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Sunday, 8 July, 2001, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Kirk slammed over gay prejudice
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The church has been urged to embrace "justice and fairness"
A Church of Scotland survey of ministers and members has revealed deep hostility towards gay men and women.

The poll asked 50 ministers and dozens of youth workers and adult worshippers whether the church was "an inclusive community for gay and lesbian young people".

Around 75% of ministers and church youth workers who responded said they disapproved of homosexuality while 100% said their church would not accept gay members.

Steve Mallon, the Kirk's national youth adviser who carried out the study, attacked the findings and said the Church of Scotland was "struggling to relate to anybody outside middle class marriages".

We should not be making judgements about people's lifestyles

Steve Mallon

"The church does not have a good vocabulary to deal with sexuality," he said.

"We are just as incapable of welcoming and relating to people who are divorced, separated as well as those who are gay.

"The church struggles to deal with people who are not middle class and married with two children. The church just does not know what to say to people who do not fit that mould.

"Even where ministers are open and sensitive they feel constrained in offering support.

"I don't think the church has the right to decide who's in and who's out. We should not be making judgements about people's lifestyles.

"The church has to enrich and offer something other than judgements about sexuality.

Gay couple holding hands
The survey found strong attitudes towards gays

"There is a strong belief in the church that if we welcome gay and lesbian people we devalue marriage. But I believe we can accommodate both.

"At the moment the church is only saying that marriage is it. But increasingly people are finding that many marriages don't work. What are saying to those people?"

Mr Mallon, 39, talked to a number of gay Christians who had left the Church of Scotland over the attitude of its members and ministers to homosexuality.

"One young man I talked to was a member of a Church of Scotland bible study," he said.

"When they found out he was gay one person refused to have communion with him and he left to join the Episcopalians.

"Other gay people have had it made clear to them that they are not welcome in our churches.

Split within the church

"We need to look at others from a sense of justice and fairness. I think homosexuality is a natural relationship for those who are in it.

"I did not meet one gay who did not think it was natural for them.

"The survey asked how people feel about homosexuality and is it permissible in any circumstances?

"If somebody is in a loving relationship is it completely wrong that it is between two people of the same sex?

"I am afraid I found very strong attitudes against gays. But the church has to look at welcoming them to be an all-inclusive church otherwise it will continue to struggle to relate to the communities it is supposed to reflect and it will continue to attract less and less people.

"I don't believe in gay-only services and a pink fluffy church. But the gay issue has to be addressed.

"It was said to me that it would split the church - it would be sad if it did, but I don't believe it necessarily will. The church has to change its perspective."

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