20/05/2013 Newsnight Scotland


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The Church of Scotland votes to allow gay men and women to become


serving ministers. Abide with us, says the revisionist wing of the


Kirk. Has a great destruction been staved off with a compromise?


As church and state for out of step and moral perspectives, how does


religion cope in a secular society? When I tread the verge of Jordan,


bid my anxious fears subside. So goes one of the great hymns of the


church. Fears are growing in the Kirk. Described as crossing the


Rubicon, and amendment will allow liberal parishes to opt out of the


Representatives of the Church of Scotland have been gathering in the


same way they have done since the Reformation in 1560. But knowing


they had the potential to make a decision which would have redefined


the Kirk. Today, we know that not only our own church, but other


denominations, are listening and watching. Indeed, many outside the


church and in different parts of the Reverend Lorna had only became


Moderator a feud is ago. She only gets 12 months in the job, but this


will be a year to remember. Today's session or all the traditional


hallmarks, but came at a time when the Kirk has been questioning what


it stands for. By seeking first to love one another, as Christ loves


us, we don't ignore our differences but we do commit ourselves to


resolving them. Without destroying one another and without destroying


the church that Christ died for. This dilemma goes back to 2009. It


created a division leading to two congregations and several ministers


leaving the church. Today, the General Assembly debated whether to


allow people in same-sex relationships to be ordained as


ministers. Am I accepted in this church or not? Because I am a gay


woman. It calls and undermines my very core, it undermines my place


with God. There is a level of incredulity in many parts of the


wider Christian church. This is as they wonder what we are


thinking of? Turning our backs on scripture and voting this way. After


changing the tradition that Vista nomination has had for many years


and throwing it out because of what society is telling us. Of course, we


don't follow society, but we have to engage with it and be in touch with


it. We have two appear less judgemental than we sometimes might


appear to those outside this whole. There is a strong tradition in the


church of recognising conscience. This recognises the conscience of


those who have concerns. Has everyone voted? The vote is close.


After a journey lasting for years, a decision was reached. I declare that


to serve as ministers, but only if individual congregations wish it to


happen. You are right in thinking the debate is not over. In order to


come to some compromise, those on the liberal side of the the two make


an accommodation for those who are regarded as the traditionalists. Or


those who are regarded as the traditionalists have to make


accommodation for those who will be regarded as the revisionists or


liberals. Following the risks of the last few years, unity was one of the


key messages. It is not over yet. The decision now need strapped into


church law and endorsed by the regional presbyteries, meaning it


will be two years before the new the BBC's religious affairs


correspondent who has been watching the events. How significant are


today's events? I think it would be difficult to exaggerate the


significance. The Kirk has been a Bastian of conservative social


teaching, of public morality and this is an about turn. It is dressed


up in language that suggest it is a compromise, that it is not the


traditional policy according to sexuality has not been changed. But


the significant thing is the principal. The principle has been


admitted, that active homosexuality is admissible and that it is OK for


ministers and further church as a whole. That is a huge Rubicon to


cross. As many of the people speaking show, people like the


moderator, also we heard from Fiona Cameron, and held, people are aware


of the eyes of the world being on the Church of Scotland. This is a


massive institution in Scotland, but it is also got influence across the


world. After careful look at the Bible, this has been taken. This has


not been reached casually. It was a big majority in favour. I think


that's the point is that other churches who are struggling with


this question, the Church of England is having a review, and societies


and churches beyond will take seriously this decision. There is


water to go under the bridge before it becomes law. But it is a Rubicon


that has been crossed, it is a big decision. You mention some of the


processes there. It is quite a tortuous process. It could be until


May 2015 when we get the first game ministers. Yes, because it was a


compromise decision. It was a new amendments. It has to be worked on


by lawyers to work it into at a coherent legal structure. It will


come back to the General Assembly next year and only then will it be


fixed to go out to the presbyteries around Scotland. The point here is


that there is almost a natural natural break on progress. I think


it is true to say that it is questionable how long presbyteries


would hold out an against the settled will. Also, it will be


possible to bring this issue back in another form. It could come back in


the form of employment law or something like that. Some sort of


issue where the rights and wrongs and defining the rights and wrongs


of homosexuality will want again addressed. I think this is something


that will return again and I think people will look back today and


think that it is the day that the church changed its mind and was


Professor David Fergusson, the Principal of New College and from


Dundee by John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at Saint Andrew's


University. First of youth -- first of all to you, David Fergusson. Some


people are saying that this is a fudge drawn up on the back of an


envelope this afternoon. I don't think that is right. It was an


honest recognition that we are deeply divided on this matter. It


was an attempt to find another form of the so-called mixed economy


model, which will enable us to move forward in such a way as to


accommodate our disagreements and to live with diversity. Since I think


there is no likelihood of the Church of Scotland reaching a common mind


on the issue in the foreseeable future. We have been debating this


for over 20 years. The church has been consistently divided at every


time a vote has been taken. Do you see it as crossing the Rubicon?


some ways it is, we have taken a significant step forward to adopt a


mixed economy. To allow a greater diversity at local level so that


local congregations will be permitted to call a gay minister if


they so wish, thus opting out from the church's more traditional


default position on sexuality. You could argue that the Church of


Scotland has been a diverse and broad institution for about 300


years in terms of its worship, belief and practice. We are a broad


church and this is perhaps include the latest manifestation of our


breadth and diversity. We're also joined from Edinburgh by the


Reverend Jerry Middleton, a parish minister from Edinburgh and member


of the Crieff Fellowship - which partly represents the so-called


evangelical wing of the Church of Scotland. Thank you for joining me.


Are you happy to remain in the Church of Scotland, given what was


agreed at the General Assembly? Some say a compromise, a uniting


agreement. Maybe it is very divisive as well. You will appreciate I am


only a few hours after a long and demanding debate. I would want a lot


more time to reflect upon the real implications of that debate. I


certainly am troubled this evening by the decision that the General


Assembly has made. Would you even consider leaving the Church of


Scotland? I have indicated there will be no snap decision at all. The


final position that the Church of Scotland adopts, as your


correspondent has indicated, will not be fully realised and come to be


the official position of the church for two years anyway. A woman


moderator presided over the debate, the church is relaxed about


divorce, it doesn't really mention abortion. Why is the of issue


homosexuality such a sticking point? The report of the theological


commission makes very clear the reasons why that is an entirely


separate issue. The reasons are essentially twofold, to do with the


fact that that has to do with church order rather than a moral issue, and


the Scriptures alerting -- the Scriptures in regard to sexual


activity are consistent throughout there is no ambiguity through


Scripture. It is not the serenade the case in regards to the other


issue. Professor holding, what do you make of this debate? Essentially


it replicates one we are seeing across the western world in the


Western churches. I think it is different, it is seen as anchored


Scripture rather than other traditions. I don't think it is like


the secular debate. As Robert Pigott said, it is a very important moment


because the church has come to a few that what was hindered to -- is now


permissible. It is significant also, more generally put the Church


of Scotland. I think it is trying to find its position again, or trying


to examine its position immigration to the wider society. Although it is


not an established church, historically it has had a certain


sense of it in the conscience of the nation. It is understandable it


should be concerned about this. It is a difficult day and from what I


have seen, people have conducted themselves very well. It doesn't


really resolve the problem, it simply reveals the depth of it.


centuries, the Church and states have been in lockstep when it comes


to moral judgements. Now the state is breaking away in things like gay


marriage and issues like that. Has the church been left without its


moorings? I don't know. I think the state as we can see it is a very


different institution as it was in the past. I don't think anybody


thinks it is a moral authority. I think it is inclined to be a set of


legal institutions. We live in a very diverse society. Things are


changing in so many different directions. There is a tendency for


people, particularly intellectuals and people moved by ideas, to


somehow overemphasised the extent of which the trends in society are


shaped by ideas. I think often thinking about these issues is a


question of trying to understand what is happening in society more


generally. Often the causes of change are not intellectual, they


are social, they are economic, to do with migration. All sorts of


factors. I don't think we're in a very good position to understand


where Western society has got to or is likely to get to in thinking


about sexual questions. These are very deep matters. We have only had


a century, with the whole psychology of sex being developed and explore.


I think we are in transition culturally and within that, the


institutions are particularly challenged by these institutions


because they see themselves as anchored to a centuries-old


authorities and I think it is very difficult, and I can sympathise.


Professor David Fergusson, the Church of Scotland is feet offered,


it often moves with society. Is this an issue that is struggling with --


the Church of Scotland is fleet of foot. Can it come to an agreement?


There is no doubt we are struggling with it and we don't have anything


like unanimity on the matter. I think John Haldane is right in that


it is going to take a long time to think through these issues. It may


take another generation before we get beyond the current impasse. But


we have lived with either city on other issues. We agreed over 40


years ago to the ordination of women ministers and elders. There are many


sections of the church that don't still ordain women elders. We have


managed to live peaceably with that difference. I hope we can do the


same in this instance also. Jerry Middleton, when you think of secular


society and the Younger generation when it comes to issues such as


same-sex marriage, they are very at ease with it. How can the church


reconcile itself with secular society and still feel relevant when


you stand up on a Sunday morning, how can you still be relevant when


you feel that society has such a different view from you? In some


ways that is the very opportunity we have, the opportunity to point


people to the most relevant person that there is, namely Jesus. Our


call is to commend him and a call to an entirely different form of life,


a call to godliness. It is that call that is hugely attractive to many,


not just an older generation but a younger generation as well, you're


looking for clear route each in their lives, for clear direction --


who are looking for a clear route in their lives and making sense of


things. While we stand for our society and with our society, we are


also call to stand against our society. As well as engaging with


that culture and celebrating all that is good in that culture, also


to challenge the perspective of that culture. The only basis on which we


can do that is on the basis of the Scriptures that have been given to


us. That is in many ways the reason why lowest of all, I am troubled


deeply by today's decision -- most of all. With no axe to grind at all,


Robert Liggett pointed out it is very clear departure from the


position the church has hitherto adopted -- Robert Pigott. It has


previously been a recognition that the Scriptures clearly, consistently


say that sort of conduct is out of line with God's will and God's way


of doing things. The proposal that was accepted today runs counter to


that. John Haldane, on the final point, we have seen society moving


towards women -- equality for women, ethnic minorities, is this a natural


point in that debate that the Western world is reaching? This is


where it is important to draw a distinction that are in the secular


world through you and the religious worldview. -- a distinction between


the secular worldview. Christians see themselves as being in the world


but our challenged not to be of the world. I think there is a concern,


that if it loses a sense of its own moral resources. One thing I am


afraid that is characterised in the debate is a certain kind of


sentiment to listen -- sentimental me. A quick look at tomorrow's


newspapers. The front page of the here tomorrow. From all of us on


Newsnight Scotland, have a very good One or two showers in the short


term. A grey and damp start Tuesday, particularly through England and


Wales. Brightening skies and Southern as will turn a bit warmer


than Monday. Further north, temperatures will be down. Only


around 15 or 16 at test for Tuesday. A few showers, much of Scotland


stays dry. Some sunny spells in northern England but across the


Pennines, the Peak District and into the Midlands, a few sharper showers


develop. Quite cool down the eastern coast with more low cloud,


continuing through parts of East Anglia and the far south-east.


Further west we could see temperatures up to 20 degrees in


southern areas. Longer spells of sunshine developing. Cooler around


northern and western coasts because of the strengthening north-west


trees. That will bring changes through Tuesday and into Wednesday


-- north-west breeze. An increasing whisk -- risk of showers. Make the


most of it in those sunny moments. Whilst we will still seek showers


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