The governing body of the Church of Scotland is to debate the issue of gay ministers.

It has caused a split among worshippers and clergy in recent years.

Following a 2011 report on the issue of same-sex relationships and the ministry, the General Assembly will consider whether the church should ordain ministers who are in same-sex relationships.

The Rev John Chalmers, principal clerk to the General Assembly, said: “The report and the options which it provides are offered at this stage without comment from the convener or members of the commission.

“It will be for the General Assembly alone, based on the substance of the theological arguments to come to a mind on this matter.

“In the meantime, the report, which is wide ranging and detailed, is commended to the whole church for prayerful study and consideration.”

The BBC reports a spokesman saying: “On the one hand the report offers the church a way of allowing the ordination of
ministers in same-sex relationships who have entered into a civil partnership, while protecting both individuals and congregations who in conscience do not agree with the theological principles which underpin that choice.”

He added: “On the other hand the report, while reaffirming its belief that homophobia is sinful, invites the church to reaffirm its traditional stance that the only appropriate expression of sexual activity should be within marriage between one man and one woman.”

In February, the Rev Dominic Smart and his congregation of 300 at Gilcomston South in Aberdeen left the Church of Scotland over the appointment of gay ministers.

The congregation took issue with the General Assembly approving the appointment of the openly gay minister Scott Rennie to Queen’s Cross church in Aberdeen in 2009.

Last month, the Aberdeen presbytery agreed to let Rev Smart and his congregation use their old church on a temporary basis.