Majority of presbyteries in favour of conducting same-sex marriages

The majority of Church of Scotland presbyteries are in favour of allowing ministers of Word and Sacrament and deacons to marry same-sex couples if they wish.

A report to the 2022 General Assembly shows that 29 of them approved the "Solemnisation of Same Sex Marriage Overture" with 12 voting against.

Two wedding rings
The vote was conducted after the issue was referred under the Barrier Act. Image - Sandy Millar

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

The vote was conducted after the issue was referred under the Barrier Act.

Commissioners to the hybrid annual gathering in Edinburgh next month will now be asked to consider approving the overture to change a standing Church law to enable Ministers of Word and Sacrament and deacons to apply to become authorised celebrants.

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.

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

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.

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 an celebrant will be permitted the use of a church building in their charge for the solemnisation of same sex marriages.

They would be able to grant consent to other celebrants to use the building for this purpose, however.

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 to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony.

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.

Liturgy

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.

The Legal Questions Committee is conscious that the Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships and Same Sex Marriages Act (Act I 2015) has not been considered since amended in 2016 to incorporate changes to civil law.

It proposes, in consultation with the Faith Nurture Forum and the Theological Forum, to undertake a review of the legislation depending on the outcome of the same-sex marriage overture vote.