Despite same-sex marriage being legal in most of the U.K. (we’re still waiting on Northern Ireland), there’s still a lot of debate surrounding it. It’s not often in the newspapers anymore so there’s some respite for the LGBT+ community, but the debate still trudges on, behind the closed doors of church assemblies.
The Kirk assembly takes place every year, much like England’s synod, and is a gathering of all religious leaders in the Church of Scotland where they can discuss what ails their congregations. This year, and for the past few years, same-sex marriage has taken a front seat.
Religious liberty is the number one excuse used when trying to justify why same-sex marriage should remain or go back to being illegal. The mindset of many who are for religious liberty and against same-sex religion is, freedom of religion should not also mean freedom from religion, in the sense that you shouldn’t be able to decide that religion doesn’t apply to you. Though forcing people to abide by rules that don’t actually have any tangible theological grounding doesn’t sound like freedom, does it? But here we are. Every argument against same-sex marriage that has a supposedly religious basis can be and has been furiously debunked by many a theologian. Thankfully, religious leaders (priests, vicars, chaplains, and so on) seem to agree. A report from last year’s Kirk assembly says that there isn’t “sufficient theological grounds to deny nominated individual ministers and deacons the authority to preside at same-sex marriages.”
The Kirk assembly encouraged leaders in the church to “take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologize individually and corporately and seek to do better.” That’s right, the Church of Scotland is encouraging its leaders to apologize for the individual and institutionalized damage homophobia has done to the LGBT+ community.
I grew up Christian and I’m bisexual. It hurts knowing that there’s a 50% chance of me not being allowed to get married in the church I grew up in. I believe I should have the same choices as a straight couple would.
Frustratingly enough, this whole debate would be easily solved if straight people refused to get married until same-sex couples can. There are too many people making money from weddings for them to be able to last more than a month without actually being forced to have the conversation. And it’s not a conversation about opinions, about preferences, about religious liberty. It’s a conversation about equality. I will say is that unconditional love is mentioned far more in the Bible than homosexuality is, with it being mentioned only 6 times. Yet it’s still one of the biggest subjects up for debate, alongside abortion (which funnily enough, is never mentioned in the Bible).
The Very Rev Prof Iain Torrance, the forum’s convener, said at this year’s assembly, “almost all of us are somewhere on a spectrum of interpretation and we switch up and down that spectrum as … we try to apply scripture to the concrete messiness of living.” Here, he’s asking for some perspective. No one’s asking anyone to throw a blanket interpretation of a 2,000-year-old book across the whole church. What is being asked is that we embrace the spectrum of interpretation, but also the spectrum of humanity, too. We’re all humans at the end of the day. We all need to love and be loved, and we all have the right to declare that in front of a God we believe in if we so choose to.
It is likely to be several years before the first official same-sex marriage happens in a church.
However, this is such a huge step in the right direction. It takes ages for anything to change in the church despite how contradictory that is to Christianity’s message, but at least there’s movement. We’re walking in the right direction and we’re being lead by the truth that love is love is love.