Church of Scotland ‘not in crisis’ over gay clergy

The Church of Scotland 2013 General Assembly. Picture: Jane Barlow
The Church of Scotland 2013 General Assembly. Picture: Jane Barlow
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The Church of Scotland has insisted it is “not in crisis” despite two further congregations indicating they may leave – and one minister quitting – over the controversial issue of allowing gay clergy.

The presbyteries of Lewis CoS, in the Western Isles, and Logie and St John’s in Dundee are the latest to add their voices of discontent over the vote last month by the Kirk’s General Assembley.

The presbyteries of Lewis CoS, in the Western Isles, and Logie and St John’s in Dundee are the latest to add their voices of discontent over the vote last month by by the Kirk’s General Assembley.

And the Rev Andrew Downie of Benbecula Church of Scotland has resigned as a minister over the row.

A number of elders in his parish, which also covers the north end of South Uist, are also expected to vote on leaving for the same reason.

So far, the congregation at Kinloch CoS and elders at Stornoway High, on the Isle of Lewis, were the first to react to the decision to allow gay clergy, saying votes will be held on possible break aways.

‘Not in crisis’

The Church of Scotland has reacted by saying that they are only aware of fewer than 10 congregations out of 1400 voicing an opinion to vote on leaving.

A spokesman said: “Following the decision a number of individuals have indicated they might wish to leave the Church of Scotland.

“While we would be saddened by the departure of any of our ministers and members, the Church is not in crisis.

“The present situation is nothing like the historical event in 1843, known as the Disruption, when a third of ministers – nearly 500 - left. Presbyteries are now holding conversations with fewer than ten of our 1400 congregations.”

He added: “As we saw with the congregation of Gilcomston South in Aberdeen, these conversations can be gracious, constructive and respectful of Church law, civil law and charity law.

“The vast majority of Church of Scotland ministers and members are committed to the Church and willing to work out, over the next couple of years, how we live with difference.

“They see the recent decision of the General Assembly as a vote for the peace and unity of the Church.

“However, it is not surprising that a small number of ministers and members reacted immediately to decisions taken at the General Assembly.

“There has always been a variety of views on the matter of same-sex relationships and the ministry and we are aware that some of our ministers and members feel that a compromise is not possible.

“The work of the Church of Scotland – preaching the Good News and caring for the vulnerable the length and breadth of the country - continues unabated.”

General Assembly vote

The spokesman added that the vote at the General Assembly went ahead without any opposition.

He also said they had received the resignation from Rev Downie and he would be leaving in August.

The Lewis Church of Scotland Presbytery, in a statement, said: “The Church of Scotland Presbytery of Lewis states its total opposition to the selection, training and ordination for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament and the Diaconate of those in same sex Civil Partnerships.

“As a Presbytery, we strongly support the Church’s affirmation of historic and current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality.

“The Presbytery of Lewis continues to affirm that the Word of God is the supreme rule of faith and life and believes that any proposal which leads to the selection, training and ordination of those in same sex relationships is contrary to the revealed will of God in Scripture.

“Presbytery is deeply saddened by the fact that this matter has caused division within the Church of Scotland and within congregations.

“Presbytery respects the right of individual congregations to review their relationship with the Church of Scotland but urges its people to maintain the unity of their fellowship.”

Logie and St John’s in Dundee announced that it has “firmly decided to find an appropriate means for this congregation to leave the Church of Scotland”.

A statement said: “We do this mindful of our pastoral responsibility, as Elders, for the whole of the Church family here - both those who have expressed a desire to leave and those who have not.

“We must emphasise that we have no desire to elongate the process but we do wish to take sufficient time to make informed and wise decisions for all concerned.

“To that end we will shortly be forming an Advisory Group comprising representatives of both the Kirk Session and of the congregation.”

The statement added: “The remit of this group will be: to draw on the experience of others who have already embarked upon or completed the process of leaving the Church of Scotland; to consult with other churches which may also be about to embark on the process; and, to address all practical implications of leaving the Church of Scotland and possibly creating a new congregation.”

The statement continued: “When this group has reported to the Kirk Session we will produce a detailed plan for the way ahead, both for those who wish to leave and those who do not.

“We would seek also to continue to be “a Christ-centred, Bible-based, prayerful fellowship, characterised by a growing knowledge of God, real and accountable relationships with each other, and vital friendships with others”.

“Finally we ask for your prayers and for your patience as we seek the way forward.”

Rev Downie said: “I feel I am an evangelical Bible-believing minister and have preached the word of God as long as I have been a minister.

“For the last four years I have been trying to resist the direction the Church of Scotland is going.”

He added that he feels the church has “turned her back on God’s word by allowing ministers who claim to be Christians and (claim) to follow the Bible” to be involved in same-sex relationships.

At its General Assembly in May, the Church of Scotland voted to uphold its historic doctrine on same sex relationships but to also consider a policy of permitting individual congregations to choose ministers in same sex relationships.


Church of Scotland votes to allow gay ministers