Kirk moves closer to gay marriage services

Women holding hands Image copyright Getty Images

The Church of Scotland has moved a step closer to allowing ministers to conduct same-sex marriages.

The Kirk's General Assembly backed a motion which tasked a committee with drafting church law on the issue.

Its legal questions committee was asked to report back to the annual meeting of the decision-making body in 2020.

Under the plans outlined in the motion, ministers and deacons would be allowed to conduct same-sex weddings "if they wish".

The motion was carried by 345 votes to 170 and the result was announced on the Church of Scotland's official Twitter feed.

The move comes almost a year after the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to allow gay couples to marry in church.

It became the first major Christian church in the UK to allow same-sex marriage.

The vote came after the Right Rev Susan Brown was installed as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at the beginning of the gathering in Edinburgh.

A minister of Dornoch Cathedral in the Highlands, she was previously known for presiding over the wedding of Madonna and Guy Ritchie in 2000.

Her appointment came in the year the Church marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women.

The 59-year-old is the fourth woman to hold the title.

Speaking before the ceremony, Mrs Brown said: "The prospect of becoming Moderator of the General Assembly is slightly scary but incredibly exciting.

"It will be a challenging year but I am really up for it.

"As the ambassador for the Church, I am really looking forward to meeting people and hearing their stories as my theme is 'walking with'.

"I also want to highlight how important walking, which is an ancient spiritual tradition, is for our physical and mental health, an issue that I plan to raise with political leaders."

Image copyright Andrew O'Brien
Image caption The Right Rev Susan Brown was installed as Moderator in a ceremony at the beginning of the General Assembly.
Image copyright Andrew O'Brien
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon and the Duke of Buccleuch, who represented the Queen as Lord High Commissioner to the Assembly, were at the ceremony.

During the ceremony her predecessor, the Very Rev Dr Derek Browning, welcomed the new Moderator saying, "full-blooded, soul-warming, kind-hearted parish ministry," has been the centre of her work.

"On this year when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament it is particularly special that you as a committed parish minister will be our Moderator," Dr Browning added,

"It is also a delight that having served in two Highland parishes that you will also represent that important part of our country for the first time in a number of years."

About 730 commissioners from Scotland and beyond are attending the General Assembly on The Mound to make decisions on matters of Kirk policy and governance.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Duke of Buccleuch was given an official welcome to Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh on Friday

During the Church of Scotland's Assembly on Tuesday, a public procession will take place to mark 50 years of the ordination of women within the Kirk.

Nearly 300 people are expected to take part in the event in central Edinburgh, exactly half a century on from the Assembly's decision in 1968 to permit women to become ministers.

Wednesday brings discussion of a report from the Church and Society Council, which proposes the Kirk "should, over the next two years, divest from fossil fuel companies unless there is clear evidence that these companies are themselves modifying their policy and practice".

The General Assembly meets for a week every year in May. It has the authority to make laws determining how the Church operates and can also act as the Kirk's highest court.

This year's Assembly closes on Friday 25 May.

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