Presbyterians to debate report on same-sex couples and the sacraments
SACRAMENTAL discipline has, quite suddenly it seems, become a fashionable topic for discussion within - and without - Church circles.
At the Presbyterian General Assembly this morning, there will be echoes of the current debate among Catholics about whether priests ought to refuse marriage - and perhaps other sacraments - to those who hold views strongly at odds with Church teaching.
Abortion is the presenting issue for Catholics; for the Presbyterians, it is whether people in gay relationships can become communicant members of a congregation or have their children baptised.
The denomination's doctrine committee, which was asked to prepare guidelines on the issue, has now published its report.
"In light of our understanding of Scripture and the Church's understanding of a credible profession of faith, it is clear that same-sex couples are not eligible for communicant membership nor are they qualified to receive baptism for their children," it says.
"We believe that their outward conduct and lifestyle is at variance with a life of obedience to Christ."
This is balanced against an emphasis that the Church "invites and welcomes all" who wish to hear its teaching and those who want "access to the pastoral care and counsel" it offers.
Attitudes to those who hold different views to those affirmed by the General Assembly has been the dominant theme at this week's meeting; the Church's theme for the year is 'building relationships'.
On Wednesday it agreed that the moderator should meet Pope Francis when he visits Ireland.
It also voted to end its historic relationship with the Church of Scotland; it was perhaps ironic that yesterday there was a presentation about a 'conciliation service' which "seeks to facilitate members of the Church to find reconciliation where relationships have broken down and to promote the healthy handling of difference, change and disagreement".