THE church at the centre of the threatened schism in the Kirk over gay clergy was accused of encouraging the worship of ‘false idols’ on church property on the opening day of the General Assembly.
The accusation was made earlier today against Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen – which sparked a recent row over the ordination of homosexual ministers in the Church of Scotland for allowing the church hall to be used by members of the Hindu community.
The church’s minister, the Rev Scott Rennie, the Kirk’s first openly gay minister, had backed the use of the facilities, believing that they showed the church to be “inclusive”.
The Hindu community had been allowed to use the church hall every second Sunday afternoon as it did not clash with any church activities. Their nearest temple is in Dundee.
But during the Assembly’s Legal Questions Committee report earlier today, the Rev Ian Watson accused the church of effectively allowing the worship of ‘false idols’ on its premises in the name of hospitality.
“Do I really have to stand in front of this Assembly and remind commissioners that, as Christians, we believe in the one god, who is father, son and holy spirit, and that all other so-called gods are not gods?,” he said. “Do I even have to recite the second commandment - you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything of the heaven above or the earth beneath us or waters below? Now I hear the objection that ‘we are not the ones worshipping these idols’; no, but you are facilitating the ones who are.”
Under current Kirk legislation, ministers are allowed to use their discretion in who is allowed to use church buildings, so long as it is of a ecclesiastical, religious or charitable nature, but it does not specify that it has to be Christian.
Mr Watson said that legislation now had to be redefined because the supervising presbytery of Queen’s Cross had refused to intervene.
He proposed a motion that legislation be brought forward stipulating that only Christian worship was allowed on church premises, stating that it would bring clarity to the situation.
Mr Watson said that he believed in inter-faith dialogue, but said that the aim was to bring them to the Christian faith.
A short and impassioned debate followed in which those opposed the legislation said that such hospitality was commonplace in the church nowadays, while others supported Mr Watson’s desire for clarity.
In opposing it, the Rev Dr Derek Browning said that accepting Mr Watson’s motion would send a message that ran contrary to spirit of the church.
“Hospitality is surely part of what and who we are as a Christian community,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we have to condone everything that goes on in our buildings... but nonetheless, if we cannot be gracious, if we cannot be welcoming, if we cannot be hospitable, if we cannot look to our neighbours and support our neighbours in many good causes... what on earth are we trying to do? How threatened, how up-with-the-draw-bridges do we need to be to accept the sort of motion that has been brought before us today?”
Mr Watson’s motion was subsequently defeated in a vote, 289 to 253.
Speaking following the debate Mr Rennie said that he was pleased that the Assembly had back Queen’s Cross: “I’m glad the Assembly decided to back the church’s inter-faith work and the hospitality that a number of congregations give to other faith groups in Scotland.
“I think the vote shows a church that is open, that is hospitable to its neighbours from different communities and confident in its own faith.”