The Church of Scotland will discuss whether to continue allowing ordination of LGBT minsters at a debate on May 20. The church currently permits gay and lesbian clergy once they remain celibate. However, the issue is said to have the potential to cause the faith’s biggest split since the 19th century.
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 caused conservative factions to break away from the church. A congregation in Glasgow was the first to leave in June 2012.
Rev Lorna Hood, moderator of the upcoming debate, said she was terrified about chairing the discussion. It’s reported that up to 50 congregations may leave the faith over the current policy, though there is a total of 1,400 congregations.
“Fear and excitement vie for first place in my mind all the time. But the amount of support – cards, letters and congregations offering to pray for me – has been absolutely overwhelming. I have to rest on that and be carried by that. So I just think: come on, get on with it.” Rev Hood told the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper
It was agreed in March to allow outspoken critic of LGBT ministers, Reverend Dominic Smart, back into his original church. Rev Smart and his congregation chose to leave the church last month after taking issue with the appointment of an openly gay minister, Scott Rennie, in 2009.
Rev Smart had been forced to conduct services in a hotel. This followed the decision of he and his congregation to part ways with the overall Presbyterian Church of Scotland after lengthy talks.
The issue of gay clergy is one which has split opinion across denominations within 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.