General Assembly on sex and singleness

The General Assembly has just accepted a report which says, “There has been in the church also the partial acceptance of homosexuality as an acceptable Christian lifestyle.

People have spoken of a rubicon being crossed by the support that Scott Rennie received last Saturday evening in the General Assembly. However, that is not really so. All the Assembly did then was to refuse to uphold a complaint that Aberdeen Presbytery had acted against Church law in respect of his new post.

The rubicon has been crossed at this assembly however, and it lies in the publication of that sentence. Also, in the acceptance in this report that there are within the Church of Scotland, those who accept that people sometimes have sex outside marriage and that far from being an abomination, this might just be the starting point for a growing, committed, loving relationship blessed by God with joy and delight.

An attempt was made by certain of the Usual Suspects to suppress the report and to see that it was not distributed, but that did not succeed.

The thing that we are seeing happen at he moment is a fundamental challenge to the position that there can only be one definitive attitude to both gay relationships in particular and sex outside marriage in general and that is to forbid and to condemn any physical sexual expression at all. Churches, including the C of S are not making up their minds to change 2000 years of morality at one stroke of the pen though there will be those who say they are. What we see happening is far more interesting. It is that churches are having to accept that within their boundaries there are people who have different views from one another.

Now, that is anathema to the Usual Suspects. Their position is entirely based on the stated claim that there can be only one view.

The church is dividing, not into two camps, one of which accepts gay people and one of which does not; but rather into two broad camps, one of which accepts that different views on these issues are possible within one church and one which cannot accept that at all.

The key quote highlighted above comes from an excellent General Assembly report on Singleness which was buried deep in the Mission and Discipleship council’s business. It is the kind of thing that the C of S does extremely well and by making it available, offers a valuable gift to all the churches.

The report is available in pdf format here and begins on page 4/48.

Well worthwhile.


  1. Well that is, at least, a slightly brighter note than yesterday’s.

    `2000 years of morality’ – shame (for some) that history shows Romans had very different morals to Victorians, really.

    `within their boundaries there are people who have different views’ – absolutely, something I’ve thought for a while. These topics cause friction when one considers congregations split down the aisle because of the hierarchy’s decisions, as it were.

    Perhaps another distinctive feature of the differences of approaches might be summed-up by “Bible within culture” versus “culture within Bible”; meaning some people need to understand the idea of the book being a product of its cultures & times, which change.

  2. I think there’s a wider point here too, Kelvin, about the very impressve way (for a limited market, admittedly) that the Kirk webcasts itself during General Assembly and also makes reports such as those you allude to available online. While I appreciate the different scale of things altogether, surely the SEC could do a little better in these areas when it comes to General Synod?

  3. Kelvin says

    Yes David, the Assembly is done extremely well online.

    I’d be interested to know what you would like done a bit better at the SEC General Synod to get it out online. The papers and reports were all available online last year. Excellent audio updates from Rob Warren were put online fairly quickly and the bloggers in the synod did their bit at proclaiming their distorted and wildly partial views to the world.

    What comes next? Video would be lovely, though the cost of streaming is way beyond any likely. I’d quite like to put a video online of one or two things like Fr Primus’s charge to synod. What else would you like?

  4. Kennedy says

    It really is a matter of resources and facilities. You will remember that the CofS are able to take advantage of some of the AV and IT infrastructure which was installed for the Parliament when they met there. The team that does the work is about 20 people strong with an existing inhouse IT team.

    For the SEC, as last year, we will be posting audio and written updates from the Synod after the morning and afternoon sessions. I think that the agenda and papers for Synod will be posted to the SEC site over the next week.

    Again, we will providing a wireless network within the hall (hopefully we will have removed the special Kelvin filter by then!).

    If people are using Twitter, perhaps we can agree a tag for tweets about (anent?) the Synod. #GS09 has already been used so how about #SECGS09?


  5. I thought the ‘Kelvin filter’ was an extravagance that the Standing Committee funded whole-heartedly. Are you suggesting it was just chance?

  6. Kelvin says

    Some thought it Divine intervention, Kimberly.

  7. Kennedy – do you think we need something so specific and grown up as #secgs09 or would #pisky do for all that pertains to the SEC?

  8. Wow, Kennedy – I hadn’t realised there was so much or so many people to it, but surely it is not beyond us to have some kind of webcast of the more important sections of the proceedings (whoever decides what these important sections are are, I wouldn’t know) just as we can get to see Kelvin’s sermons?

  9. It takes maybe an hour of human time to edit a 12 minute clip and a further hour or so of computer time whilst the clip is rendered and uploaded, David. What seems effortless is in fact far from it.

    Whilst it might be possible to put up some bits (as I said, the Primus’s Charge would be my first aim), getting reasonable video coverage of the proceedings is quite a long way beyond our resources.

    I’m still interested in what other bits you would select and want to see online. Which bits of General Synod would you want to see and which bits would you want the world to see?

  10. I like #pisky as a catch all tag. very useful indeed if we all join in. (though I’ll need to learn not to spell it piskie)

  11. Kennedy says

    DCampbell writes:
    Wow, Kennedy – I hadn’t realised there was so much or so many people to it, but surely it is not beyond us to have some kind of webcast of the more important sections of the proceedings

    Webcasting from Palmerston Place presents a number of challenges:

    resourcing the camera crew, vision mixer and director (kit and people) and integration with the projection system to carry any slides and visuals
    looking at the lighting to allow good pictures but without interfering with the projection system (which suffers from light spill from the windows already)
    Network and machine infrastructure in the building to capture and code the video.
    Dedicated bandwidth (with Quality of Service) to transfer the video and audio stream out to a distribution server. (We currently piggyback on Palmerston Place’s own internet connection).

    An alternative would be an audio stream with a general shot webcam updating every 30 – 60 secs but again would probably need a dedicated connection to the net to ensure that there was no breakup.

    This is not a litany of reasons for not doing things – it’s just a realistic assessment of the resource requirements.


  12. Kennedy says

    Or another thought-

    We start having Synod on the Th/Fr/Sa after the Assembly on the Mound and share the costs of the setup.

  13. Kennedy says

    No, I suppose a general ‘piskie tag would work just as well, but I’m with Kimberly and would prefer #piskie

  14. My only problem with piskie is that in some parts of the UK a “piskie” is one of the little people, and not necessarily a nice one.

    See for example:

    “Some people saw them as the souls of pagans who could not transcend to heaven, and they were also seen as the remnants of pagan gods, banished with the coming of Christianity. In tradition they are doomed to shrink in size until they disappear. “

  15. Elizabeth says

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have always found the potential confusion between pisky and piskie immensely pleasing (by ‘always’ I mean, since I discovered the term – not too many years ago!). It’s one of the (many) reasons I’m pleased to be on the pisky/ie side of the pond.

  16. Thanks Kelvin – all this stuff is quite amazing really – especially Kennedy’s informative and knowledgeable material about what is actually needed. I agree about the Primus’s charge being essential, but if live streaming (if that is what it is called) is too intensive an operation in all kinds of ways for an admittedly small audience, why not do a twice daily edited digest of each day’s business like the one the Revd Dougkas Aitken does for the CofS?

  17. Kelvin says

    Rob Warren already does do digests in audio format – video may well be the next step, though it is quite a big step to take.

  18. Kennedy says

    The video update that Douglas Aitken does is a copy of his audio update with appropriate video material behind it ie you don’t get any actuality from the chamber.

    We would still need editing and coding time before the video could be uploaded to an external server.

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