Welcome to Affirmation Scotland
Affirmation Scotland is a group that has formed within the Church of Scotland. It is dedicated to the Gospel and a Church characterised by grace, compassion and inclusion.
The dust in the General Assembly Hall has probably now settled and the Church of Scotland is in a new place vis-a-vis same-sex relationships.
On the opening day, Saturday 16 May 2015, the Assembly formally recognised that a majority of Presbyteries had voted in favour of the draft legislation allowing a congregation to call or appoint a minister or deacon who is in a Civil Partnership. But the Assembly had to ratify it. The debate began at 11am, stopped for lunch at 12.30, and recommenced at 2pm. By the middle of the afternoon it seemed that all those who wanted to speak had spoken. I noticed that every speaker in the morning was urging the Assembly to reject the proposals: it was not easy hearing opinions again, and again. The Assembly has repeatedly stated that there is a diversity of viewpoints on sexuality, different ways of understanding the Bible, a "mixed economy" - yet so many people cannot countenance these realities.
After lunch, however, other speakers urged the Assembly to pass the legislation - which it did by 309 votes to 182. It may be a subjective response to the various speakers but I felt the conservative voices sounded 'beaten' and very anxious - whilst those wishing an inclusive church sounded human and free!
So, the law of the Church of Scotland has changed and it is now possible for people in Civil Partnerships to have a place in ministry.
This meant that when we held our Praying for An Inclusive Church service on the Sunday night there was cause for giving thanks. I began the service with these words:
This is the seventh year, at General Assembly time, that Affirmation Scotland has invited people to pray for an inclusive church. We’ve done this because the gospel is good news – and good news of grace. Yesterday, as I’m sure we all know, the Assembly voted to open a way into ministry for gay and lesbian people who are in civil partnerships. On Thursday, that may be extended to same-sex marriage. This is not equality: but it is good news. This is not full inclusion – but it is what we’ve been praying for. It is the creation of a graceful space in the church where difference can be held together, congregations and individuals can live by their discernment of God’s will. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with us all – it really is. And we live by grace.
And, on the Thursday, the legislation was extended to include same-sex marriage - though the Assembly was persuaded to send this down to Presbyteries again under the Barrier Act. I fear that this could be misunderstood: Presbyteries are not being asked to discuss the merits of equal marriage but to agree that the inclusion of those in Civil Partnerships be widened to include those in a same-sex marriage. And there are ministers of the Kirk in same-sex marriages. Our friends on One Kirk are going to prepare a helpful briefing paper for presbyteries. And we will once again do what we can in AS to give voice to gay and lesbian people in the Kirk.
We were blessed, at the Sunday night service, to have The Rev Dr Ken Kovacs as preacher. His biblical and energetic sermon made argued for an inclusive church, for same-sex marriage and painted a picture of what has happened in the Presbyterian Church (USA), of which he was the delegate to the Assembly. The text of the sermon is on this website (click here).
I am very grateful to the support of The Rev Ian Gilmour, office-bearers and organist of St Andrews and St George's West Parish Church who are so welcoming to us for this service.
Thank you for your ongoing support of Affirmation Scotland and for your prayers. Your financial support is also appreciated and you may like to be reminded of the e-mail address of our treasurer, Rod Berg: firstname.lastname@example.org