The Church of Scotland and homosexuality
Their 2009 General Assembly
approves ordination of a
2009-MAY: The General Assembly's vote on Rev. Rennie:
By an overwhelming vote, the congregation of Queen's
Cross in Aberdeen, Scotland had selected Rev. Scott Rennie, a gay male, to be their new minister.
His appointment was later confirmed by the local presbytery. Twelve members of the
presbytery then initiated an overture (motion) before the General Assembly to forcibly
the congregation's and presbytery's decisions and terminate Rev. Rennie's
Conservative Christians in the Fellowship of Confessing Churches
an online petition opposing Rennie's appointment. 1 Signing of the petition was closed at the time
of the General
Assembly meeting. By that time, it had received 12,000 signatures from around the world
including Africa and the U.S. -- countries where
homophobia is particularly strong.
Among the signatories were:
||272 serving Church of Scotland ministers (about 20% of the total),
||More than 700 ministers from Christian churches in Britain and Ireland,
||More than 500 Christian ministers from other countries, and
||More than 5,000 Church of Scotland lay members (about 0.2% of the total
The overture led to a review of Rennie's appointment by the Church of Scotland's
General Assembly --
who temporarily sat as the denomination's highest court of law. Discussion of
the case extended over more than four hours. Many topics were discussed: how left-handed persons were
once considered "not normal," how the ancient Romans accepted loving, committed
same-sex relationships, and how the Church has been able to change its mind in
the past over
other controversial issues such as allowing female candidates to be considered
for the ministry. 2
The Assembly approved Rennie's appointment by a vote of 326 to 267 (55%). 3
Some reactions to Rennie's appointment and the General Assembly vote:
After the General Assembly vote, the Fellowship of Confessing Churches
-- the sponsors of the petition -- stated:|
Despite the depth of feeling across the churches of
Scotland and the world about this matter, as reflected by the numbers
signing this statement, the General Assembly voted (23rd May 2009) to back
Aberdeen Presbytery by 326 votes to 267
(there were clearly many abstentions). This has created a precedent for all
presbyteries, and sends a clear signal to the world that our denomination has
departed from the teaching of the Christian Scriptures, upon which its very
existence depends. It is a deeply painful day for all who love Christ and his
gospel. May all in our churches remember the warning words of our Lord
(Revelation 3:3), and seek earnestly to repent before it is too late.
Revelation 3:3 states: "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard,
and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on
thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."
(King James Version)
One of the petition signers, Reverend David Randall, said he believed that:|
".... a minister is somebody who ought to live by the Bible. We believe that the
Bible's teaching is quite clear in this matter - that marriage is the right
and only context for sexual relationships."
(Currently, loving committed
same-sex couples cannot marry in Scotland, as they can in Canada, a few U.S.
states, and some other countries.)
||Rev. Ian Watson heads up the Forward Together group.
He delivered a sermon on MAY-10 at Kirkmuirhill Church in Lanark,
Scotland, during which he drew a parallel between:|
||The failure of Britain in
1938 to stand up against the Nazi Germany annexation of the Rhineland, and
||The refusal of many clergy and laity in the Church of Scotland to join a
crusade against gays today.
This linking of sexual minorities with German Nazis disturbed many Church
of Scotland members.
A demonstration was held at The Mound in Edinburgh during the
General Assembly meeting. It was led by a Baptist Pastor -- Jack Bell of the
Baptist Church in Glasgow. He said: "We are absolutely opposed to that
on the basis of what God has to say about homosexuality
in the Bible."|
||A larger demonstration was organized by supporters of Rev. Rennie.|
The Rev. Ewen Gilchrist, the interim moderator at Queen's Cross, said there
should be more acceptance of sexual minorities. He said:
"Sexuality is something that the church doesn't have a good track record
about. We constantly lock it up and frown about it. Here's an opportunity to
welcome it, to acknowledge the diversity of human sexuality and to bring
that richness into our life and worship."
The Rev. Colin Coward, chairman of the gay-positive Anglican group
Changing Attitudes, notes that there are hundreds of gay clergy and
several gay bishops in the Church of England, as well as bishops who
supported civil partnerships for same-sex couples. He said:
"It's very significant that the Church of Scotland has voted in this way.
The pressure is especially on conservatives in the church to examine
carefully the distinction they try to make between [sexual] orientation and
The Rev Martin Reynolds, of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement,
"This is a significant moment. I think the Church of England is
stuck in refusing to acknowledge the presence of lesbian and gay people in
Some senior conservatives in the Church of
Scotland were furious about the Assembly vote. Two leading
conservatives, the Rev David Court from Edinburgh and the Rev William Philip
from Glasgow discounted the possibility that the vote would cause a schism in
the Church of Scotland. However, they warned that it would distress
many lay members:
"We deeply regret the decision of the general assembly, which has brought
great shame on the name of our lord, Jesus Christ, and his church by
publicly proclaiming as holy what God, the Bible, and orthodox Christianity
all down the ages, and all over the world, unambiguously call sin. This is
about far more than just sexuality. The very nature of the Christian gospel
is at stake."
Affirmation! Scotland, a group promoting an inclusive denomination
that welcomes persons of all sexual orientations, issued a statement:
"Affirmation Scotland applauds the grace and strength shown by The Revd.
Scott Rennie and his partner through out this time; they have embodied all
that is best in The Church of Scotland and so witnessed to the gospel."
"Affirmation Scotland rejoices in the decision of The General Assembly to
allow the induction of Mr. Rennie as Minister at Queen's Cross Church to
proceed. This was a courageous decision after much public debate and
"Affirmation Scotland recognizes that some in the church will be
disappointed by this outcome but we plead that, in time, the peace and unity
of the church will not be further damaged."
Rev. Rennie told The
Guardian Today that he was "humbled" by the vote, but had been
"personally hurt" by the attacks on his appointment and private life. He said:
"I think the gospel is about hope and not about fear. I hope that a lot of
people across Scotland and the UK will receive this decision as one of hope,
and whatever the future holds, we need a spirit of hope so we talk together
and we're not paralyzed by fear. Fear has nothing to do with the gospel. In
fact Jesus so often said to his disciples 'Do not be afraid'." ... I'm already
serving in a parish and so are other gay ministers serving in a parish. Are we
never to move? ... The question was about the call of God in my life, the call
of God in a congregation's life. ... Everybody responds to the call of God.
Just because I'm gay doesn't mean that I shouldn't." 4,5,6
Full disclosure: The author of this essay is left-handed and is
considered by some as not entirely normal -- mainly for reasons other than his hand
orientation. (Hint: Family members often call him Sheldon.) Even worse, our part-time employee is red-headed, and probably would
have been executed as a witch centuries ago because of that inherited trait.
Both of us are profoundly heterosexual in orientation, although we have many
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"General Assembly 2009 Statement," Fellowship of Confessing Churches, at: http://www.confessingchurch.org.uk/
Douglas Aitken, "Assembly Update Transcript #6," Church of Scotland, 2009-MAY-23, at: http://stream1.churchofscotland.org.uk/ This is a PDF file.
"Statement from Affirmation Scotland," Affirmation! Scotland,
~2009-MAY-24, at: http://www.affirmationscotland.org.uk/
Brian Donnelly, "Church of Scotland General Assembly upholds appointment
of gay minister," The Herald, 2009-MAY-22, at: http://www.theherald.co.uk/
Severin Carrell, "Gay minister's appointment divides Church of Scotland,"
The Guardian, 2009-MAY-24, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
"Kirk votes to back gay minister ," BBC News, 2009-MAY-24, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
Copyright © 2000 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-JAN-21
Latest update: 2011-JUN-04
Author: B.A. Robinson