The Church of Scotland has taken a step toward inclusion of openly gay clergy, allowing congregations to opt out of the church's general ban and appoint gay or lesbian ministers if they wish.
The church's General Assembly voted in favor of this policy Monday after six hours of intense debate at its meeting in Edinburgh, The Scotsman reports. "Over the course of the next year, a legal framework will be developed to accommodate the proposals, which will then be ratified by presbyteries, before finally being rubber-stamped by the General Assembly in 2015," the paper notes.
The policy is a compromise proposed by the denomination's outgoing moderator, Albert Bogle. Before he submitted it, three choices were under consideration: allowing openly gay, partnered clergy to be ordained throughout the church, but letting conservative congregations opt out of appointing them; approving openly gay, partnered clergy with no opt-out; or banning new appointments of openly gay ministers but offering immunity from discipline to those appointed before 2009.
Bogle's compromise, essentially a reversal of the first option, maintains the church's "current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality," that is, fidelity for clergy in heterosexual marriages and celibacy for all others, while allowing individual congregations to depart from the policy. While both conservatives and liberals expressed some dissatisfaction with it, it prevailed in the second round of voting.
The Church of Scotland is a Presbyterian body, and despite its name, it is not state-controlled.