NEW laws to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages are to be drawn up by the Church of Scotland.

The General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to back a motion tasking a committee to draft church law on the issue which has caused turmoil within the Kirk for several years.

The debate on Saturday in Edinburgh was less contentious than those of previous assemblies but fears were voiced about whether there would be safeguards to protect those unwilling to conduct the services.

The motion was finally carried by 345 votes to 170 after it was amended to allow the draft law to provide necessary safeguards. The Legal Questions Committee will report back to the General Assembly of 2020. The motion calling for legislation to be prepared was put forward by Rev Bryan Kerr, minister of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark.

He said: “I am pleased we have reached this point and I have already had reaction from parents of people in same-sex relationships who are overwhelmed that the Church accepts that God loves them.”

However, the Rev Mark Malcolm, minister of Chryston Parish Church in Glasgow, and a member of evangelical Kirk group, Covenant Fellowship Scotland, claimed the decision had implications for peace and unity within congregations.

“This has not been a happy or peaceful process and people are largely weary and tired of this debate,” he said. “They just want to get on with what it means to be the Church and proclaim the Gospel.”

One of the ministers backing same-sex marriages is the Rev Tom Gordon who said one of his two married daughters is in a same-sex marriage. “When my older daughter got married she had a choice – to ask me to conduct her service as a minister or for me to walk her down the aisle as her dad. But when my younger daughter got married, she had no such choice.”

The General Assembly’s vote came at the start of this year’s gathering and followed the installation of the Right Rev Susan Brown as Moderator. The minister of Dornoch Cathedral, she previously made headlines by presiding over the marriage of Madonna to Guy Ritchie in 2000.