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Church of Scotland Moves Toward Gay Inclusion

Church of Scotland Moves Toward Gay Inclusion


The Church of Scotland, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, has lifted a moratorium on the appointment of openly gay or lesbian ministers and taken steps toward further acceptance of gay clergy.

The church's General Assembly voted Monday to end the moratorium, imposed in 2009 after Scott Rennie became the denomination's first openly gay, partnered minister. The assembly agreed that openly gay clergy members who were ordained before 2009 can be appointed as pastors and that closeted clergy can come out, but it ordered a study, due in 2013, on whether to ordain out gays and lesbians in the future and whether to allow pastors to bless same-sex unions.

The issue of gay clergy is proving divisive in the church. Debate ran for six hours Monday at the General Assembly meeting, held in Edinburgh. The Reverend Andrew Coghill, a leading conservative, likened the acceptance of gay clergy to "a hand grenade," saying, "We're being asked to pull the pin out, and it will blow the church apart," London's Guardian newspaper reported.

On the other side, South African-born minister Willem Bezuidenhout said discrimination against gay clergy members reminded him of the use of the Bible to justify apartheid. "Some of the gay Christians I know will be much better Christians than I will ever be," he added.

The Right Reverend David Arnott (pictured, center), the new head of the church, told reporters it is too early to gauge the impact of Monday's moves. "This direction is one that explores inclusion, but the new theological commission will report in two years' time on that matter, and no decisions have yet been made," he said, according to the U.K. Press Association. We very much hope that people who disagree with what has been decided will nevertheless remain in the church and work with us as we seek to find a way forward."

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