Welcome to Affirmation Scotland
At the beginning of 2016 we are almost a decade from the founding of Affirmation Scotland. The catalyst was The General Assembly of The Church of Scotland in May of that year and, in particular, the report of the Legal Questions Committee with their proposed ‘Declaratory Act anent Civil Partnerships’. This would allow ministers, should they wish (and only if they wish), to lead a service to mark a Civil Partnership without risk of discipline.
The Revd. Kim Cran, a minister working in the north-east of Scotland, wrote a piece for ‘Minister’s Forum’ advocating affirmation and inclusion; she received a fair deal of response and circulated an e-mail which contained the following:
“Given what is about to be discussed on the floor of the Assembly, it has been suggested that perhaps we do not want to wait for a conference or meeting in order to have a presence. It has been suggested that it is time for us to form a group within the church (much like More Light, Open and Affirming etc) that clearly makes a statement that not all members of the C.of S. agree with where the conservatives are taking the church on this issue, and that there is an alternative place for those who support the LGBT community to be heard and seek information, support, etc.”
Two or three days later the website was up and running; a ‘sister’ group called OneKirk was also up and running. At the General Assembly debate, just over a week later, the Declaratory Act was passed by a narrow vote and sent to Presbyteries for discussion before returning to the Assembly for final approval.
Following these May 2006 events Kim Cran made three observations:
1. Freedom of conscience remains the operating norm for the Kirk - for now.
2. The Kirk, through discussion, debate, and through the press, is acknowledging the presence (and contribution) of its clergy, elders and members who are also gay; and
3. The progressive voice in the Kirk is finding a song to sing, for the glory of a God of love and compassion, and justice.
Almost ten years on where are we? Kim is back in the USA (but keeps in touch) and this May the Assembly will be asked to finally approve church legislation which will allow a vacant congregation to call or appoint a minister (or deacon) who is in a same-sex marriage. Consider how far the Church has come: from narrowly approving the idea of a minister blessing a couple in a Civil Partnership to approving the appointment of ministers in a same-sex marriage.
There is no turning back; just as society has totally changed in the last ten years with regard to lgbt people, so has the church. The energy for equality and inclusion doesn’t only flow from lgbt people in the church but from members, elders and ministers who passionately believe in an all-embracing love of God and have a vision of a church truly open to all. And because the Kirk operates with some degree of democracy we can see that it is the votes of elders and ministers throughout the land – people from congregations – who have brought about the change.
I have always maintained that real change in the church is ‘bottom-up.’ General Assembly reports and debates may possibly create opportunities, or raise the questions, but change happens when people in pews around the country begin to wonder about the sort of local Christian community they really want to be – and be seen to be! This is why Affirming Congregations are important.
Kim Cran wrote:
“Some have suggested that the lgbt Christians in the church would like some guidance as to finding 'safe' congregations in the Church of Scotland - congregations that can identify themselves as being 'affirmation congregations' - congregations that are open to all people, and do not judge or discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Is this an area that we want to explore? What would be the strengths/weaknesses of going down this road - of inviting congregations to become Affirmation Congregations, and providing guidelines for what it means to be welcoming?”
Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and in society.
That is our mission too. Let it be so. Work to make it so.
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