Gay minister and 1 in 6 threaten to quit

Now this is weird. There is a gay Church of Scotland minister – well I’m sure there are many, many more than one but he is the one who is open and living with his partner. He goes for a job to a church in Aberdeen and is all open and above board about his situation. The church are fine about it and everyone lives happily ever after.

But no! Other ministers start to complain. The Presbytery complained. A poll done by The Times shows that 1 in 6 of the ministers they asked say they may resign if he stays.

Let’s go back a minute… the congregation are fine about it. OK? They have no problem. So what on earth does it have to do with all these others?

My heart goes out to this minister who is being villified for being honest and open. Tell me where you find that in Scripture.

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22 thoughts on “Gay minister and 1 in 6 threaten to quit

  1. Jesus was hanged for being honest and open, Stephen was stoned. Maybe the Church still needs martyrs after all. You have to ask, though, what these other ministers feel frightened of.

  2. Yes, well, quite. I think the pressing question is why this paricular case has gained so much (negative) publicity.

    Even though things are done differently in the CoS, they can still say `he was measured on several metrics and found to be the best for the post’.

    There’s a more sensible comment in this month’s _Life and Work_ editorial about it as well.

  3. Tell me where you find that in Scripture.

    Only a semi-serious thought, maybe more a ramble, but: maybe you find it in the Old Testament with its eye-for-an-eye / stone-everybody rule of Law. Then you find it in the NT, where the system of grace conflicts with a society that’s used to working in terms of honour/shame such as the Mediterranean culture was. Then you read both as a reflection of people’s leanings at the time of writing, perhaps as a need for a separatist cultural identity (eg “when in the desert, don’t marry into the surrounding tribes – literally or metaphorically”).

    Then I wonder what it feels like to have a cultural change happening around you – apart from something blatant like a Babylonian throwing a brick through your window and carting you away for a few years, would you notice something as defendable-by-committee as “let’s build a calf, to focus our worship, and use gold to symbolize its worth”? On a severity scale 1-10, surely these things are different, but where does zeitgeist-awareness of semi-post-modern progressive-v-conservative religio-politics fit in? Do we all try to define ourselves as identities all the time anyway?

    Ramble off, for now 🙂

  4. I find is quite a difficult concept that the church might still need martyrs in any way at all. I think that violence and discrimination are just plain wrong in the life of the church.

    The church certainly needs people to be honest and open about this topic, but that can only come about as it becomes less possible to threaten gay people with public derision and punishment.

    The survey by the Times might also have been reported as saying that 5 out of 6 ministers don’t feel that this is an issue that is worth splitting the church over. We have come a very long way indeed if it is indeed the case that such a percentage of presbyterians think that way. I would have thought that was much more newsworthy than any threat from any group to walk away.

    • Less possible and less socially acceptable, I think.

      I was pondering the statistic as I read it the other day – `1 in 6 might leave’, that’s a bit like CoE bishops threatening to go to Rome over women issues, isn’t it? There’s still a question of how many actually *will* bother to jump altogether.
      Still, inverting it and concentrating on 5/6ths is *much* more positive.

  5. Ruth, actually the presbytery upheld the congregation’s decision… those who were unhappy with this then chose to appeal to the next of the church courts, the General Assembly. This will pose a very interesting dilemma: a congregation’s right to call its minister is an enshrined principle in the CofS right from its inception in the 16th century [it’s in the 1st Book of Discipline], so if GA overturn both the congregation and the presbytery decision, it thus destroys this principle. On the other hand, if GA don’t overturn the decision, it will be seen as approval of [gasp] the ‘gay issue’ [further gasp].
    A couple of years back, the legal questions committee was discussing another enshrined principle: the right of ministers to exercise their conscience when it came to pastoral matters. Ann Inglis, the convenor of said committee used the example of conducting same gender blessings. The original matter was totally hijacked and turned into a ‘gay issue’… and ended by setting a precedent for ministers not to be allowed to exercise their conscience in particular pastoral matters.
    Given that both the exercising of one’s conscience, and the right of a congregation to call its own minister [this as opposed to bishops just ‘plonking’ a priest into a parish] affects not only the ‘liberals’ but also the ‘not so liberals’ [and hate attaching labels], I wonder just how many principles one group will be prepared to sacrifice in order to get their way – there’s a sense of almost being prepared to cut one’s nose off to spite one’s face, really.

  6. Oh and as for The Times article: Scott is already ordained, what are they going on about!! He would just be inducted into a charge.
    I’m also with Kelvin on the survey stats: 5 out of 6 ministers won’t leave the church on this matter… hey, pretty darned good if you ask me. But positively noting statistics does not sell newspapers I suspect.
    Okay… I think the rant is over now 😉

  7. It’s actually at my mother’s church in Aberdeen. My mum is very upset at the whole thing – she’s told me she thinks that the church should break away from the CoS if they refuse to stand up to the people who complained (who are an evangelical group with no direct connection to her congregation). One of the issues is that the CoS doesn’t have any documents which say that someone can’t be hired because of their orientation, but it does say that they can be turned down because of “lifestyle”, although it doesn’t define exactly what that is. Because Scott was married and is now living with his partner, that’s seen as a lifestyle thing by the people who complained. Plus for the record, the former minister of that church says that everyone should get over themselves, this is a great candidate and at least he’s being open.

  8. Why is so much time and energy being spent on this? Shouldn’t we be feeding the poor, empowering the disenfranchised, listening to the unheard, embracing the rejected, healing the bereaved … this gay issue thing is such a human debate … aren’t we all loved and equal in the eyes of the Lord? … and anyway who are we to say? We must not presume what God thinks.

    • Thanks, Abigail. You are so right. One of the things which bugs me in the whole debate is the stance taken by African bishops in this issue. Having witnessed Third World poverty at first hand, my soul screams out that they should be stirring up poverty and starvation issues on the world stage rather than getting their knickers in a twist over whether to stone gay people or just burn them at the stake!

      • Yes, quite. I remember a case (via ThinkingAnglicans) a few years ago of African (probably Nigerian) bishops refusing aid money from TEC because of +VGR. That told me nothing about sexual morals but everything about their suitability to handle funds…

    • No, it is vital for those who are gay, and I am 100% behind the move for liberation and total inclusion within the Church of God. My problem, sometimes, is that some LBGT folk seem to think it should be the foremost issue in the Church, and that everything else pales, almost, into insignificance.

  9. By asking why we are spending so much time on this I don’t mean to say it’s not an issue, or not important, rather it shouldn’t be an issue. It also doesn’t help show the Church in a good light to non Church people.

  10. If this was about women or people of colour or folks with a disability would we ask the question ‘are we spending too much time on this?’
    As to LGBT folk thinking it should be the ‘foremost issue in the church’, thet same could be said of folks who use the Bible as a weapon against LGBT people:
    If the validity of your existence, your gifts was being denied or constantly called into question, wouldn’t you be somewhat upset about it?
    When you’re constantly being told by Christians that you’re not a Christian, that you don’t belong, that you are evil,depraved and a corrupt in the sight of God, when you’re told that it is your fault that the Church will split, when you’re sent hate mail or spat on for the simple fact of your existence and who you might fall in love with, and especially when it is constantly inferred that God’s love and grace is limited to a particular group of people and not all of us … it does go beyond being mildly vexing to being about not being bullied out of the kingdom – on the personal side… and a point of principle on the theological side re. the nature of God’s love.
    Not eloquent, sorry… but it’s kinda why I think it’s important. I get a little ticked off when people go ‘oh, the gay issue’… behind the ‘issue’ are real live human beings.

  11. Sorry – women – colour – gay – yes – same – bigger than. We are all the same in God’s eyes aren’t we? I am going away now as I don’t have the words.

  12. Abigail, I’m not disagreeing with you. You are right – we are all the same in God’s eyes but not everyone gets that. And you are right that non-church people look on as if we are mad. My children are testament to that. They are bewildered that this should be an issue for so many church people who profess love for all. It shouldn’t be an issue but sadly it is. And my friends are hurting so much.

  13. Abigail, your point wasn’t missed, honest – and I, too, get mighty vexed by all the energy we seem to expend on this and other matters when of course this should be already a given. We do waste so much time faffing about on this matter and yet, it is still an issue of justice/ God’s love… just as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners are. But we can’t compartmentalise – all are connected. If we go down a path that excludes or dehumanises a group of people then potentially, if people in that group are hungry, poor, in prison, etc., then the implication is that because of who they are, we will of course, not extend help to them. And a long-term ramification of dehumanising a group of people is most eloquently expressed in a place like Auschwitz.
    The church has been at the forefront of systemically excluding/ marginalising groups of people over its history – left-handers, women, people of colour, folks with mental health issues, LGBT folk to name but a few.
    And to be fair, in other ways the church has also been at the forefront of championing various people as well.
    The overall message of the gospel as I see it is:
    Jesus came to demonstrate God’s love for all people: rich, poor, men, women, prisoners, free, gay, straight, etc. And we, as his followers are to demonstrate that all-inclusive, all-embracing love. And yup, it’s mighty frustrating when some folks in the church get hung up about one particular group of people – because, as you’ve seen, it has a knock-on effect… it stops us from fully being God’s love letters to the world.
    And I shall shut up not on this topic! Promise!!

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