THE Moderator of the Church of Scotland has admitted that she is “terrified” of this week’s General Assembly debate on whether the Kirk should allow the ordination of gay ministers.
The Rev Lorna Hood – who is due to chair the debate in her one-year role as Moderator – compared the controversy over whether openly gay ministers should be ordained to the debate over the ordination of women, which also brought the Church to crisis point in the 1960s.
“I’m terrified,” she said. “Fear and excitement vie for first place in my mind all the time. But the amount of support – cards, letters and congregations offering to pray for me – has been absolutely overwhelming.
“The ordination of women was for a number of presbyteries a huge, huge issue but here we are now. I just think ‘Come on. Get on with it’.”
It has been claimed that up to 50 congregations could leave the Kirk over the issue – although officials point out that only two groups – Glasgow St George’s Tron and Gilcomston South in Aberdeen – have done so, and insist that a large schism is unlikely. An additional six ministers have left over the issue.
Although the Church of Scotland has more than 1,400 congregations, such an exodus would represent the biggest split in its ranks since the 19th century, when the Free Kirk was formed.
The debate over gay and lesbian ministers was sparked by the Rev Scott Rennie, an openly gay minister who was appointed to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009. In a vote in 2011, the General Assembly elected to allow all gay ministers appointed before 2009 to remain in their current positions.
Subsequently, the General Assembly put off a formal decision on the issue of extending the vote to allow gay people to occupy new positions by setting up a theological commission.
Although the seven-strong commission, drawn from both traditionalist and revisionist sides of the debate, reported last month, it declined to put forward a recommended option. Instead, it offered contrasting interpretations by both sides and guidelines depending on how the General Assembly might vote.
“Plenty of people haven’t made up their minds yet,” said Ms Hood. “My role is to make sure that we listen to one another, and make that challenge our own thoughts and attitudes.”
The Kirk is planning to use mediators in a bid to prevent a breakdown in communications and stop ministers from walking away from discussions. But Ms Hood said a final decision might not be made this week – and could be postponed until next year.