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The Church of Scotland has voted to recognise same sex marriages for ministers.

The historic vote on the first day of this year’s Annual General Assembly in Edinburgh draws a line under a row which has split the Kirk for nine years.

Members voted 339-215 in favour of the move.

The outcome of last year’s vote on civil partnerships followed years of deliberation within the Church. These latest changes will differentiate the church from the Church of England, which bans clergy from being married to partners of the same sex and has refused to allow gay church weddings.

The Kirk said it adopted a position which maintains a traditional view of marriage between a man and woman, but allows individual congregations to “opt out” if they wish to appoint a minister or a deacon in a civil partnership.

But because that debate pre-dated the legalisation of gay marriage, the change related only to civil partnerships, not same-sex marriages.

On Wednesday the Archbishop of Canterbury will become the first head of the Church of England to take part in a debate at the general assembly.

The Church of Scotland reports that in a speech later today the outgoing Moderator Very Rev John Chalmers is expected to say:

“There’s something else that we have to learn as a Church and that is the power of harmony. Of course we need the freedom across the Church to shape the life and worship of the Church according to local needs and local gifts (and we have seen wonderful examples of this – from Soul Space at Johnstone High Parish to the Shed in Stornoway) but we cannot go on suffering the pain of internal attacks which are designed to undermine the work or the place of others. It’s time to play for the team.

“And let me be very clear here – I am not speaking to one side or another of the theological spectrum. I am speaking to both ends and middle. It is time to stop calling each other names, time to shun the idea that we should define ourselves by our differences and instead define ourselves by what we hold in common – our baptism into Christ, our dependence on God’s grace, our will to serve the poor and so on.”

Co-ordinator of the Principal Clerk’s office, Very Rev David Arnott, said: “The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland decided today to allow individual Kirk Sessions the possibility of allowing a Nominating Committee to consider an application from a minister living in a civil partnership. During a vacancy a Kirk Session may, but only if it so wishes, and after due deliberation, agree to a Nominating Committee accepting an application from such a minister. No Kirk Session may be coerced into doing so against its own wishes. This decision was in line with a majority of presbyteries who voted in favour of such a move.”


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