Evangelical and conservative members of the Church of Scotland have expressed deep concerns as the church controversially voted at its General Assembly to allow gay ministers as it lifted a ban imposed in 2009.
The move will allow gay ministers to take on parishes in Scotland’s largest Protestant church body for the first time since its formation 450 years ago.
A temporary moratorium was initially imposed in 2009 following an uproar at the appointment of the first openly gay clergyman, Scott Rennie, as a minister in the Church’s history. However, the Presbyterian Church’s law-making body voted Monday to lift that ban, which now opens the prospect of the church body moving toward allowing civil partnerships for gay couples.
The Church of Scotland has now also commissioned a report to be presented by 2013 on the proposals as well as plans to allow ministers to bless gay and lesbian relationships.
The subject of homosexual clergy has deeply divided the denomination, with a recent report suggesting up to a fifth of the ministers, as well as in the region of 100,000 worshippers, could abandon the church body in protest.
The Rev. Andrew Coghill issued a warning to the General Assembly saying that allowing gay clergy would devastate the denomination. He was given a passionate applause by the Kirk as he said the move was akin to a “hand grenade [and] we're being asked to pull the pin out, and it will blow the church apart.”
However, the warning fell on deaf ears and the Kirk voted to allow gay and lesbian ministers to be recruited and ordained to the delight of liberals
The vote comes just weeks after the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. also approved a similar measure. A majority of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s district governing bodies voted in favor of deleting a requirement from the church constitution that requires clergy to live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”