Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 11:39 UK

Church split warning over gay row


The Reverends Randall and Gilchrist debate the controversial appointment

A minister has warned that "many people will have nothing more to do with the Church of Scotland" if the appointment of an openly gay colleague is approved.

The Kirk's General Assembly is due to rule next week whether the Reverend Scott Rennie takes up his post at Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen.

The Reverend David Randall said the appointment should not go ahead as it did not "accord with scripture".

But the Reverend Ewen Gilchrist said such a stance risked alienating people.

Both ministers exchanged views in a BBC interview as the controversy threatens to cause the biggest split in the Church since the 19th century.

A fifth of all clergy have already signed an online petition against the appointment of Mr Rennie, a divorced father who lives with his male partner.

Mr Randall, who has been a minister in Macduff for 38 years, believes his appointment would not "fit in" with the vow clergy take "to live a life that accords with scripture".

Reverend Scott Rennie
The Reverend Scott Rennie is divorced and lives with his male partner

"We shouldn't be hostile to anyone as such, it's the whole issue of homosexual practice we're concerned about," he said.

"I don't think that it's really arguable that the Bible does speak against homosexual practice, and although there are issues of interpretation of certain things, the overall thrust of scripture is pretty plain and clear."

Mr Randall said he knew of "many people" who would "have nothing more to do with the Church of Scotland" if the Kirk's General Assembly approved Mr Rennie's appointment.

But Mr Gilchrist, caretaker minister at Queen's Cross Church, said such a stance threatened to alienate people and send out the wrong message.

"We all want to honour our Lord, we all want to serve his Kingdom, but there are so many different interpretations about what that authority means," he said.

'Vilifying homosexuality'

"Behind the theological package, a lot of people will just see bigotry - prejudice and bigotry disguised as theological debate.

"They will not understand why the Christian Church is so hostile towards homosexuals, and that worries me."

Mr Gilchrist said he was "more concerned with the number of people" the Church had "hurt, generation after generation, by vilifying and basically creating a mood of suspicion towards homosexuality".

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is due to discuss the appointment of Mr Rennie on 23 May.

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