Long grass

To steal a phrase from my placement supervisor, the Church of Scotland has managed to kick the ball into the long grass again, but they’re running out of long grass. In a ‘compromise’ motion, which I suspect the Assembly was only too happy to go for, the Church will set up a special commission to consult with presbyteries and Kirk sessions and report back in 2011.

I guess it wasn’t entirely unexpected and I don’t think that this assembly was the time or the place to discuss the matter, especially with emotions running high over the Scott Rennie situation. It is a little disappointing though that the debate continues to trundle on. That said, the debate, in reality, will trundle on forever because there will always be a group at one end or the other who will not accept the views of the other. I do hope though, that the opportunity will be taken for ‘proper’ dialogue on the whole issue, largely so that the ‘middle majority’ in congregations can actually be exposed to the understanding of all aspects of this issue and not simply exposed to the rhetoric that comes from either extreme.

I’ll also be interested to see what the implications of the second clause in the motion are. Maybe this’ll be my last blog on the issue?!

I’d been following the debate via the webcast, the online updates and Twitter (who says men can’t multi-task). I was almost tempted to sign up for Twitter when I read some of the comments appearing after the motion was accepted.  Apparently the CofS is now an apostate church and all the ‘real Christians’ will leave. Apart from finding this comment extremely offensive, my concern is that this is now reflective of a growing view of the Church.

I think the Special Commission has the potential to do a lot of good, particularly if it encourages the right sort of open dialogue. I do pray that the Church will use this opportunity to put to rest a lot of the homophobia that surrounds this issue and that, even if positions aren’t accepted, they are at least respected. Furthermore, it has the potential for great education in theology and Biblical interpretation, because these are at the heart of the debate.

Anyway, off to find the correct wording of section 2 which spoke about the moratorium on press releases and other such public disclosure.

Update: I think the amended section 2 (if I’ve followed the amendments correctly) reads as follows:

Instruct all Courts, Councils and Committees of the Church not to issue press statements or talk to the media or to make decisions in relation to contentious matters of human sexuality, with respect to Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland, until 31 May 2011

Update 2: This from the CofS website:

There is a moratorium on direct public discussion until May 2011 but in a way which allows councils of the church to carry on with their necessary work.

Hmm.. this is more than a little concerning. I think I’d still need to see the final wording to know whether I can continue to blog on it – after all I am under the courts of the church.

12 responses to “Long grass”

  1. Yeah, I pieced together what I thought it was from the amendments, but the summary statement (the second update quotation) from the proceedings is far from clear. I’d like to see a definitive version.

  2. The non discussion is related to ordination of ministers. Thnakfully the blanket ban was lifted, but I, like many in the Assemblt, think that it;s a recipe for disaster when the Kirk decides to say nothing. The press will have a field day (as if they haven’t already)….

  3. Hi David,
    Thanks for the information.
    I still can’t see how it’s possible to discuss the issue openly. I understand it’s not right to discuss specific cases, but the issue is about the ordination of a person in a same-sex relationship. I really can’t see how it can be workable.

  4. I am due to be ordained during the moratorium period. Will I be questioned as to my sexuality? My relationships? How will this be carried out? Jus’ wundrin….

  5. Bring back the Spanish Inquisition, I say.
    In all seriousness though, CB, you highlight a critical issue. The issue will either be avoided or an ordinand will be forced to compromise their integrity. And at what point does it all become ‘contentious’? Will someone who is gay, but not in a relationship, still be ‘acceptable’? Or is there going to be some crystal-ball gazing to see if a person might have a future relationship?
    I am supportive of a Special Commission, but I’m not sure the implications of the subsequent clauses were fully appreciated. Or maybe they were, but something needed to be agreed.

  6. The issue will come to a crunch where there is even a hint of controversy with an ordination. Don’t think CB needs to be concerned (unless there’s something she’s not telling us !! – only joking).
    I have to make some kind of statement to my congregation and have to wait until June 7th (a communion Sunday) where there will either be a full Kirk or an empty one.
    As someone on the evangelical side of the Kirk, I find it increasingly difficult to be pushed into a yet smaller corner of theology. There has been very little Scriptural discussion in any of this, and that worries me. Does the liberal wing of the Kirk want to ditch Scripture in favour of their own wisdom which is often influenced by secular society…. that we ‘move with the times’ ?

  7. I don’t intend this as an apologetic for the liberal wing, but I think the suggestion that they would want to “ditch scripture in favour of their own wisdom” is perhaps unfair. Maybe to suggest that they apply a different interpretation of scripture would be more apt. That said, the rhetoric that often results from such discussions often forces people to take a more ‘extreme’ position than they would naturally be comfortable with and so the impression of ditching scripture can certainly be given. But it’s an accusation that can also be levelled at the extreme conservative side too. By interpreting metaphor literally, or myth historically, they are ‘ditching scripture’ just as much as the extreme liberal side.
    Nevertheless, you raise a valid point about ‘moving with the times’. I think we are often so caught up in wanting to be appealing and relevant that we ditch, not scripture, but our distinctiveness. Moral relativism and pic-n-mix spirituality have become society’s preferred expressions of religion and spirituality and I think many churches struggle with how to deal with this. If we stress the ‘standards’ shown in scripture we are legalistic. If we simply teach a moral message we lose the gospel.
    Of course I’d suggest that what’s needed is a more robust theology, but you’d expect that of me.

  8. the bible said in the past that it was right to sell people and keep them as slaves. The bible said that racist practices are sanctioned by God. And this was preached from pulpits throughout Scotland! I think any level headed Christian would say today that was wrong!!!
    But hose that interpreted (and I am afraid there are still some today that do that) saw themselves as the fountain of truth.
    Before any of you judge me, I used to see the bible that way. But after serious study and humble realisation that I am human, and I can go the the Word of God only through human agency (and my cultural, social, etc.. background), I stand with a provisional interpretation, always acknowledging that I might need to to be corrected. I feel that some of the arrogance expressed in the general assembly and still held by some, that they have the only truth, is not conductive to dialogue.
    This diatribe of mine was wrtten in haste, I am late for a meeting now! Apologies for rough thougts, and probably a bit of strong rebuff.

  9. well… I’m gonna wade in, you may need a seatbelt as it’ll be a bumpy ride – and possibly not particularly articulate so apologies in advance.
    I’m struggling.  I’m wrestling over all of this stuff so very much.

    We are all being selective about which bits of scripture to go for and which to ditch. 
    I’m sorry, but when it comes to divorce, there are more than three times [c.31] the number of bible verses compared to the ones [6-8]making reference to homosexuality.  We ordain divorced people – even the ones who have remarried and who the bible would refer to in that context as being in an adulterous relationship. 
    There’s a verse or three about not allowing women leadership roles in church.  We ordain women.
    We talk about the ‘plain meaning of scripture’ and yet, those who talk the most loudly about this choose to be disobedient when it comes to dealing with homosexuals by stoning…. Either we say no to women, divorced/remarried folk and homosexuals… or we bite the bullet and say yes to all.
    Whatever ‘label’ we want to apply to ourselves ‘conservative’, ‘evangelical’, ‘moderate’… we all read the bible through our own particular subconscious/ conscious filters.
    If we allow folks who are women/ divorced/ remarried… [or even divorced remarried women, lol] to be ordained into the ministry of word and sacrament… not to allow gay folks to be ordained flies in the face of an approach we have already begun with regard to interpretation of scripture.  And this can only be prejudice masked in righteousness to me.
    I’m actually all for dumping the labels: conservative, evangelical, liberal, homosexual, divorced, single, woman, male… stealing some words from David Malcolm, if we have to go for any label, I’m for us aiming to be beloved disciples.
    Labels dehumanise.  We as church should be about the business of rehumanising. 
    Beyond the ‘issue’ there’s a whole bunch of people who are being told again and again in word, in action by the church that they are not valued, they are not really wanted as they cause us difficult conversations, that they are not as good as some folk because of who they fall in love with, that really…they don’t belong.  I know too many gay and lesbian people who have left the church, battered, bruised and bleeding because of ‘Christian love’ telling them that they are evil and must repent – who feel to stay within the church is to collude with the enemy.  I’ve listened as a friend and as a chaplain to too many horror stories of how people have treated people within the church because of their sexuality – from the sheer nastiness of excrement beign posted through someone’s door by a fellow church member to other much subtler forms on ensuring folks knew they were not welcome/ didn’t belong/ would only be tolerated if….
    Depression, addiction suicide rates: don’t get me started on the high proportion of this amongst gay and lesbian folk due to issues such as lack of acceptance.  
    The hurt we have done in the name of Christ and through our selective use of scripture is something we all must repent of.  What do I as a Christian in good conscience say to my lesbian and gay brothers and sisters?  I want to say ‘you are loved utterly by God’.  I want to say ‘you are welcome’.   I want to say ‘this is a refuge and a safe space’.  I want to say ‘you belong’.  Our actions and our discussions time and time again in subtle and not so subtle ways continue to make that sound so very hollow to the ones who bear the brunt of all our ever-so-good intentions and concerns.
    Where is the good news of the gospel? 
    Why does is seem so hard to love?
    Maybe my post is a bit strong, but my heart just breaks over all of this stuff.

  10. Thanks again for a good balanced post John… but …as I’ve commented else where… the longer we delay making a clear statement on this issue the more entrenched each side becomes. It is very clear that those on the ‘extremes’ of the debate are not going to compromise and a two year Special Commission is not going to change that.  Like Nikki my heart is sore because so much hurt has been caused all round, but fudging the issue is not going to make it go away and sadly in this case time out in the long grass is not going to heal wounds, rather the wounds will just fester.  And to add to all this we now have threats of churches withholding financial contributions, etc, etc… what a tangled web we humans weave for ourselves!

    In short it is a sad and sorry mess

  11. My heart is sore too….
    And just to clarify my thoughts a little, what was narking me was the apparent lack of Scripture anywhere in the argument from the pro side, except the argument from silence, which isn’t an argument at all. Yes, sides pick their texts inappropriately when they are used, and that saddens me deeply. I was hoping for some kind of holistic Biblical approach but it was absent. The reliance on ‘good’ agrument in place of Scriptural insight disappointed me.
    I judge no one, if I can possibly help it (Nelu), and I too would agree with a provisional approach to interpretation. I’m caught though with a leaning towards traditional views, rather than revisionist interpretation which seems, in my mind, to almost allow anything. I know that I may be wrong, and am willing to let matters see the test of time. I guess that was a plea for prayer !!
    The women thing is an old chestnut for me (CB) and doesn’t wash. Context is everything when thinking of good old Paul the misogynist and he was certainly writing with the understanding of the women teachers of the time and his desire to have Christians stand apart from what he saw as wrong in society. (I guess I need even more prayer ?!)

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