‘Last stand’ against gay ministers

EVANGELICAL Christians opposed to the Church of Scotland’s plan to allow the ordination of openly gay clergy have made a last-ditch attempt this weekend to derail the move at the General Assembly.

Some fundamentalists are opposed to allowing the ordination of openly gay clergy. Picture: Neil Hanna
Some fundamentalists are opposed to allowing the ordination of openly gay clergy. Picture: Neil Hanna

The assembly took the historic step last year of voting to allow liberal congregations to opt out and appoint an openly gay person in a civil partnership, while at the same time affirming the Church’s traditional stance on marriage being between “one man and one woman”.

It also charged its legal questions committee to devise a way in which the decision could work and report back this year.

An outline of the recommendations – known as an overture – will be put before the Assembly to be ratified on Wednesday.

However, evangelical Edinburgh minister Rev Jeremy Middleton has tabled a counter-motion in an attempt to have the traditionalist stance reaffirmed.

This would effectively prevent openly gay ministers from being ordained.

If rejected, the overture will be sent out to presbyteries across Scotland, under what is called the Barrier Act.

They will approve or reject it before being passed back to next year’s Assembly for one final ratification before becoming Church law.

Last night, the traditionalist group Forward Together – who have protested against the Kirk’s move towards a more liberal position – backed Mr Middleton’s counter-motion.

However, Forward Together last night urged its members not to leave if the report’s recommendations are passed unaltered, and instead work from inside the Kirk to respond to the issue.

But one Kirk source said that it was the traditionalist wing’s last attempt to halt the move. “This is them trying to see if they can reverse the decisions of last year,” The Scotsman was told, “and that’s something the Assembly does not take kindly to”.

“I do think this is really one last stand by them, but I can see them arguing hard for it.”

Reacting to Mr Middleton’s counter-motion, a Church of Scotland spokesman said: “The Church confirms that Mr Middleton’s counter-motion will be taken during the legal questions committee debate on 21 May.”

One of the other big debates is expected to be on Scottish independence on Tuesday. The Kirk is committed to a position of neutrality on September’s referendum.

Those attending this week’s gathering from across Scotland will have the chance to air their views in the debate.

Other areas of interest include the crisis surrounding the falling number of ministers within the Church, as well as its campaign against rising costs of funeral services.