Comments: Church of Scotland considers Same Sex Relationships and the Ministry

Of course the Church of Scotland had divorce and re-marriage from 1560!

Women elders and ministers from the 1960s, and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Queen is a communicant member.

And since 1690 they have been free of bishops.

Posted by robert Ian williams at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 4:52pm BST

Ahhh, I thought 1690 had a nice ring to it .....

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 7:58pm BST

Actually, I don't think the Queen does communicate in Scotland....

Posted by peter kettle at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 9:12pm BST

Every British Monarch since Queen Victoria has communicated in the Church of Scotland. Just oposite to the Balmoral gates, there is Crathie Parish church, where the Queen worships whilst in Scotland. Her divorced daughter was re-married there.

Posted by robert ian williams at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 11:12pm BST

There is an interesting debate , here on Newsnight , Scotland...about 10 minutes in

I think the American woman minister needs a course in theology and history.

Posted by robert ian williams at Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 6:09am BST

The Queen certainly worships in the Church of Scotland and at Crathie Kirk in particular. Communion is not celebrated nearly so often in the Kirk as in another church that Her Majesty may belong to. (One hears that she is an Anglican in England!).

I'm interested in the claim that HM receives communion in Crathie. Can RIW back that up? I'd also be interested to know if HM appears on the list of members at Crathie or perhaps the Canongate Church - presumably one or the other...

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 10:32am BST

There seems to be a lot of quirks in the whole thing, but at least they seem to be doing more that just talking about it ...

Posted by Fr Levi at Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 1:25pm BST

Apparently that video is not available in my area, Robert (Canada). Perhaps you could summarise.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 4:05pm BST

"Just oposite to the Balmoral gates, there is Crathie Parish church, where the Queen worships whilst in Scotland."

That's hardly the same as communicating, unless she times her stays just right. Does the ruling elder come by to make sure Her Grace has earned her quarterly token?

Not that there's any reason why she *could* not, as a member ex officio of the CoS, but I doubt any of us are privy to the sovereign's Eucharistic scruples.

Posted by Geoff at Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 8:30pm BST

Of course, the Queen communicates in the Church of Scotland, since she appoints or acts as their Lord High Commissioner.

The state dinner tonight, following Her Majesty's visit to Ireland, certain proves the republicans have no cause in the UK. How are you going to replace her with a mere "president"?

Again, as an American anglophile, I suggested that my beloved English friends go gently and slowly and carefully in changing ancient institutions, including Establishment and the House of Lords.
What is the hurry? Why not wait another fifty years or so? There is no deficiency in democracy or religious freedom in Britain.

Posted by Andrew at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 12:07am BST

Yes she does communicate and Queen Victoria was publicly criticised for doing this by high Church Scottish Anglicans in the nineteenth century.

The Queen has Church of Scotland chaplains and a seat at the General Assembly.

During the long holiday breaks at Balmoral, communion is regularly celebrated and she takes no Anglican chaplain with her.

As for a summary... the news item contained a discussion between a woman pro gay minister and the chairman of the conservative Evangelical members of the church who call themselves Forward Together. The woman claimed that there was evidence in history that same sex marriages occurred before heterosexual marriages in the Christian Church and that the Bible did not condemn homosexuality. The interviewer challenged the conservative.. on did he accept women ministers and he hedged the question.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 6:55am BST

Whatever ones views on this issue, the American minister just didn't seem to have any theological or historical knowledge whatsoever. To claim that the bible says nothing about homosexuality is ludicrous.

Posted by William at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 8:07am BST

William said: "To claim that the bible says nothing about homosexuality is ludicrous."

I understand that the word 'homosexual' was coined in the late 1800's and so the point she may have been trying to make is that what is being talked about in the bible is not what we understand same sex orientation or behaviour to be nowadays.

It would have been helpful if she had explained that a bit (or responded to the other chap when he said the same sort of thing as yourself).


Posted by Kennedy Fraser at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 1:18pm BST

"To claim that the bible says nothing about homosexuality is ludicrous."

And yet the word "homosexual" wasn't coined until the 19th century by German psychologists. The writers of Scripture would not have understood the word, or the concept (as we understand it anyway).

And indeed, the issue of same sex relations is nowhere discussed or even mentioned in all 4 of the Gospels.

In the rest of Scripture, it appears very rarely, mentioned or discussed only about 6 or7 times.

Contrast that to matters of social justice discussed at length extensively throughout the Scriptures.

The Gospels say nothing about same sexuality, but have a whole lot to say about hypocrisy and selfishness.

Could it be that the weight given to this issue, elevating opposition to all same sex relations to near credal status, is disproportionate? I think so.

Posted by Counterlight at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 1:57pm BST

"To claim that the bible says nothing about homosexuality is ludicrous."

Since "homosexuality" is a concept that came about some 1800-odd years after the canon's closure, I'd say that claiming the reverse is ludicrous!

Posted by Geoff at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 3:12pm BST

William, you say "To claim that the bible says nothing about homosexuality is ludicrous."

This is not ludicrous but a perfectly valid and widespread academic discourse. But the full detail of the discourse is "the bible says nothing about homosexuality AS WE UNDERSTAND IT TODAY".

Homosexuality, like (for example) marriage, is a social construct, and the way that cultures view and understand homosexuality (or marriage) varies across cultures and across the centuries).

Modern understandings of homosexuality are around positive ideas of a loving pair bonding of equals, or around more critical views which see the same-sex sex act a sinful.

In past centuries the social constructs have been very different, with paederasty (relationship between unequal ages) being the dominant construct in many societies. In many of these societies taking part in a same-sex sex act was in itself perfectly respectable, but being seen as non-masculine, or the weak, passive partner (whether in a sexual act or not) was wrong.

Finally, in many early societies, there was a common link between same-sex sexual behaviour/inclination and spirituality, with many stories and anthropological examples of cross dressing, androgyny and same-sex behavior linked to priesthood, divination and shamanism The most well known example would be Joseph, whose famous coat was the normal dress of young female virgins.

It is posssible to argue that the Bible is talking about these older examples and understandings of same sex behaviour, and so we should be careful about uncritically applying biblical teachings to our more modern (and very different) situation.

It is even possible to ask whether these old examples are in fact "homosexuality" as we understand it today, and therefore it is quite possible to argue that the Bible says nothing to us at all about "homosexuality".

Simon Dawson.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 3:21pm BST

Communion may be celebrated regularly while the Queen is at Balmoral, but she doesn't necessarily communicate. I was given to understand that she only receives Communion at Christmas and Easter... could be wrong there!

Hmmm, on the other issue, I'm not really sure the Bible does say anything about "homosexuality" since the authors of both Old and New Testaments had no such concept...

Posted by Fr James at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 4:05pm BST

Of course, it would be interesting to discover whether the denial of any article of faith would be considered in a confidential survey.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 6:38pm BST

READ MY LIPS, William:

The Bible says NOTHING (Zip, Zilch, Zed, Nada) about "homosexuality." Full-stop. End of discussion.

To claim *otherwise* is ludicrous!

Now, about certain same-sex sexual *acts*---completely divorced from (anachronistic) sexual orientation or relationships---there's a case to be made (though even that's not completely clear).

Stop injecting 20th century concepts into 2nd century CE or earlier texts!

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 10:14pm BST

'There is no deficiency in democracy or religious freedom in Britain'

As we would say in this part of the world, to mean the exact opposite - 'Yeah right'

Posted by Jonathan Kirkpatrick at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 11:46pm BST

For the last time when the Queen is in Scotland she never attends services of the tiny Scottish Episcopal Church but is a communicant member of the Church of Scotland in good standing.

Posted by Robert ian williams at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 8:02am BST

Since the Bible says nothing about homosexuality, I'll remember that when I hear uncontested conjectures on these comment threads about David and Johnathan.

There are numerous suppositions regarding David and Johnathan's presumed homosexual relationship are even more tenuous than explicit scriptures that, at least, decry homosexual 'acts'. You're right, we need to stick to explicit prohibitions.

However, we can anticipate always resort arguments involving the liberal shibboleths, SLIPPERY-SLOPE and SHELLFISH.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 8:47am BST

As can be seen from my posting above, I am very much on the side of the Bible (especially the OT) not saying anything to us about homosexuality in it's modern understanding.

But I don't agree with the posting saying "the issue of same sex relations is nowhere discussed or even mentioned in all 4 of the Gospels".

Look carefully at the story of the Centurion and his "servant". In fact the greek translation is pais, or boy. Compliling both Gospel accounts we see the servant described as "the boy of mine" and "my dearest/most honoured servant".

It is quite possible to argue that the boy and the Centurion are lovers in a paederastic relationship.

Many would respond that Jesus within his Jewish culture would not approve of, or be familiar with such a state. But Jesus grew up five km from Sepphoris, a major Graeco-Roman city founded by Herod Antipas, so he would have been quite familiar with Roman customs.

If we look at the five Matthean "your faith has made you whole/healed you" narratives, if Jesus affirmed people with unclean discharges, blindness, foreign religions etc, all victim of Jewish purity law, why should he cavil at affirming same-sex lovers, simply more victims of those same purity rules?

All five narratives tell the same story, it is faith and love that heals and saves, not simply obeying rules. That surely is the lesson to take away from all this.

Simon Dawson.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 9:45am BST

Interesting, though, is the fact that the Presbyterians will be the first mainline Christian denomination in the U.K. to accept the fact that the LGBT community is composed of fellow human beings, bearing the image and likeness of God, and worthy of acceptance within the Body of Christ. Perhaps the Church of England may not be too far behind?

Those who may be questioning Robert I Williams' knowledge about things Anglican, Presbyterian, et al, should be aware that, though now a Roman Catholic, he once was of another ilk. He is now uncertain about his own Church - but not about anyone else's.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 11:53am BST


"The bible says nothing about homosexuality".

From that we can say that God does not actually proclaim that it is God given - He has not defined it. His sexuality is expressed in terms of male and female. He does have quite a few things to say about following your own carnal desires - indeed He positively warns against it for all carnal desires. He positively speaks against what we descibe as same-sex interaction in the highest endevour: worshipping God. Why does God in Romans 1 say that He will give a man or woman's mind over to unnatural lust for the same-sex (which one might interprete this as a consequence of the Fall) and yet I am to accept that my homosexual tendencies somehow come from His blessing, when what Romans suggests is that I need the love of Jesus and a renewing of my mind.

Posted by david wilson at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 1:25pm BST

David Wilson - say what you want about St Paul, but I don't think he ever mistook himself for God!

Posted by Oriscus at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 4:02pm BST

An important posting about the General Assembly and gay clergy yet 10 of the 25 comments relate to the irrelevant matter of whether the Queen communicates in the Church of Scotland! I am all for Anglican liberality ( there isnt much of it in the RC Church) but I do wonder why we collude with RIW when he highjacks a topic. Having converted to Rome he seems unable to realise most of us have no desire to follow him and find many of his postings rather tiresome.

Posted by Perry Butler at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 6:04pm BST

Ron...I am fully convinced of the Catholic Church, but a little disheartened at the poor pastoral leadership on a local level. That is a key distinction.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 10:14pm BST

I certainly hope the Episcopal Church of Scotland will not be far behind encouraging full equality. As the the C of E - not I think while either of the current two archbishops are there - they have painted themselves into a terrible corner. And that is the charitable way of putting it.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Friday, 27 May 2011 at 8:04pm BST


But as scripture is inspired by God, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through St Paul. So he speaks with the same authority as God. The Lord himself promised that the Holy Spirit would speak through the desciples. In the same way, it is the Holy Spirit that speaks through he Old Testament Prophets, denouncing the adultery of Israel. St Paul is the main expounder of doctrine. Many of the wonderful promises of salvation, such as no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, come through St Paul

Posted by david Wilson at Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 6:15pm BST

"But as scripture is inspired by God, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through St Paul. So he speaks with the same authority as God."

If Paul was inspired, that's not the same as saying infallible. He may have misread the inspiration through the lens of his own misconceptions, prejudices and cultural norms.

You overlook that those speaking to you *now* may be just as inspired by the Holy Spirit to correct ancient and long-held misconceptions. Christ made that promise of all of His followers, that they should have the Holy Spirit - or do you believe Scripture is inaccurate or lacking in authority here; perhaps Jesus hasn't quite the authority of Paul, in your eyes?

I'm sure others can point out the numerous problems with claiming Paul *ever* had the "same authority as God" - it's possibly heresy, and certainly blasphemy.

Idolatry, whether of written word or carven statue, is idolatry.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 8:54am BST

Christ's message is mediated by all of His followers. Nevertheless, there is a specific apostolic status that derives its authority from the personal, direct and supernaturally-endorsed commission from Christ reported in scripture.

Paul rhetorically described his apostolic credentials on this basis: 'Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?' (1 Cor. 9:1); 'Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.' (Gal. 6:17)

We either believe that Christ made specific, direct and accurately recollected promises of the Holy Spirit to properly guide the post-ascension church via the apostles, or we don't. Our appropriation of those promises to ourselves is always secondary to that of the apostles: 'This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.' (Hebrews 2:3 - 4)

We may always challenge the particular interpretation of an authoritative text. Nevertheless, if we don't hold to the recorded authority of the apostles, we cast aside every other aspect of the church's raison d'etre.

It would be the same as allowing the US Supreme Court to discard the US constitution that established its own existence by questioning the authority of the Founding Fathers to write a national constitution. That court would undermine its own authority.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 2 June 2011 at 4:12pm BST

You compare apples to concrete blocks.

I have not spoken of "discarding" the Scripture, but that it was written by men, both as fallible and spirit-guided as any other, interpreted by men, both as fallible and spirit-guided as any other. It's authority derives from conviction and proof and is not an absolute. To believe it absolute is idolatry and a subtle sin of Pride - to believe that *your* chosen hero is infallible, thus those biases he shared are absolutely correct. Your faith is lacking! You believe, not in God, but a mere instruction book. There is too much room for error in your post-ascension revelations and their record to arrogate such Faith in them. Secondary to the apostles? Nonsense! Why not claim, then, the apostles did it all and nothing further is demanded of us? Is God such a sadist that He demands mindless, will-less obedience to a text from those to whom He gave a will and an intellect? Has He deserted us, or are we only second-best children? Who are you, in your Pridefulness, to decide only the apostles warrant these "special" revelations? Don't try the old argument of "God decided, not me!" because it's still you telling me what God decided. Even your argument is corroded from the start, because Christ - Who is the ultimate authority of the New Testament, *not* Paul - tells us the purpose of the Body is to worship God, not to establish its own authority like an earthly government. It's authority proceeds only *if* it is self-evident, and is not dependent on some sort of charter or constitution. I think we liberals have greater faith than you conservatives in God. You want a written contract you can hold up in court to excuse you.

Both personal revelation *and* scriptural revelation must be constantly - constantly! - tested against reality and reason. There was no New Testament to convince the early church, but a multiplicity of letters and testimonies, some accepted as canon, others rejected, and often for political and social reasons. The conviction was one of Faith in God, not an established ecclesial government and spoke for itself to those beyond the apostles, as it still must if it is to be valid.

The Church's reason for existence is not to bolster a supposed authority for any man nor to be a mere reliquary/museum for the saints' fond memory, but to bear witness and embody Christ to the world. If I claim that I am an apostle and have this or that authority you would, quite rightly, wave me off, yet, because he is dead and you choose it to be so, you claim such authority for Paul, and that is *your* Pride speaking. To claim "I was just following orders" is Sloth, and dereliction of duty! The Spirit may be corrective, as well as affirmative, and claiming that we've done it like this for centuries is no defense; what is a millenium to God? To the Spirit? God does not change, that is so, but Man does and was *made* to do so, so would God not know that and dispense Wisdom accordingly?

Faith is the key, not duty, nor obedience, nor status quo. In the "traditionalist" approach, I do not see Faith - except in the status quo - Hope - except for self-preservation - nor Charity, in *any* sense. The traditionalists choose beliefs that are easy for them, that make only token challenge, and lay heavy burdens on others.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 5:19am BST

'It's authority derives from conviction and proof and is not an absolute.'

I have not suggested 'mindless, will-less obedience', but how self-evident is the historicity of the miracles that the apostles claimed that Christ performed? According to you, it should be tested. How do we reason to a position of collective and infallible truth, apart from reliance on the written record, that they actually not just could have, but did occur?

The conviction and proof by which you test the scripture is by your own admission as 'fallible and spirit-guided' as any other. So you're testing of where truth lies in the scripture is flawed by your own fallibility. If a fallible mind decides something is self-evident, does that make it so? What if even the perception of our own experiences is flawed?

If God could continually compensate for your fallibility, why couldn't He do so with the apostles' record, or anyone else's interpretations?

The only thing that would compensate for your fallibility is self-belief, since you reject any other testimony that disagrees with your fallible reasoning.

You really are on the fringe of the liberal thought.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 10:14am BST

I never said that apostolic authority was absolute. It was delegated by Christ Himself.

I said: 'We may always challenge the interpretation of an authoritative text'. How do you interpret that as 'mindless, will-less obedience to the text'?

I never said that the apostles were infallible. For instance, I have elsewhere on these blogs noted St. Peter's fallibility regarding his behaviour towards uncircumcised Gentiles.

So maybe you just assume that the above part of my submission was doctored by a liberal, or just enjoy pretending that I've adopted a particular conservative position on specific matters that I haven't actually espoused in writing.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 3 June 2011 at 7:24pm BST
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