The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has voted in favour of a proposal which could eventually see the ordination of ministers in civil partnerships.
Following a lengthy debate, which examined the legal and theological implications of the proposal, commissioners voted by 369 for, and 189 against.
The vote means the Assembly has agreed to send a piece of draft Church legislation, known as an Overture, down to its Presbyteries for further discussion, which offers a way of accommodating differing views on ministers and deacons in civil partnerships.
The decisions of all 46 Presbyteries will be reported back to the General Assembly in May 2015. If a majority are in favour, a final vote will be taken at next year’s gathering.
At the end of the debate, Moderator the Right Rev John Chalmers told commissioners: “This has been a difficult day and a difficult discussion for all of us. From me to you my grateful thanks it has been conducted as a respectful dialogue and a model of how these conversations should be held within the Church.”
The Church of Scotland has been discussing the matter at the General Assembly since 2009. Today’s discussion came after a vote in principle last year which sought to find a way of holding the Church in unity.
Since 2009, 13 parish ministers from the Kirk’s 1389 congregations have left over this issue.