The Church of Scotland has been warned that it risks losing entire congregations if it approves the appointment of gay clergy.
Professor Bill Naphy, a leading academic from the University of Aberdeen, and an expert in both the history of sexuality and Calvinism told the BBC’s Politics Show: “I think the Kirk is likely to take a very cautious approach. If they allow the ordination of gay ministers there will probably be whole congregations that leave. I think it’s less likely that whole congregations will leave if it goes the other way. It is more likely that individuals will walk away.
The warning comes as the Church of Scotland, known informally as the Kirk under its Scottish language name, prepares to hold its General Assembly this week.
The divisive issue of gay clergy has been threatening to split the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church body decisively shaped by the Scottish Reformation, since a gay minister was appointed to an Aberdeen church in 2009.
The issue is now coming to a head as commissioners are being asked whether to continue an indefinite ban on the ordination of gay ministers until a report next year, or to lift the ban and await a separate report which would be published in two years.
Professor Naphy said, “Either way the vote goes, there will be people and congregations who are likely to leave.”
Over the past two years since the openly gay Rev. Scott Rennie’s appointment to Queen's Cross Church, the church body has been consulting on the issue of the ordination of gay ministers. It has been touted that at least one in five members of Kirk sessions has said they would leave if it is agreed that gay ministers can be ordained. On the other hand, only one in 10 has said they would leave if the Kirk rules they cannot be ordained.
The new moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rev. David Arnott has said: “The topics at this year’s Assembly reflect how the Church interacts with society. Several debates show the Church’s great concern for those on the margins of our society. Several debates will concentrate on the constant need there is in the Church to be re-examining how we can be a Church in the 21st Century.”