Tensions are brewing once again at the Presbyterian General Assembly over the Church of Scotland’s stance on accepting gay ministers.
At its recent general assembly, The Kirk voted 351 to 294 to effectively end the ban on gay clergy.
The Reverend Dr Norman Hamilton, a Presbyterian who stood down on Monday as the Assembly’s moderator, had already said he sensed the more “liberal” option would be the ultimate choice accepted by Scottish delegates.
He added that the public opinion was expressed via the leader article in The Scotsman newspaper on Tuesday.
It stated: “It was a long and understandably passionate debate, but finally last night the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted to allow presbyteries across the country to choose gay or lesbian ministers.
“The vote among the commissioners to throw out the ban on gay clergy brought in two years ago was clear, 351 to 294, but showed how decisive the issue has been in the Kirk.”
However, the moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Reverend David Arnott, who is the main guest at the Belfast assembly this week, told his Irish counterparts yesterday that The Scotsman’s interpretation of the decision was not totally accurate.
He said that the issue had been the subject of wider theological debate among the Scottish presbyteries and that the church would have to re-visit the core issues under consideration.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland are more traditional than the Church of Scotland on Biblical interpretations of homosexuality and there is no pressure within Irish Presbyterianism to adopt a more liberal position.
However, traditional opinions remain strong within the Scottish church also, and whatever decision The Kirk ultimately reaches is likely to split congregations across the country.
Dr Norman Hamilton said: “Those who are advocating this latter [liberal] position included one minister who spoke warmly of the contribution that bisexuals and those who are transgendered can make to Christian ministry, whilst another spoke of how the Bible had been shown up to be wrong in the past and that we now know better.
“The traditionalist view was articulated by many in The Kirk, and by every visiting delegate who spoke, myself included, and there is no doubt that many of those who hold this position in the Church of Scotland seemed seriously demoralised and deeply apprehensive about future.”