The Church of Scotland voted to continue ordinating LGBT ministers after a vote on Monday. The faith’s General Assembly decided in favor of a proposal which allows liberal parishes to opt out of the church’s policy on homosexuality.
The Church of Scotland formally gave its backing to LGBT ministers in 2011. 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.
Reverend Lorna Hood, moderator of the debate, said she was relieved that the assembly had reached a decision on the issue. It was reported that up to 50 congregations could have left the faith over its LGBT policy, though there is a total of 1,400 congregations.
“This is a massive vote for the peace and unity of the Church,” Rev Hood told BBC News.
“This was a major breakthrough for the Church but we are conscious for some people remain pained, anxious, worried and hurt. We continue to pray for the peace and unity of the Church,” she added.
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 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.