The Church of Scotland has changed its historic stance on gay clergy and has passed a law which gives congregations the freedom to call a minister in a civil partnership if they wish.
Commissioners at the General Assembly spent around four hours discussing a so-called mixed economy proposal and approved it by 309 votes to 182, which means it comes into force with immediate effect.
The vote means the Kirk will not change its traditional stance – marriage is between a man and woman – but individual congregations can opt-out if they wish to appoint a minister or deacon in a same-sex partnership.
Former General Assembly moderator the Very Rev Lorna Hood said the decision was a “all win” situation for the Kirk while Rev Scott Rennie – whose appointment to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009 sparked the debate – claimed the result was a “great outcome for a open, broad and faithful Church of Scotland.”
Ministers on both side of the controversial argument, which has prompted 21 ministers and hundreds of members leaving the Kirk to date, passionately set out their case from the floor of the Assembly Hall, former temporary home of the Scottish Parliament.
The Rev Andrew Barrie of Kinmylies Church in Inverness claimed passing the overture, which was backed by 31 out of 45 presbyteries, would continue to promote “disunity and pain” within congregations.
“The minister before me felt that because of the trajectory we are on as a church felt he could not remain in our denomination with integrity,” he said.
“He, some elders and members felt they had to leave and form a new church. This was done in a very gracious manner but
people felt real pain.
“During this uncertainty our church has suffered, our mission work in the community has suffered.”
But Aberdeen-based youth representative Hannah Mary Goodlad, who attends Queen’s Cross Church, urged people to back the overture.
She argued that people were facing a choice of helping to move the Church forward or take it 10 steps backwards.
Ms Goodlad said: “We can all acknowledge that the overture is not perfect but it does give us freedom to revise and improve it to better suit the Kirk in years to come.
“I want to be able to walk away with my head held high to belong to the Church of Scotland, to be proud it has listened to God’s overriding message of love and inclusivity.”