Since the controversy first broke, 13 ministers and hundreds of members have quit over the issue, and the Moderator said that for the past two years he had “patiently absorbed much of the rancour by a very few who have set out their stall for leaving the Church of Scotland” in protest at the decision. Telling the Kirk it was “time now for us all to pull together”, he made a direct appeal yesterday to those who were still considering going after this week’s General Assembly.
The leader of the Church of Scotland has said it must stop “navel-gazing” over the subject of gay clergy and engage with wider society.
In a strongly worded address to the General Assembly as it closed in Edinburgh yesterday, the Moderator, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, appealed for unity and called on those who wanted to leave the Kirk over the issue to think again.
He also raised concerns about the falling number of people – young people in particular – entering the ministry.
His comments followed the General Assembly’s decision on Wednesday to move forward with controversial plans to allow the ordination of openly gay ministers in same-sex partnerships.
The issue was sparked in 2009, when openly gay minister the Rev Scott Rennie was appointed to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen.
It has threatened to split the Kirk between traditionalists who object to the move as departing from “biblical truth” and revisionists who support it.
Mr Chalmers urged the Kirk to look outwards. He said: “A tide has to be turned because a generation of people out there are being invited to live a life of disbelief – if not unbelief.
“And there is no justification for that.
“This Church of ours has to stop its navel-gazing, get out from under subjects that no-one is actually talking about and get out there and capitalise on the fact that people still want purpose and faith in their lives. They just need it to be accessible, relevant, generous, forgiving.”
Highlighting a pressing area of concern for the Kirk, the Moderator pointed to “worrying facts” about the number of people entering the ministry, which it “cannot turn a blind eye to”.
He said: “A quarter of our charges do not have an inducted minister and we only have two ministers under the age of 30: when I was inducted, there were seven of us in my presbytery. Four times the number of ministers will retire in the next six years than we are likely to recruit in the same time-frame.”
Read another article on this topic: Church of Scotland Moves Closer to Ordination of Gay Ministers