The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland approved a motion yesterday to uphold traditional teaching on sexuality while allowing more liberal congregations to ordain as ministers LGBT members in same-sex relationships.
The motion still has to earn ratification from the 48 presbyteries that make up the Church. If it passes, it will become official during the 2014 General Assembly. In the meantime, the motion will likely divide the Church even further over an issue that has fueled friction for the past several years.
In a report commissioned earlier this month on the debate about homosexuality and its place in the church, revisionists—those in favor of LGBT clergy—argued that sexuality diversity is both inevitable and essential for the health of the Church. “God is calling the Church in this generation to acceptance and affirmation of stable, committed, faithful same-sex partnerships,” they wrote.
They also challenged Scriptural passages that condemn homosexual behavior, concluding for example, that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is largely myth. Additionally, they contended that the New Testament texts suffer from incorrect translation.
“Can we honestly put loving, faithful, committed same-sex partners, one or both of whom may have responded to a call to Christian ministry, in the same category as ‘idolaters, thieves, drunkards, murderers, slave traders, and perjurers?’” they asked.
In contrast, traditionalists distinguished between the reality of homosexual orientation and the decision to act on those feelings by pursuing a same-sex relationship. Scripture is clear, they said, in its condemnation of homosexual relationships: “In the scriptures we find examples of every variety of human sexuality, yet only that celebrated within marriage receives the approval of God.” According to Scripture, they concluded that Christians engaging in homosexual behavior should not be recognized as church members or ministers.
Homosexual orientations are real, they said, but Christians who have same-sex feelings have only one biblically approved lifestyle: celibacy. “The Church has a particular responsibility to those homosexual Christians who … have chosen celibacy, with all the loneliness and pain which this can bring,” they wrote.
Advocates are lauding the motion, saying it’s a step forward for “peace” and “unity.” Rev. Albert Bogle, who proposed the motion, said it’s designed to be permissive. “It will give everyone what they want but it will keep us together,” he told the Associated Press.
But that isn’t likely to be the case. Religion News Service reported that two congregations have already left and about 60 more have threatened to follow.
Ironically, it was also Bogle who warned the General Assembly last week about issues of sustainability. According to Christian Today, he predicted that the longevity of the Church would require an overhaul of the Church’s training programs, a shorter amount of time between training and ordination, and the recruitment of 650 more ministers over 15 years.