Edinburgh minister quits over gay issue

The Very Rev Albert Bogle speaks to the floor during the General Assembly. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The Very Rev Albert Bogle speaks to the floor during the General Assembly. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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A CITY reverend is set to quit the Kirk after the Church of Scotland voted in favour of allowing gay ministers.

Church leaders had hoped the compromise plan adopted by the General Assembly earlier this week – reaffirming traditional teaching against sex outside marriage, but permitting people in civil partnerships to become ministers – would prevent an exodus of evangelical ministers and congregations.

But the Rev David Court, minister of New Restalrig Church in Willowbrae Road, said: “For me and, I suspect, many of my people, the exit is almost inevitable. It’s just a case of how that happens. We’re not trying to get into a fight with anyone.”

He stressed he had not discussed the matter with elders or members in his congregation since the Assembly vote.

He said: “I will consult with my kirk session and congregation and with the presbytery and see where that takes us.”

Two congregations – one in Glasgow and one in Aberdeen – and six other ministers had already left the Church of Scotland over the issue ahead of this week’s decision.

Although the Assembly backed the compromise, proposed by traditionalist former Moderator the Very Rev Albert Bogle, it will take another vote at next year’s Assembly and approval from a majority of presbyteries at local level before any new gay ministers can be ordained, delaying the move for at least two years.

Rev Court said: “We will be reflecting as a congregation on what we do going forward.

“For many of my members it is hard to remain in the Church of Scotland, but beyond 2015 I think it would be utterly impossible.”

However, he said the legal difficulties involved in whole congregations quitting the Kirk might mean it was more likely that individual ministers, elders and members would resign. He said: “For a congregation, trying to extricate themselves from the Church of Scotland is not an easy route.”

Rev Court said the compromise agreed by the Assembly was ill thought-out, logically inconsistent and likely to be open to challenge under equality laws.

He acknowledged the plan to allow gay ministers could still be reversed, but said he did not think it was likely.

“There are some who will say this is the best we can get, but for others like myself it’s not something we’re going to live with.”

Other ministers and congregations in the Capital have voiced their opposition to gay ministers before, including the Rev Jeremy Middleton at Davidson’s Mains Church and the Rev Dr Robin Sydserff at St Catherine’s Argyle, Grange Road.

Kirk Moderator the Rt Rev Lorna Hood said after the Assembly vote she would be “very sad” if people left as a result. She said: “There has been a great deal of effort to show we are a church that can stay together.”

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