ProfESSOR David Fergusson’s attempt to find a “third way” allowing the Church of Scotland to bypass the UK’s employment laws is unlikely to find favour with its implacable traditionalists, as reported at the weekend. In any case, it would surely be a matter of regret if a major church could only survive by operating to lower moral standards than secular society in the matter of gay rights.
The law is quite clear: it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation and a national church can hardly refuse to obey the law of the land.
The evangelical wing walked out of the Church of Scotland in 1843 to support the absolute right of a congregation to choose its minister without external interference. It is beyond parody that their successors want to walk out again to deny a congregation the right to call a minister if he/she has the “wrong” God-given sexual orientation.
Leading Protestant and Catholic theologians such as Jürgen Moltmann and Hans Küng, as well as former archbishop Desmond Tutu, challenge traditional positions and misunderstandings of the Bible. Far from “alienating itself from the worldwide church”, if the Kirk reforms its repressive attitude to gay clergy it will join an increasing number that have already done so. These include churches in the United States, Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as the Quakers and Pentecostalists in Africa and South America.
Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
The Kirk agonises over whether or not to allow gay ministers. But can it be sure that Jesus himself was not gay? There is no evidence that he married and, although he had female followers, he was surrounded by men some of whom were his intimates. John 19:26 refers to “the disciple whom he loved”, referred to also at John 13:23, where this disciple lay on Jesus’s breast (Jn. 13:25).
Homosexuality is a source of controversy in many churches, largely because of what is written in the Bible. In the Book of Leviticus 20:13, the practice of homosexuality is called an “abomination” and is banned. It is in the development of this word from “omen” meaning “threat” that I believe lies the clue to the ban.
Leviticus, it is generally believed, is a compilation of the regulations and obligations made by and for priests in the tiny theocracy of the later Hebrews, when the preservation of the race had to be guarded and men who did not reproduce were indeed a threat to its continuance. One can sympathise, but that situation has no place in today’s world where over-population is a threat.
The Bible is a book of its time. Some parts applied to a contemporary situation, but not to us now. We long ago rejected the Levitical prohibition against wearing a mixture of wool and linen clothing, or the Pauline prohibition against women speaking in the assembly of the church.
Furthermore, it has been established that a roughly fixed proportion of the population is born homosexual. Therefore it is under God’s provision, and not be pitied or despised but accepted and welcomed.
The Hebrew theocracy drew a tight, exclusive ring around its people to save them from the polluting beliefs of outsiders. The Christian Church gradually tried to do the same, and for the same reason. But that is not the way of Christ; he draws a bigger circle and welcomes all. The Church ought to be in the vanguard of social justice by applying the requirement stated in both Leviticus and the Gospels, that we should love our neighbour as ourselves. Yet if we do not allow all our people, lay and ordained, to live with their loved partner in a relationship that reflects all aspects of love and total commitment just as heterosexual marriage does, we are denying by our acts the inclusiveness that we preach week by week.
(Dr) Margaret Batty
Southfield Road West
The Roman Catholic Church spokesman in Scotland for many years, concedes in weekend reports that the questionable actions of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the former supremo of the Church in the UK could not be challenged in Scotland because no-one in the Scottish Church had any authority to do so as those powers lay in Rome.
Perhaps the Church in Scotland might now exercise a 28-year vow of silence on lecturing the Scottish people on moral issues to balance the 28 years in office of the disgraced cardinal when he was constantly in the news propagating the Church’s moral views.
This whole episode demonstrates the flaw in the authoritarian government of a church through bishops. At least the current annual assembly of the Church of Scotland on the Mound illustrates a more democratic form of governance of a church.
But why do these churches both seek privileged positions for themselves in our educational system and our public life from which to impose their doctrines on the population? Are their ideas not in themselves sufficiently persuasive to gain a following?
I MUST admit to having been unsure at first whether the letter from Donald J Morrison (18 May) was serious, or a very clever spoof. He seems to be of the opinion that women should, in essence, do what they are told and have no say whatsoever, in matters relating to religion. I do appreciate that the latter seems to be the position within the Roman Catholic Church, which is entitled to its own view, but it is not so, as Mr Morrison admits, in the Church of Scotland.
However, Mr Morrison draws upon scripture to justify his attitude. Clearly, the Bible that we use differs among the various churches and that is due to those who decided how it would be. Roman Catholics use a different Bible from Protestants, including what we call the “Apocrypha” and this is a choice made by Man. I do mean, “Man”, when I write it, because it was decisions made by very mortal men as to what holy scripture would be and it was governed by the attitudes of a time in which women did not, within the Graeco-Roman, or the Jewish world, wield much influence at all.
However, just as I am sure that Mr Morrison does not have leeches applied to his skin, or blood let to relieve him of ill humours if he is taken unwell, seeing, instead, a modern, medically-qualified doctor to heal him, he must also realise that the world has changed in other respects, too. He may wish to deceive himself that holy scripture is totally the word of God, but, if so, it seems strange that God has quite so many versions of His Word spread among the Protestant, Catholic, various Orthodox and Ethiopian churches. Acknowledging that this is the case does not render gospel any less holy. It merely requires a certain amount of intelligent thought, using the brains God gave us.
Not to do so, merely renders those who express views that are so out of touch with reality the object of derision. If Christianity is to flourish – and I, for one, hope it will – it will do itself no good whatsoever, if it attempts to disenfranchise 50 per cent of the population.
Andrew HN Gray
Donald J Morrison’s strong words (Letters, 18 May) really took my breath away. Why does he have such an intense opposition to women holding positions in the Church of Scotland?
These 196 women ministers he mentions are a great asset to the Church, as are the many women elders not to mention the women who help in the Sunday schools. I have known quite a few women ministers, elders and Sunday school teachers in my time and they have all been very nice and warm-hearted people who have helped attract people to the churches that they serve. How is this a gross sacrilege?
Round Riding Road
“DONALD J Morrison” must be the nom de guerre of someone who wishes to expose the ridiculous beliefs of a very few Church of Scotland extremists. Clearly, no real person could hold the views on women’s role in churches that he claims to, especially one who can still quote that grumpy old misogynist Paul. Not least, someone so virulently sexist would hardly describe the church as “She”, now would he?
Dr Mary Brown