and a “large scale review” of church buildings.

Other topics that will be discussed include the war in Ukraine and the kirk’s work around social care through their CrossReach service.

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