An openly gay man who was nominated to train as a Church of Scotland minister has withdrawn his candidacy.
The man, named as Dmitri Ross, is in a civil partnership. He was nominated this month by Hamilton Presbytery, the third largest in Scotland.
He has now announced he is stepping down, saying he did not want to be a “source of division” in the Kirk.
Ross, 42, said in a statement: “I sincerely believe that I have received a call from God to serve Him through ministry in the Church of Scotland. That call has been thoroughly tested and upheld throughout each and every stage of the Enquiry and Assessment Process of the Church, a process which began more than a year ago, and which is widely acknowledged to be very demanding and greatly testing.
“However, I must balance my personal sense of call with my great and genuine love for the church as a whole. I do not wish, and have never sought, to be a cause of division within the Church I love so dearly. Therefore, after much heartfelt deliberation, and after much prayerful consideration, I have decided to withdraw, with immediate effect, as a full time candidate in Training for Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Church of Scotland.”
He also urged those who had lodged official complaints against him to withdraw them “in the interests of the peace and unity of the church”.
Ross thanked those around him for their support in the “very troubling” last 18 months and concluded: “I believe my decision is in the best interests of the Church, whatever the personal cost to me.”
The church narrowly avoided a schism earlier this year with the ordination of Scott Rennie, who lives with his male partner.
Although Rennie’s congregation overwhelmingly supported him, the appointment caused deep divisions. The General Assembly voted to allow his appointment to stand but placed a two-year moratorium on ordaining new gay ministers.
A report on the issue will be presented to the Kirk in 2011 by a special committee, after which a decision on the church’s stance on gay ministers will be made.
One of those attacking Ross’ selection was the Rev Ian Wilson, the former head of evangelical Forward Together group, which was forced to apologise after spreading malicious rumours about Rennie.
Wilson wrote on his blog: “They are, in effect, saying that being a practising homosexual is not a bar to training for the ministry. One must ask the question: what kind of decisions relating to human sexuality are prohibited if nominating is not?
“If practising homosexuals are being accepted to train for the ministry, with all the investment of time and money that this entails for the church as well as for the candidate, then it seems to me that those responsible for training are quite certain that the ordination of practising gays is just around the corner.”