Church of Scotland Bans Talk of Sexuality

After upholding on Saturday the appointment of Scott Rennie, an openly gay minister, to Queen’s Cross in Aberdine, the Church of Scotland dodged the expected Overture to ban future openly gay ministers by appointing a Commission to examine the issue for two years, then banning discussion of the issue until the Commission’s report is given in 2011.

There’s a lot of information in that run on sentence, so I’ll let The Herald (Glasgow) unpack it for me.

The Church of Scotland has banned the ordination of gay clergy for the next two years along with any public discussion of the issue only two days after approving the controversial appointment of a homosexual minister.

Following a ruling by the General Assembly in Edinburgh yesterday, Kirk members are now effectively banned from talking about the issue outwith the church, including the media.

The only people who can discuss human sexuality are those connected with social committees such as the HIV/Aids groups.

Meanwhile a special commission will be set up to examine the issues thrown up in recent weeks and the wider issue of same-sex relationships. It will report in 2011.

The two-year moratorium was part of a “deliverance”, or motion, moved by Rev Dr John McPake from Mossneuk church in East Kilbride, which will see the special commission established.

The move had echoes of the Kirk’s stance when the world’s eyes were upon it in 2007, when same-sex relationships were on the agenda. Dr McPake said: “I am not appealing for silence, I am appealing for disciplined debate.”

The move will not affect the appointment of Mr Rennie whose appointment at Aberdeen’s Queen’s Cross church was approved on Saturday night.

The decision – swung in a 326- 267 vote – raised fear among traditionalists of a possible split in the Kirk.

Rev Ian Watson, an opponent of Mr Rennie’s appointment, called for a decision to be reached sooner.

He said: “We’re really tired of this debate. I really don’t know how much longer the church can sustain this debate.”

I’m not so sure about this one. I’m generally of the mind that it’s best to get things out in the open, even if the result isn’t what I would hope for. (One of the reasons I’d be a horrible politician.) On the other hand, there are all sorts of cultural, procedural, and historical nuances in the Kirk that make this more complex for an outsider like me.

Here’s something: Over 400 commissioners present and eligible to vote on the appointment of Rev. Rennie on Saturday night chose not to vote at all. Maybe these 400 commissioners are sympathetic but not yet ready to publicly declare their conviction. Could it be that the leaders of the Kirk are giving them an extra two years to gather themselves to join the fight?

If so, Rev. Rennie and his allies in the Kirk have their work cut out for them.