Isle of Lewis parishioners ‘shamed’ by gay clergy row

HUNDREDS of people from congregations across the Isle of Lewis gathered to voice their opposition to the Church of Scotland’s support of gay partnerships for ministers.

Picture: PA

The extraordinary special service was called by the Lewis Presbytery, who had been contacted by worshippers left “shamed, hurt and confused” by the Kirk’s decision at the ­General Assembly.

After the meeting at St Columba’s (Old Parish) Church in Stornoway, attended by around 300 people, Presbytery Clerk John Cunningham said: “We want to state firmly and categorically, that while as a Presbytery we recognise and remain under the authority of the General Assembly, on this matter, we strongly disagree with and distance ourselves from the decisions that have been made.

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“We believe that these decisions represent a denial of and departure from the clear teaching of God’s Word – that such relationships are to be between one man and one woman, and that always within the context of marriage.”

He said the special service was called because people within the Presbytery were left ‘hurting and confused’ by the decision to ­support gay partnerships for ministers.

A statement was issued to those who attended Tuesday night’s service. It read: “As a Presbytery, we fully share in the dismay, disquiet and despondency that many of you feel at the Church taking this step.

“The Presbytery of Lewis wants to address members and adherents, and indeed all within its bounds, following the recent decisions of the General Assembly to allow those in same-sex civil partnerships to be eligible to serve as ministers and deacons within the Church. The decision to extend this provision to those in same-sex marriages was also narrowly approved.”

Under the Barrier Act the additional proposal still requires the approval of the majority of presbyteries, and will be considered later this year.

The statement added: “We remain wholly committed to the Scriptures being the supreme rule in all matters of life and doctrine; and will oppose the proposal to extend what the General Assembly has decided, to include those living in same-sex marriages.

“Once a Church rejects or ignores its roots in the Bible’s teaching, and sets the authority of Scripture aside, the potential for waywardness from God in other areas of life and doctrine is real.

“While Presbytery is unanimous in dissociating itself from what has been decided at the General Assembly, and certainly identifies with your sense of shame and dismay, we want to encourage you to remember and take heart in the fact that we still serve a living, sovereign and merciful God.”

The Very Rev David Arnott, of the Church of Scotland, said: “What is important in the statement from the Presbytery of Lewis is the expressed commitment to participate fully in the life of the Church of Scotland despite their obvious disappointment at the General Assembly decision.

“The Church of Scotland does not seek to make clones of its members, rather it acknowledges diversity of opinion within the peace and unity we all seek.”