Openly gay minister's appointment approved by Church of Scotland

By staff writers
May 24, 2009

The Rev Scott Rennie, an openly gay Church of Scotland minister has had his call to a parish in Aberdeen sustained by the Kirk's General Assembly last night, thwarting a campaign of "hatred and bigotry" against him, say thankful supporters.

Mr Rennie, who formerly served at Brechin Cathedral, has been warmly welcomed by the great majority of his congregation at Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeeen. His appointment was also backed by the local Presbytery. But a minority of conservative and anti-gay activists in the Church have tried to get these decisions overturned by the Kirk's highest decision-making body.

At a little before 11pm on Saturday 23 May 2009 Mr Rennie's opponents lost the vote at the Church of Scotand's Assembly meeting in Edinburgh, after the "dissent and complaint" resolution was defeated, with over 320 members of the Assembly backing the decision taken by the Presbytery.

About 20 people had protested against the appointment outside the General Assembly. The US Westboro Baptist Church anti-gay hate group (largely comprised of members of the Phelps family) had threatened to join them.

Earlier yesterday, the Rev Scott Rennie, aged 37, said there were "many" gay ministers in the Church and rejected claims his sexuality was incompatible with biblical faith, rightly understood.

He said he hoped "justice would be done" for other gay people in the Church.

The Rev Sigrid Marten, from Edinburgh, told Ekklesia immediately after the vote that the mood among Mr Rennie's backers was one of "relief" and gratitude, rather than of triumph.

Although those campaigning against Mr Rennie purely because he is gay and in a faithful relationship have attempted to portray the issue around his appointment as 'liberals' versus 'evangelicals', his supporters included a number who would be considered on the conservative wing of the Church of Scotland.

Eleven organisations backed a statement of evangelical affirmation of the ministry of gay people in the church.

Some 400 Kirk ministers had signed a petition against Mr Rennie, but the great majority had declined to do so, despite a massive campaign.

The decision the Assembly took this evening was not specifically on the question of sexuality, but about the rightness of the decision taken by the local Presbytery in Aberdeen.

The final vote was 326 to 267.

Conservatives have also put forward an 'overture' which would seek to end the ministry of all gay people in the Kirk but this was not debated tonight. Instead it was referred to a session after 4pm on Monday 25 May.

Even if passed, it would need a majority of the 48 Presbyteries (49 including Jerusalem) to endorse it - a process which would take a year.

Those affirming the ministry of Scott Rennie say they are far from complacent about Monday's vote but are hopeful that last night's decision will reflect a turning-point in an often acrimonious argument - one they would like to see resolved towards "Gospel generosity" rather than what a commenter on BBC Radio 4 described today as "bigotry masquerading as doctrine."

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.