The number of weddings being performed by the Church of Scotland slipped below the number of humanist ceremonies taking place for the first time last year, latest figures have shown. The decline in church weddings is yet another indication of declining support for the increasingly liberal Kirk.
According to figures from the National Records of Scotland 4,290 Humanist wedding ceremonies took place in Scotland in 2015, of which approximately 80 percent (3,378) were conducted by the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS).
Meanwhile, the Church of Scotland, also known as the ‘Kirk’, conducted just 4,052 wedding ceremonies across the country in total last year.
Over the last decade, Kirk weddings have taken a nosedive, down from 8,686 weddings conducted by the church in 2005, the year that humanist ceremonies were first introduced. That year saw just 86 couples tie the knot in humanist celebrations.
The figures spell bad news for the Church of Scotland, as they demonstrate that the liberal approach the church has adopted in recent years – it recently voted to allow ministers to be in same-sex marriages – has not only failed to entice congregants in but seems to be actively pushing people into the arms of secular alternatives.
David Robertson, Moderator of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland, was scathing about the figures, which he believes reflect Scotland’s increasingly secular nature.
He told Christian Today: “Given that less than 10 per cent of the population actually attend any church in Scotland, and that nominal Christianity is in freefall, then it should come as no surprise that many couples will choose humanist weddings. Why would a non-Christian want a Christian wedding?” he said.
Robertson added that the the Humanist understanding of marriage appealed to “a shallow, superficial” culture, saying: “In the church we will continue to offer the full riches of Christian marriage, rather than the empty promises of Humanism!”
But the Church of Scotland has defended the figures, pointing out that it still performs more marriage ceremonies than any other group, once the humanists were split into their denominations.
Rev Norman Smith, Convener of the Mission and Discipleship Council, said churches are still a special place to be wed.
“When couples stand in church where generations have stood before pledging their love to one another, it is a reminder that human love endures. Standing before God is a reminder that the Christian God is a God of love who delights in people,” he said.
“The Church of Scotland has always stood with the people of Scotland and helped them take this step together. That is still the case and we would encourage anyone considering marriage to remember their local church when thinking about their very special day.”
Meanwhile, HSS head of ceremonies and chaplaincy, Lynsey Kidd, said the organisation was “delighted to see that Humanist weddings continue to grow in popularity.
“Our registered celebrants across Scotland are ambassadors for Humanism and work hard to ensure that life’s big milestones are celebrated in a meaningful way,” she said. “As the original, and most popular organisation for Humanist ceremonies in Scotland it’s really encouraging to see the growth of these wonderful ceremonies.”