Arguments against the 2014 Overture

Many Presbyteries have expressed their concern over the Overture.  One Presbytery highlighted the following points in their opposition to the Overture:

1.    As a Christian Church, we believe that we should have a high view of the Scriptures, which are entirely united in their description of homosexual acts as sinful.  For example, Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; and 1 Timothy 1:8-11.  Quite apart from these references, the whole of Scripture speaks to us of a God who is holy and calls us to be holy.  We are called to live godly, holy, moral and righteous lives, exercising self-denial and self-control.  Above all, we are called to live sanctified lives, in the power of the Holy Spirit who is re-making us in the image of God and producing spiritual fruit in our lives.

2.    As a Reformed Church, we believe that the Overture stands contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Principal Subordinate Standard of the Church, the chapter on marriage (chapter 24) being very clear that sexual relations belong only between one man and one woman joined in marriage.  We also believe that the Overture is contrary to the Declaratory Articles, the constitutional document of the Church of Scotland, since Article 5 says that the Church has the right to amend its doctrine, ‘but always in agreement with the Word of God and the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith contained in the said Confession.’  Clearly this amendment meets neither of these criteria.  The Overture also stands in marked contrast to the three reports on Human Sexuality, already approved by the General Assembly between 2007 and 2012

3.    As a Presbyterian Church, we believe that to speak of the Church having ‘a position’, from which Kirk Sessions can depart, is a congregationalist method of church government and decidedly un-Presbyterian.  The proposed Overture will also weaken the Presbyterian government of the Church by allowing Ministers and Elders to be drafted in from other Presbyteries to carry out ordinations and inductions which a Presbytery refuses to enact.

4.    As an Ecumenical Church, we believe that to act in this unilateral way, contrary to the views of the vast majority of Reformed churches worldwide would seriously damage our ecumenical relationships as it has already begun to do even within Scotland.

5.    If this Overture is passed, it could place many Ministers in a very difficult position in relation to Equalities legislation.  The current legislation gives exemptions from the Equalities Act to religious bodies whose doctrine prohibits them from acting in certain ways.   For example, the Roman Catholic Church cannot be forced to ordain women to the priesthood, because it is a doctrine of their Church that only men may serve as priests.  In the same way, the Church of Scotland currently has a doctrine that it does not ordain, induct or appoint those in same-sex relations to positions in ministry.  This means that no Minister or Elder can be prosecuted under Equalities legislation for failing to participate in the ordination or induction of those in same-sex relationships.  If the Overture passes and this is no longer a doctrine of the Church (the Church having adopted the so-called ‘mixed economy’) then there is no guarantee of protection under the Equalities Act for those who refuse to participate in such ordinations and inductions.  

6.    In short, as Ministers and Elders who have vowed to seek the unity and peace of the Church, as part of our ordination vows, we believe that this proposed Overture has already greatly damaged the unity and peace of the Church and will do much greater damage if it is enacted.  The Theological Forum report says that the proposed ‘mixed economy’ is a ‘temporary holding measure’ (p.52) because the Church has not reached a settled position on the issue.  This being the case, we do not believe that the Church should be rushing to establish this ‘mixed economy’ as the law of the Church.  This apparently conciliatory strategy is in effect divisive.