Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 12:18 UK

Kirk assembly opens amid gay row


The week-long assembly opened on Thursday

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is getting under way, amid divisions over a gay minister.

An American church group has threatened to protest at the appointment of the Reverend Scott Rennie in Aberdeen, which is to be debated on Saturday.

Organisers of an online petition against the choice said it had been signed by more than 400 ministers.

Key points of the week-long assembly will, for the first time, be available on the messaging network Twitter.

The church's most important gathering of the year runs until Wednesday 27 May at the Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh.

One of the first events will be the election of the Reverend William Hewitt as the new Moderator. The 57-year-old is the minister of Westburn Church in Greenock.

The Reverend Scott Rennie
Scott Rennie's appointment has threatened a major split in the Kirk

On Saturday evening, elders will debate the appointment of Mr Rennie, a 36-year-old divorced father-of-one, as minister at Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen.

He was open with his prospective new congregation about the fact that he is gay and lives with his partner.

A majority of the church's congregation and the regional presbytery backed the appointment of Mr Rennie, who has been a minister at Brechin Cathedral since 1999.

Some congregation members have since complained they were unaware of his sexuality and 12 members of Aberdeen Presbytery lodged a formal appeal against the choice.

The matter was later referred to the General Assembly, the church's supreme court and annual business meeting.

More than 400 Kirk ministers and almost 5,000 Church of Scotland members are said to have signed an online petition opposing the appointment.

The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, which has previously staged protests at the funerals of soldiers and Aids victims, has threatened to picket the General Assembly.

The Church of Scotland considered the viability of gay relationships two years ago, and decided on a period of reflection.

Last month, the Kirk's editorially-independent in-house magazine Life and Work called on believers to come to terms with gay relationships.

Kirk elder Neil MacLennan has been given permission to "tweet" the major points of proceedings via the social messaging network Twitter.

They can be followed at

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