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Presbyterian Church in Ireland reaffirms opposition to same-sex marriage

By Alf McCreary

Many churchgoers in Northern Ireland will be "saddened" at moves by the Church of Scotland to look at liberalising its stance on same-sex marriage, according to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The General Assembly meeting in Scotland voted on Thursday to back a major study into "the matters which would require to be addressed in any new legislation permitting ministers and deacons to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies".

The report will be presented to the General Assembly in Scotland next year for further discussion.

This does not necessarily mean it will back any proposal to allow clergy to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies.

A spokesman for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland reaffirmed its opposition to same-sex marriage.

"Many people in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will be deeply saddened at this week's developments in Scotland, which seems so obviously at variance with the traditional biblical understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The Presbyterian Church in Ireland affirms that clear position, which is based on the teaching of Scripture, and as a result, our ministers are not permitted to conduct, or to assist in leading, services of marriage for same-sex couples."

A Church of Ireland spokesman would not comment on the matter, other than to say it "continues to uphold its teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman".

The Scottish General Assembly also asked its members to "take stock of its history of discrimination against gay people, to apologise individually and corporately, and to try to do better".

The Scots have already gone further than their Irish counterparts by allowing clergy and deacons in same-sex civil partnerships to minister in churches provided the congregation agrees.

For the past two years the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has voted not to send its Moderator to the Scottish Assembly in protest at its more liberal stance.

The Church of Ireland dealt with same-sex issues at its General Synod last month, where it voted by 176 votes to 146 not to liberalise its stance on same-sex marriage, and passed on the subject to the House of Bishops to try to find a way forward.

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