One in six Church of Scotland ministers may quit if the Kirk refuses to overturn a decision to ordain an openly gay minister, a poll has suggested.

The research, conducted by The Sunday Times, found that eight of the 50 ministers questioned said they may leave over the ordination of Reverend Scott Rennie.

Twenty-three said they disagreed with the ordination.

Rennie, 36, was appointed to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen in January. He lives openly with his partner.

However, 12 members of the Aberdeen Presbytery objected to the decision because they do not approve of his lifestyle.

Despite the opposition, more than 80 per cent of Rennie’s congregation voted for him.

The matter has now reached the church’s general assembly.

The Presbytery of Lochcarron-Skye, part of the church’s traditionalist wing, has lodged a motion at the general assembly calling for practising homosexuals and unmarried co-habitees to be banned from the ministry.

The dispute has been compared to the ordination of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the US.

Robinson gained international recognition after New Hampshire Episcopalians made him their bishop and, as a result, the worldwide church’s first openly gay bishop. His subsequent appointment has caused a worldwide schism in the church.

The debate in Scotland intensified last week after an editorial in the church’s official magazine, Life and Work, criticised Christians who use the Bible as an excuse for homophobia.

The article in the editorially-independent magazine stated that even the most vehement traditionalists cannot take everything in the Bible literally.