Leader: Kirk's vote for gay clergy marks clear divide

IT WAS a long and understandably passionate debate, but finally last night the General Assembly of Church of Scotland voted to allow presbyteries across the country to choose gay or lesbian ministers. The vote among the commissioners to throw out the ban on gay clergy brought in two years ago was clear, 351 to 294, but showed how divisive the issue has been in the Kirk.

In so doing the Church, which faces the same problems as many other Christian faiths in an increasingly secular world - declining attendance at services and an ageing congregation - presented a more modern, liberal face, which fits in with the more modern, liberal Scotland which this nation has become in the 21st century.

However, yesterday's vote, which was prompted by the appointment of a gay minister, the Rev Scott Rennie, to an Aberdeen parish two years ago, is not the end of the matter. First, there will be those traditionalists who may yet revert to historical type and provoke a schism within the Kirk. We must hope this does not happen, for although it speaks for a smaller number of Scots than it once did, the Church still has much to contribute to our national life.

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Ensuring unity will now be up to a new commission on theological issues linked to gay and lesbian clergy, which will report to the Assembly in 2013. Doubtless they will be learned theologians, but they would do well to follow what should be a simple, fundamental Christian principle: under God or otherwise, all are born equal.