The issue of gay ministers will top the agenda at the Church of Scotland's General Assembly, four years after the first openly homosexual minister was appointed by the Kirk. The move caused divisions in the church and resulted in two congregations and six ministers breaking away.
At the heart of debate will be a report by the Theological Commission, which sets out arguments on both sides. But there is no guarantee of a final decision on the matter.
The General Assembly is the supreme court of the Church of Scotland and its annual national business meeting.
About 850 church commissioners – mainly ministers and elders – from across the church's 48 presbyteries, gather in the Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh for a week in May.
On the gay minister debate, the General Assembly has the option of "pausing for further reflection", which could delay a decision for another year. And even if church representatives agree on the way forward, rules dictate it must be approved at a presbytery level and then rubber-stamped at next year's General Assembly.
The dilemma facing the Church of Scotland goes back to 2009, when the openly gay minister Scott Rennie was appointed to the Queen's Cross parish in Aberdeen. He was backed by most of his congregation and by the General Assembly, but the decision resulted in protest and the break-away of a small number of congregations and ministers.
Gay minister Scott Rennie was appointed at Aberdeen's Queen's Cross Church in 2009
The issue returned at the Kirk's gathering in 2011, which voted to accept gay and lesbian clergy – on the condition they had declared their sexuality and were ordained before 2009. At that General Assembly, the theological commission was set up to report this year, before a final decision on the issue of gay ordination would be taken.
The 94-page report does not offer any conclusion or recommendations, but set out different paths the Kirk may want to take.
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