“Pockets of resistance” in Scotland against women ministers

Female Church of Scotland ministers and supporters march to celebrate 50th anniversary of decision to ordain women ministers. PICTURE: ANDREW O'BRIEN
Female Church of Scotland ministers and supporters march to celebrate 50th anniversary of decision to ordain women ministers. PICTURE: ANDREW O'BRIEN
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“Pockets of resistance” against appointing women ministers and elders still exists in parts of Scotland, the 2018 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been told.

Over 500 women, including almost 200 female Kirk ministers, marched up The Mound in Edinburgh to the General Assembly building today, marking the 50th anniversary of the decision to ordain women ministers in 1968.

Standing underneath the statue of John Knox, some women turned to face Knox’s statue and imitated his raised arm gesture and cheered,

Knox, hero of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland also wrote ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women’ in 1588, attacking female monarchs, arguing rule by women was contrary to the bible.

The Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood, formerly of Renfrew North Parish Church and a former Moderator, said Knox was “probably birlin’” at the gathering of women in the quad under his statue .

The Kirk currently has 194 (25.7 per cent) women ministers and 753 men. The first female Moderator was appointed in 2004.

The fourth, appointed this month is the Rev Susan Brown of Dornoch Cathedral in Sutherland.

However, the Highlands and the north west of Scotland have been identified as being reluctant to appoint women as ministers and elders.

Rev Morag Muirhead of Fort William Duncansburgh McIntosh Parish Church in Fort William, said the “resistance” could come from both the old and young.

“There are still a few who don’t have women elders, and some who won’t have a woman in their pulpit.

“The tradition in some areas is that the minister should always be a man and women shouldn’t speak, based on how they interpret parts of Scripture. A lot of young folk are like that too.”

Rev Margaret Forester, one of six women who petitioned the Kirk to achieve the historic 1968 breakthrough, referring to herself as “007, Licence to Preach”, said: “Effectively we were gagged by the Church we sought to love and serve..but there is still much to be done,..there are some congregations where there are no women elders.”

Rev Dr George Whyte, principal clerk to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, commenting on claims of Kirk discrimination against appointing women ministers and elders in parts of Scotland, said: “We do recognise that some women feel isolated. But the appointment of ministers is shared between the congregation and presbytery. Chosen change is better than forced change. Headquarters can’t issue instructions on these matters.”