Most Church of Scotland presbyteries in favour of conducting same-sex marriages

The majority of Church of Scotland presbyteries are in favour of allowing parish ministers and deacons to marry same-sex couples if they wish, a new report shows.

A paper submitted to the 2022 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland shows that 29 of the presbyteries approved the Solemnisation of Same Sex Marriage Overture, with 12 voting against.

Presbyteries were asked for their views on draft legislation, with safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act, following a decision at last year’s General Assembly.

Commissioners to the annual gathering, which is taking place in hybrid form in Edinburgh next month, will now be asked to consider approving the overture to change a standing Church law to enable parish ministers, known as Ministers of Word and Sacrament, and deacons to apply to become authorised celebrants to conduct same-sex ceremonies.

A report to the General Assembly makes it clear that no person would be required to participate in the solemnisation of, or be involved in the arrangements for, a same-sex marriage unless they explicitly wished to do so.

All celebrants would be expected to take account of the “peace and unity and pastoral needs of the congregation and any parish or other grouping of which it is a part” while considering conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony.

Under the terms of the proposed legislation, an individual would have to apply to the Principal Clerk’s office to become a celebrant and an application would then be made to the Registrar General for Scotland on their behalf.

The Principal Clerk would maintain an up-to-date record of celebrants and they would be personally responsible for renewing their status every three years.

Only a parish minister who has become a celebrant would be permitted the use of a church building in their charge for the solemnisation of same-sex marriages, however, they would be able to grant consent to other celebrants to use the building for this purpose.

On the basis that commissioners vote in favour of the Solemnisation of Same Sex Marriage Overture, the Legal Questions Committee is proposing to produce guidance to accompany the amended Church law.

It will be prepared in consultation with the Faith Nurture Forum and the Theological Forum and issued to presbytery clerks and posted online this summer to assist in the practical operation of the revised Act’s provisions.

If the overture is carried, the Faith Nurture Forum is proposing to produce a suggested liturgy for celebrants to use to bless same-sex marriages.