Page last updated at 12:50 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 13:50 UK

Gay ministers get backing of Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the Moderator Bill Hewitt
Archbishop Desmond Tutu with new moderator Bill Hewitt

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has voiced his support for including homosexuals in the church, in an address to the Kirk's General Assembly in Edinburgh.

The South African archbishop insisted every kind of person, no matter what their race, class or sexuality was part of God's family.

Earlier this week the Church of Scotland agreed a two-year moratorium on the ordination of gay ministers.

The decision came after the appointment of a gay minister in Aberdeen.

On Saturday, the General Assembly, the Kirk's supreme court, said the Reverend Scott Rennie could become the minister at Queen's Cross Church.

The minister said he was open about living with his male partner and his appointment was backed by a majority of the congregation.

Obscene amounts

The General Assembly's decision to appoint Mr Rennie - in a 326-267 vote - raised fears among traditionalists of a possible split in the Kirk.

But on Monday, a two-year ban on the ordination of gay ministers was announced while a special commission considered the matter and reported back in 2011.

The Archbishop said he was aware of the debate over whether the body would agree to endorse the gay minister's appointment, adding that "mercifully" this was done.

He said: "For my part, I was involved in the struggle against a system that penalised people for something about which they could do nothing - their race - and I could not stand by when people were being penalised again for something about which they could do nothing - their gender.

"For quite a while our church did not ordain women to the priesthood. I joined the struggle and this is a non-issue in our church now. We haven't yet consecrated a woman bishop but we've called our first woman Dean and any number of women are Archdeacons.

"So, under this rubric, I would find it impossible to stand by when people are being persecuted for something about which they can do nothing - their sexual orientation."

Archbishop Tutu added: "In this family there are no outsiders. All are insiders - lesbian, gay, so-called straight - we are family."

As well as advocating the inclusion of all kinds of people in the church, Archbishop Tutu argued vociferously for an end to poverty.

He questioned how obscene amounts of money could be spent on weapons when only a tiny fraction of defence budgets would feed the hungry.

The archbishop received a standing ovation before departing for Edinburgh University where he was awarded an honorary degree.

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