For the first time in its 450-year history, the Church of Scotland has published a liturgy – a formal ritual – for the blessing of those in civil partnerships.
The Times reports the order of service is contained in papers published by the special Theological Commission ahead of the General Assembly and is designed “to provide the spiritual element which would otherwise be lacking” in civil partnership ceremonies.
A 2011 vote set a new trajectory for the Presbyterian institution. It opened up the possibility that a fundamental doctrine – that marriage is between man and woman – would be changed. However, the move remains bitterly contested by evangelicals.
A final vote on the future position of the Church of Scotland, based on the commission’s 92-page report, will be taken at next month’s assembly in Edinburgh.
The Rev John Chalmers, the principal clerk to the General Assembly, said the report and the options it provides were offered without comment.
He added: “It will be for the General Assembly alone, based on the substance of the theological arguments, to come to a mind on this matter. In the meantime, the report which is wide-ranging and detailed is commended to the whole church for prayerful study and consideration.”
Suggested Scripture readings for the liturgy include I Samuel (18: 1-4): “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself … Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
An alternative is offered from Ruth (1: 14-18), Ruth’s pledge to Naomi. In part it reads: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
It already ordains lesbian and gay ministers – but they have to be celibate; a requirement different to that of their heterosexual counterparts.