Sexists should quit Kirk, says former moderator

MINISTERS and elders who discriminate against women should “get out” if they are not willing to adhere to the Kirk law, a former Church of Scotland moderator has said.

The Very Reverend Lorna Hood found her preaching restricted because of her gender. Picture: Greg Macvean

In a strongly worded attack, the Very Rev David Lacy branded those who refuse to accept women as elders and ministers as “grumbling grunters”.

His comments came as departing moderator, the Very Rev Lorna Hood, called on women members of the Kirk who feel they are being barred from office because of their gender to take a stand.

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She has recently talked about her visit to the presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye last year, where she was told her preaching in Skye “was restricted to three parishes at the top of the island” because of her gender.

Accusing those who discriminated of “antiquated gangsterism”, Mr Lacy yesterday told the Kirk’s General Assembly: “There are certain individuals in the church, ministers and elders, and they by no means represent a majority, but they are powerful, grumbling grunters.

“I think they have to decide are they in the Church of Scotland or are they not in. If they are in the Church of Scotland, they should put their toe to the Church of Scotland’s line, and if they don’t they should get out. It’s as simple and honest as that.”

He claimed people who thought they could stop the Kirk’s moderator from speaking inside a church because she was a woman were “oddballs”.

Mr Lacy raised the Rev Hood’s visit during yesterday’s Assembly hearing, asking what action could be taken against “this flagrant disobedience” of the church’s law.

He was told any complaint of discrimination should be raised with the presbytery itself, but if the complainer was not satisfied with the outcome it would then come to the Assembly.

Women have been able to hold the post of elder since 1964, and minister since 1968.

In 2007, the Kirk passed legislation banning any discrimination on grounds of gender or sexuality. Despite this, it is estimated there are up to 30 parishes across the country out of 1,400 that have no female elders.

Mr Lacy said a moderator being refused the right to speak in pulpits was “a slap in the face to the Court”.

Rev Hood said there was “embarrassment” among the presbytery that there were areas where she would not be welcome.

While in the area, the departing moderator said she was told stories about women who had been ordained as elders elsewhere but, having moved to the area, could not get on to the Kirk Session, being told it was “because you’re a woman”.

Speaking outside the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh yesterday Rev Hood admitted she had been a victim of sexism, and said that she was angered by the pain expressed to her by women members of the presbytery who had been discriminated against.

Steve Fennell, an elder at Kilmore Parish Church in Sleat on Skye, who spoke during the Assembly, claimed only a small minority of ministers in the presbytery area were opposed to Rev Hood preaching in their pulpits.

Rev Hood said men within such presbyteries should fight discrimination by giving their support to women who wanted to become an elders.

Also yesterday, the General Assembly, led by Moderator the Right Rev John Chalmers, said there will be “much work” for ministers following the independence referendum.

In a letter presented at the opening of the Assembly on Saturday, the Queen recognised the role of the Kirk in “holding the people of Scotland together” as they decide the country’s future.

In a written response, the Church said: “We sincerely appreciate Your Majesty’s prayers for the social good of Scotland in this year of referendum.”