The Church of Scotland is due to debate today whether it will continue to allow the ordination of lesbian and gay ministers. Around 850 church commissioners are taking part in the annual General Assembly in Edinburgh this week.

A theological commission was established two years ago to produce a report on the matter, which was published last month.The report sets out arguments on both sides of the debate, but has left the final decision up to the General Assembly.

A spokesperson for the Church said: “On 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.

“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.”

50 congregations have intimated that they may leave the church if openly gay people are allowed to become ministers. Although they may only be a small part of over 1,400 congregations that make up the church, it would still mark the largest split since the Disruption of 1843.

Reverend Lorna Hood, Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, will be chairing the debate.

She told the Sunday Times: “I’m terrified. Fear and excitement vie for first place in my mind all the time. But the amount of support — cards, letters and congregations offering to pray for me — has been absolutely overwhelming. I have to rest on that and be carried by that. So I just think: come on, get on with it.”

Reverend Scott Rennie was appointed in 2009, an appointment which led to a two-year moratorium on new gay ministers.

In February, the Reverend Dominic Smart and his congregation of 300 at Gilcomston South in Aberdeen left the Church of Scotland over the General Assembly’s approval of Rev Rennie’s ordination. St George’s Tron in Glasgow has also elected to leave the kirk over the issue.