The Church of Scotland has made its official response to the Scottish government’s consultation, standing in opposition to equal marriage rights for gay couples.

In its statement, the Church said it has “a responsibility to shape public opinion in accordance with what it understands to be the will of God.”

9% of Scotland’s population are pledged members of the Church, and a further 33% claim some allegiance to the denomination.

It says: “The Government’s proposal fundamentally changes marriage as it is understood in our country and our culture – that it is a relationship between one man and one woman.”

Extending marriage rights to gay couples may have “significant and, as yet, inadequately considered repercussions for our country, for the well-being of families, communities and individuals”.

The Church says it believes “much more measured consideration is required” before the “understanding of marriage is surrendered” to accommodate the “wishes of some same-sex couples”.

It adds that it believes homophobia to be a sin, and it is the “duty of the Church to welcome, reach out to and minister to all, regardless of sexual orientation and practice”.

The denomination said it had a “strong pastoral commitment to all people in Scotland, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs”.

The Church adds that it “cannot agree to the Government’s proposal that legislation should be changed so that civil partnerships may be registered through religious ceremonies or by religious celebrants or on religious premises.

“However, it acknowledges and respects that other religious groups may wish to express different views.”

The Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Will Rennie MSP said he was “disappointed” by the Church’s official response on gay marriage.

He said: “If two people want to get married and a church wants to conduct the service why should anyone stop them?

“I find it difficult to fathom why the Church of Scotland seeks to impose its view on the whole of society when we do not seek to impose our views on it.”

Yesterday, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland helped launch a new coalition which opposes the introduction of equal marriage rights.

Around 16% of Scotland’s population are Roman Catholic, according to the 2001 census.