LONDON – As many as one fifth of all Church of Scotland clergy have signed an online petition against the appointment of an openly gay minister.
According to BBC Scotland, there is concern that if the Church does not overturn the appointment of the Rev. Scott Rennie, there could be a mass walkout by members of the Church.
The General Assembly of the Church is due to rule on the case later this month.
The petition, started by the Fellowship of Confessing Churches, states, "We urgently alert all commissioners to the 2009 General Assembly to the extreme gravity of the situation.
"We urge the Assembly to support the position of those who stood to defend Christian orthodoxy in Aberdeen Presbytery, and ensure instead that the Church will apply and assert in practice its clear doctrinal position on all matters of marriage and human sexuality, by refusing to condone homosexual practice in general, and among its leaders in particular."
So far 230 Kirk ministers, 2,000 Church of Scotland members and 3,000 other church members worldwide have signed the petition.
Rennie was appointed minister of Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen. Members of his church said that they were happy with Rennie and that the national Church should welcome a broad range of lifestyles and beliefs, according to BBC Scotland.
One of those organizing the petition against the appointment was the Rev. Steven Reid of Crossford and Kirkfieldbank Church in Lanarkshire.
He said that while he would stay within the Church of Scotland, many others may not.
"The minute you're talking about the division of a church over areas that are deeply held on both sides of the discussion, you realize there's the possibility of that division happening and you can't rule it out," he said.
Rennie's session clerk, Professor Trevor Salmon, defended his appointment saying, "If you've got a national church, you have to be broad. We've obeyed the laws of the Church of Scotland, the right of the congregation to call a minister has been there since about 1843.
"The congregation has supported it, the presbytery has supported it, so it's not an idiotic, wacky decision."
The evangelical group within the Church of Scotland, Forward Together, said in a statement on their website: "Mr. Rennie has openly stated that he is intending taking his male partner with him to live in the manse. This has caused enormous tremors throughout the Church as it is aggressively taking the debate on homosexuality onto a new level."
"Forward Together is deeply concerned over this development and asks for Christians to pray for wisdom for those in Aberdeen Presbytery and the wider courts of the Church," the group continued. "We cherish the peace and unity of the Church and feel this new development will seriously undermine both."
In April, the Church of Scotland's magazine Life and Work came out in favor of tolerating homosexual relationships, although the magazine is editorially independent from the Church itself.