Anti-gay clergyman allowed back into Scottish church

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The Church of Scotland agreed Thursday to temporarily let outspoken critic of gay ministers, Reverend Dominic Smart, back into his original church. Rev Smart and his congregation chose to leave the church last month having taken issue with the appointment of an openly gay minister, Scott Rennie, in 2009. 

Rev Smart had been forced to conduct services in a hotel since February. This followed the decision of he and his congregation to part ways with the overall Presbyterian Church of Scotland after lengthy talks.

“Our decision to leave was the culmination of careful study, sincere discussion and prayer over the past four years. We have weighed up many different options and believe the decision we have reached has the most integrity,” Smart told BBC News.

The Church of Scotland formally gave its backing to LGBT ministers in 2011 at a meeting of its General Assembly. The move, though seen as highly progressive by many clergymen within the faith, was divisive and has caused a schism with conservative factions breaking away from the Church. A congregation in Glasgow was the first to leave in June 2012. 

The issue of gay ministers is one which has split opinion across denominations in Protestantism. The Church of England announced in January that it would end a ban on clergy in civil partnerships becoming Bishops. However, there remains a requirement for celibacy.

These more progressive LGBT policies are in stark contrast to those of the Catholic Church which continues to uphold strict conservative teachings. This was underlined Wednesday with the election of Pope Francis who has a firm ant-LGBT position. Meanwhile, the Catholic faith in Scotland faced scandal in February with its leader, Keith O’Brien, resigning over allegations of sexual misconduct with junior clergy.

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