Next May, the Church of Scotland General Assembly will debate the role of homosexuals in leadership in the church, and in preparation for that debate a report is being prepared by a special commission of the General Assembly in consultation with each congregation and presbytery. One congregation, Bothwell Church in Motherwell, has published the result of the discussion that has taken place in its session in the most recent edition of its church magazine. It makes for interesting reading.
The church magazine says:
It is important that everyone associated with our congregation is informed of how our Kirk Session responded to this consultation. A document, comprehensive in its content, was prepared by the Special Commission. This contained several questions to be answered, some of which were in the form of descriptive sentences with Elders being asked to indicate which one corresponded most closely to their own point of view. Most of these responses were to be made in a secret ballot to ensure that everyone’s opinion could be freely expressed.
As the questions were often lengthy and complex, it is not possible to reproduce them all here. However, perhaps the responses to two of the most central questions may suffice to give a clear indication of the Kirk Session’s mind on this matter.
- No elders believed that homosexual orientation is a disorder;
- 2 elders believed that, while such orientation is a given, homosexual behaviour is sinful;
- 13 believed that homosexual behaviour is equivalent morally to heterosexual behaviour;
- 12 believed that homosexual orientation is a given part of God’s creation.
On a second group of questions, the elders responded as follows:
Should a person in a same-sex relationship be permitted to be ordained as a minister? 24 said Yes, 10 said No.
Should a person in a civil partnership be permitted to be ordained a minister? 28 said Yes, 7 said No.
Should a person is a same-sex relationship be permitted to have a leadership role? 28 said Yes, 6 said No.
Should a person in a civil partnership be permitted to have a leadership role? 31 said Yes, 2 said No.
In the same magazine, the minister writes about a new discussion group which is commencing in the congregation called Living the Questions. He writes,
For some time now I have been concerned about the strengthening of what I regard as a fundamentalist understanding of Christian theology with the Church. I do not recognise in its interpretation the teaching of grace and graciousness which characterised so much of Christ’ s dealing with ordinary folk. Instead I believe it to be a dangerous 20th century invention responding to rapid social changes brought about by modernity and globalisation. Dogmatism, which is divisive and deaf to the opinion of others, is of little use to any society and has no place within the Church nationally or locally.
On Thursday evenings throughout September and October we are therefore launching a new programme of discussion opportunities called Living the Questions. It is a DVD-based programme exploring contemporary themes of Christian faith. Designed for the countless people who suffer in silence as the voices of fear and certitude claim Christianity for themselves, it’ s purpose is to allow people to ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask but have been afraid to voice. The programme is an open-minded alternative to those courses which claim to have ‘all the answers’. Instead of providing easy answers, it is a resource for people who are prepared to search, discuss and learn from one-another about the mysteries of faith and life as so share together our adventure in what the great Christian thinker Soren Kierkegaard calls “objective uncertainty”.
The producers of LtQ say this programme is NOT for:
- those who personal faith requires them to believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God.
- those who believe that the doctrines of the church are sacrosanct and never to be questioned.
- those who believe the reason the mainline churches have been losing members is because they haven’t been teaching ‘orthodox’ Christianity or preaching the true Gospel.
It seems that once ministers and elders no longer believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God they will be confused in the whole area of morality where the Bible speaks with clarity. Whatever their religion is, it is not historic, orthodox Christianity.
If this sample congregation is indicative of the outcome in the Church of Scotland’s debate, then their decision at next year’s General Assembly may build bigger barriers between them and other orthodox denominations.