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The big news of the day was that the Overture on Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships was approved and converted into an Act of Assembly by 309 votes for and 182 votes against.

However, the raw numbers and result don’t tell the full story.  The debate began around noon on Saturday morning, as Rev Gordon Kennedy gave a clear and strong rationale for rejecting the Overture.  Gordon said there was no Biblical or Theological affirmation at the heart of the Overture, that it was the result of appeals for reconciliation and unity but had resulted in disharmony and division, and that it would not achieve the aim of inclusion, resulting instead in the formation of ‘ghettos’.

A number of other commissioners joined in with effective and graceful contributions agreeing with Gordon, and then the Assembly broke for lunch, with around a dozen waiting to be called. After lunch various speakers took part in the debate; people like Rev Bryan Kerr arguing for the mixed economy and the need to live with our differences.  Some very graceful and well-argued points were made by evangelicals, and some telling blows were landed on the other side of the debate.

The Convener of the Legal Questions Committee, Rev Dr Alan Hamilton, then responded to debate and took some time to argue for a mediating position in the mixed economy of the church, for a ‘constrained departure’ to allow for liberty of opinion and the chance to bring healing to the Church.  He said that this would not be the last word, a point which had been noted by folk on both sides of the debate and surely a warning to us all.

I felt that the evangelical viewpoint had been put across very well and had probably won the debate in logical terms, however, there was a sense that people had already made up their minds and perhaps just wanted an end to the debate.

A bizarre feature of the vote was the introduction – without warning – of a thirty second time-limit to the electronic vote.  The timer had already begun before the vote was announced (and after the initial eager voters had been deleted), and votes were still coming in at speed as the timer reached the end.  While it seems clear that this would not have changed the result, it was not a happy point at which to close the vote.
Dissent was moved by a Commissioner and the provision of dissent papers in a room off the South corridor was announced, which provision will continue until Monday morning.  Only Commissioners can sign a dissent paper but as many as possible should take up the opportunity.

After the vote I was interviewed by the BBC, representing Covenant Fellowship Scotland, as was Rev Bryan Kerr and Very Rev Lorna Hood, and this was carried on the early evening news.  Reporters also interviewed us as a panel and we can expect comment to appear in the papers.

The Rest of the Day

The day began with the usual formalities, including the installation of the Rev Dr Angus Morrison as Moderator of the 2015 General Assembly.  An early debate was made on the subject of Long-Service Certificates, and then Elaine Duncan gave her usual excellent report from the Scottish Bible Society, with emphasis on hunger for Scripture, the power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and changed lives.
The Council of Assembly reported on the budgetary needs of the Church and the challenge of Stewardship, and the Legal Questions Committee gave its report.  A joint report on the solemnisation of marriages which looked at the questions of withdrawing from the statutory element of marriage or introducing approval for solemnising same-sex marriage concluded with sticking to the status quo.  The report was received without any attempts to change the church’s position.


It will be important for us to engage with the local issues that arise out of the Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships Act, not simply to ‘roll over’.  But we need to continue to do this with grace, and above all to look at the bigger picture – this is the product of a mind-set that has majored on the plurality of Biblical interpretation and the post-modern fixation on personal narratives as opposed to the absolute truths of the revealed Gospel.

It is God’s Word, God’s Son and God’s Salvation that are the central issues that need to be reclaimed in the courts of the Church: confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, His all- and only-sufficient death and resurrection, and in the Scriptures as the full and sufficient revelation of God.  Without these, we cannot expect to win the debate on human sexuality.  With these, everything else follows.