Church of Scotland Votes to Allow Ministers to Be in Same-Sex Marriages

The Church of Scotland's General Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Church of Scotland's general assembly has voted to allow its ministers to be in same-sex marriages by making a provision for individual congregations to "opt out" of the Church's traditional view of marriage as between a man and woman.

Commissioners voted by 339 votes to 215 in favor of the move on the first day of the annual general assembly meeting in Edinburg on Saturday, according to BBC.

"We had a debate which made very clear that we were not interfering with our theological definition of marriage and were not going to the place where ministers or deacons could themselves be conducting same-sex marriages," the Very Rev. John Chalmers, principal clerk to the general assembly, was quoted as saying. "It is an entirely different discussion."

Chalmers added, "Today's decision means it will be possible for Kirk sessions and congregations to depart from the traditional understanding of marriage to call not only potentially a minister in a civil partnership but one who is in a same-sex marriage."

The Theological Forum is due to present its report on the theological understanding of same-sex marriage next year, according to The Guardian.

The Rev. David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, was "saddened" by the general assembly's decision Saturday.

"It is a sad day for all the Christian churches in Scotland when what used to be the National Kirk, has now departed so clearly from the Bible," Robertson told The Sunday Telegraph. "In adopting this policy the Church of Scotland has not only dissociated itself from the vast majority of Christian churches throughout the world (Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical) but has lost all claim to be the National Church for Scotland."

The proposal to approve the appointment of gay ministers in civil partnerships was made in the last year's general assembly.

The Church of Scotland's decision could influence the Church of England, according to some clergy.

The Rev. Christina Beardsley, a member of The Sibyls, a Christian spirituality group for transgender people, suggested that churches in England should use the same model.

"It is helpful that within the U.K. there is this model now available," Beardsley told the Telegraph. "People who are hesitant will be able to see how it works out and they will see that the sky isn't going to fall in. The pressure will be on."