Presbyterians in the Province are coming to terms with Thursday night’s debate which saw its ‘mother’ church in Scotland take a significant step towards allowing ministers to conduct same-sex marriages.
The Church of Scotland’s governing body also proposed an apology for historical discrimination against homosexuals.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland went on record as saying many members would be “deeply saddened” by the developments, adding that a move towards gay marriage was at odds with the traditional Biblical values.
Presbyterian minister Reverend Mervyn Gibson – who is also Grand Secretary of the Orange Order – said he held the same traditional view of marriage as being between one man and one woman.
He said: “I would support the statement of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
“I would support the stand taken by our own church.”
In response to the outcome of the debate in Scotland, a spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church said: “First of all we want to clearly affirm, as a Church, that all people are valued and cherished by God regardless of sexual orientation.
“At the same time many people in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will be deeply saddened at today’s developments in Scotland, which we believe is at variance with the traditional Biblical understanding of marriage between one man and one woman.”
The outcome of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland debate was that officials were instructed to consider changes to church law that could pave the way for ministers to preside over same-sex marriage ceremonies.
The ruling body also approved an apology to gay and lesbian people for the history of discrimination they have faced in the church.
The decisions were taken after three hours of impassioned debate over options presented by the Theological Forum, which proposed a detailed study of how same-sex marriage ceremonies in church could be allowed.
The Very Reverend Professor Iain Torrance told the General Assembly there was no theological reason to oppose the change, so long as it does not remove the legal protection available for any minister who refused to officiate at ceremonies as a matter of conscience.
The Assembly accepted the forum’s recommendations and a detailed plan will now be drawn up.
The move in Scotland follows the appointment of the first openly gay minister Rev Scott Rennie in 2009, and last year’s decision to let ministers be in same-sex marriages.
The Scottish Episcopal church is due to vote in a fortnight on whether to change its laws to allow same-sex church weddings, a move which would put it odds with the Church of Ireland (CoI) which rejected a General Synod motion earlier this month at a meeting in Limerick calling for bishops to develop “sensitive, local pastoral arrangements” for same-sex couples.
The CoI motion was defeated with clergy voting 72-56 against, and the laity also voting against the motion by 104 votes to 90.