Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Sunday, 24 May 2009 13:22 UK

Gay minister 'hurt' by church row


The Reverend Scott Rennie gives his reaction to the decision

A gay minister at the centre of a row over his appointment to a church in Aberdeen has told BBC Scotland he has been "personally hurt" by the episode.

The Church of Scotland voted on Saturday evening to uphold the decision to appoint the Reverend Scott Rennie to Queen's Cross Church.

People on both sides of the argument held demonstrations over the issue.

Mr Rennie, 37, said the church had taken a "tentative step forward" in making its decision.

The minister, a divorced father-of-one, is currently a minister at Brechin Cathedral and said he was open with the congregation at Queen's Cross about being gay and living with his male partner.

I've been personally hurt and, as you can imagine, it's made life pretty stressful
The Reverend Scott Rennie

In a late night vote on Saturday evening, the General Assembly in Edinburgh voted by 326 to 267 in support of Mr Rennie, who is the Church of Scotland's first openly gay minister.

His appointment had been backed by a majority of the congregation at Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen.

Reflecting on the row, Mr Rennie told BBC Scotland's Politics Show: "I've been personally hurt and, as you can imagine, it's made life pretty stressful.

"But, at the end of the day, I felt God's call in my life to ministry, I felt God's call to be at Queen's Cross Parish Church in Aberdeen, the church responded to that too and, sometimes, you have to be prepared to endure a bit of heat for what you think is right and that's just the way life is."

In the wake of the vote, the minister said: "We did take a step forward, in a sense last night, but it was a tentative step and I recognise that.

'Great shame'

"But I think that's because there's a large number of people in the church who simply haven't made up their mind because there hasn't really been a period in the church where we've really discussed the issues.

"It's like the big elephant in the room that no-one speaks about."

Mr Rennie added: "The sad thing is, I'm just an ordinary parish minister and I really wish none of the furore that has surrounded my appointment would have happened at all."

Protesters at the General Assembly
Members of the Zion Baptist Church campaigned against the appointment

More than 400 Kirk ministers and almost 5,000 Church of Scotland members are said to have signed an online petition against the appointment, organised by the Fellowship of Confessing Churches.

Two of those ministers, the Reverend David Court and the Reverend Dr William Philip, said in a statement that the result of the vote had "brought great shame on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church by publicly proclaiming as holy what God, the Bible, and orthodox Christianity all down the ages, and all over the world, unambiguously call sin."

The demonstration against Mr Rennie's appointment at The Mound in Edinburgh was led by Pastor Jack Bell of the Zion Baptist Church in Glasgow.

"We are absolutely opposed to that on the basis of what God has to say about homosexuality in the Bible," he said.

A larger counter-demonstration was held in support of Mr Rennie.

More acceptance

Earlier, the Reverend Ewen Gilchrist, the interim moderator at Queen's Cross, said there should be more acceptance.

"Sexuality is something that the church doesn't have a good track record about", he said.

"We constantly lock it up and frown about it. Here's an opportunity to welcome it, to acknowledge the diversity of human sexuality and to bring that richness into our life and worship."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland said it was "delighted" with the result.

Spokeswoman Alyson Thomson, said: "The Church of Scotland General Assembly has tonight set out a clear stall - it is a modern church for a modern Scotland.

"The commission is delighted that the church has, as Scott Rennie requested, taken an honest look at itself over the issue of sexuality and decided that the values of fairness, equality, dignity and respect are of more worth than those of ignorance and intolerance.

"We are certain that this decision will be welcomed by the majority of Scots and certainly the majority of Queen's Cross parish in Aberdeen who overwhelmingly demonstrated their support for Mr Rennie."

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