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Christian group laments Church of Scotland presbyteries drift toward allowing gay marriage ahead of vote

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A Christian group based in the U.K. said it’s “very sad” to learn that a majority of presbyteries of the Church of Scotland have supported the proposed approval of same-sex weddings in its churches ahead of the upcoming General Assembly.

It’s a “very sad development,” said The Christian Institute after 29 of the 41 presbyteries said they would support the change at the denomination’s General Assembly later this month.

The denomination “has in its constitution a commitment to the Bible as the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice,” commented The Christian Institute’s Scotland Officer Nigel Kenny.

“The Bible is crystal clear that true, God-honoring marriage is only between one man and one woman. Jesus’ own teaching on this in Matthew 19 could not be clearer. But it seems that the majority of presbyteries are more interested in taking their cue from culture rather than Christ.”

A framework for ministers to officiate same-sex ceremonies was prepared last year, and the Assembly will have a final vote on whether to implement it.

If the proposal is passed, which is likely, ministers wishing to conduct a same-sex ceremony would have to make their application to the Principal Clerk, who would then make the application to the Registrar General for Scotland.

Ministers and deacons would purportedly not be forced to officiate or get involved in same-sex ceremonies due to a conscience clause in the legislation.

The Rev. Mike Goss of Barry Parish Church in the Angus presbytery was quoted as saying, “There’s still a continued struggle within the Church of Scotland” and there are some “folk who stand by the Bible, we’re not going away. We’re still there.”

Currently, the Law of the Church of Scotland adheres to the biblical mandate and only allows ministers and deacons to marry opposite-sex couples, the denomination says on its website.

“The Church recognizes that there are diverse views on the subject of same-sex marriage,” it says. “We are committed to ensuring that debates on this subject are held in a spirit of humility and grace, that the tone and tenor of discussions are civil and people are respectful of those who hold opposing views.”

A 2016 Church census in Scotland showed that the number of regular churchgoing Christians in the country had fallen to 390,000, representing 7.2% of Scotland’s population, down from 854,000 (17% of population) in 1984.

The study also showed that 42% of churchgoers were older than 65, and that the number of congregations had dropped from 4,100 in 1984 to 3,700 in 2016.

Lead researcher Peter Brierley said at the time that the figures indicated that Scotland faced a crisis in Christianity. “We are living in the 21st century and one of the features of the 21st century is that people’s allegiance to particular faiths is no longer as strong as it used to be,” he said. “There are also quite a lot of invisible Christians who used to go to church, still believe in God, but they have moved house, perhaps to a rural area, and simply haven't found a church to go to.”

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