The Church of Scotland is preparing to take a significant step towards same-sex marriage.
The Kirk’s General Assembly – gathering in Edinburgh – will be asked to approve more work on how such weddings could take place in church.
Equal marriage remains a divisive issue within the church.
Since 2014, Scotland has allowed same-sex couples to marry but individual church traditions can each decide whether to participate.
A report on the issue prepared for the General Assembly invited the church to take stock of its history of discrimination against gay people and to apologise “individually and corporately”.
Moderator Designate the Reverend Dr Derek Browning said: “On Thursday afternoon the theological forum will be bringing a report to the General Assembly, and this year what they’re asking to do is for the assembly, first of all, to consider making an apology to the gay community for things that have have been said in the past and the assembly will have to make up its mind on that.
“But also it’s going to be asking our legal questions committee to see what the issues are round about allowing ministers to perform same sex marriage if they choose to do so, and equally for safeguards for those who, for conscience sake, feel that this is not something they can do.”
Dr Browning added: “Over the years the assembly has been very well aware that on both sides of the debate, very strong things have been said and therefore an apology certainly within the Christian context is always important because there’s been hurt caused on both sides of the debate.
“Hopefully we’re in a position to move forwards, but that will be for the General Assembly to make its mind up on, on Thursday.”
At the time of the report’s publication, the Reverend Scott Rennie, who supports equal marriage, said: “Loving marriages, whether they are gay or straight, can make for a good and happy life.
“Christ’s love for us, his people, is reflected in loving relationships. Marriage is something to be celebrated.
“I look forward to the day when I am able to conduct weddings for all couples, gay or straight, in the name of God.”
Many traditionalists within the Church of Scotland, however, are firmly opposed to it permitting same-sex weddings.
The Reverend Mike Goss said: “Same-sex relationships are not what God has planned for us as human beings. We are all messed up in different ways in our lives.
“I don’t see that people in straight-sex relationships have got it all sorted. We know too many of them have gone wrong as well.
“But we don’t bless that which is wrong and that has got to be key in terms of the Gospel.”
The Scottish Episcopal Church, part of Anglican tradition, is expected to approve same-sex marriage when its General Synod meets later this year.
Such a move would make it the first major church in the UK to marry gay and lesbian couples in church.
The Church of England will not conduct gay marriages, or allow clergy to be in a same-sex marriage.
The Scottish move could intensify the split within the wider Anglican Communion of 85 million Christians.
Last year the Communion sanctioned the US Episcopal Church when it decided to allow gay marriage in church.
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