Kirk wobbles on sexual morality

Woke up this morning to the news that the Church of Scotland had overturned a complaint about a newly installed prebyter who “shares a committed relationship with his Christian partner David”. Ruth has more:

The unity of the Church of Scotland could be at stake tonight as the General Assembly has upheld the appointment of the openly-gay Scott Rennie election to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen. Pink News reports that Rennie has the backing of ten ‘evangelical’ groups. Stewart Cutler has precise details. Looks like Thurible was among the first with the news.

Of course, the “evangelical” groups are no such thing. Organisations like Changing Attitude don’t even vaguely fall into that categorisation.

The vote was 55% to 45% in favour of Rennie, and that means that the game isn’t yet up. In particular, an “overture” to the General Assembly has been made that will  be heard Monday evening, and the wording of that is as follows:

That this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, readmit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

Given that last night’s vote was more to do with legal technicalities rather than doctrine, there is still a good chance that this Overture will pass and that Rennie will therefore not be able to take up his post afterall. It needs to be pointed out that the Overture is completely in line with orthodox Christian teaching. While the attempt to remove Rennie was questionable because nothing in the process to appoint him was done incorrectly (apart from the fact that he didn’t reveal his living arrangements until late in the process) and the appointment process doesn’t technically cover the issue of sexual practice, passing the Overture would change that. It would permit Presbyteries to ask direct questions about sexual practice and then to make decisions in response to that. It would also mean that any Presbytery that made a decision in contradiction to the language of the Overture could itself be open to censure from the wider Kirk.

So, the Kirk wobbles, but the final result in this saga may not be known for another 48 hours.

One more thing – the Herald raises this very interesting legal point:

Two years ago, this was acknowledged in the Kirk’s Act Anent Discrimination, which included sexual orientation among a list of grounds on which it would be illegal to discriminate. The intention was to give ministers an “equivalence” to the protection they would have under civil law.

The crucial difference, of course, is that sexual orientation is not the same as sexual practice. Mr Rennie’s application to be minister of Queen’s Cross was accompanied by a biographical statement which made clear that he is now divorced and “shares a committed relationship with his Christian partner David”.

What this country really needs is a test case to clarify the difference between sexual orientation and sexual practice. That is long overdue and would help to make the law in this area less muddy.

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5 Comments on “Kirk wobbles on sexual morality

  1. Even if Scott wasn’t in a partnership, the sort of people who made the original complaint would probably still have objected to his appointment ( is a minister allegedly leaving his wife for another man – from an evangelical perspective – significantly worse than leaving his wife because he chooses to accept a sexual orientation that is regarded as possibly changeable and certainly ungodly?). “Liberals” in the Kirk will recall what happened to the celibate Jeffrey John.

    • Hi Ryan,

      Scott Rennie did not “leave his wife for another man.” Rennie’s wife actually left him. Rennie did not meet his partner until two years later. Rennie’s wife, I believe, is fully supportive of his appointment and continuing ministry.
      People often assume, of gay- straight partnerships, that it is the gay partner who always leaves. After all, the heterosexual partner has what suits them, don’t they? This is not really true, many heterosexuals feel compromised staying with a gay partner and feel they need to be with another heterosexual to have their own sexuality and “personhood” validated. It takes a special sort of heterosexual spouse to stay with a gay spouse, it is often a sacrifice for them as well.

      • Sue, the part you have in quotation marks isn’t what I actually said; I wrote ” allegedly leaving his wife for another man”. This accusation was made and the (Forward in Faith perhaps?) organisation who did so had to print a retraction under threat of being sued by Scott. My point was that many who signed the petition *did* do so because they believe such things.
        Some would argue that the “blame” is still on the gay partner in your example for presumably taking vows and entering into a relationship they couldn’t fufil. It does depress me sometimes that evangelical women – who shouldn’t believe in worldly gay/straight paradigms – are so averse to dating guys with same sex desires/experience.

        • Sure,I appreciate you used the word “allegedly”. As to the idea of “blaming” gay people who enter into heterosexual marriage, I think this a little cut and dried as a view. If someone marries as a “cover” and fully intends to live a double life, I would agree. However, the situation is rarely so simple. Many LGBT people, especially from evangelical backgrounds can be deeply in denial about their true sexuality. They may have misguidely believed, and often been told by Christian pastors and counsellors that “it was a phase”, that they only needed to “find the right person and trust in the Holy Spirit to do the rest.” They may have submitted themselves to deliverance ministry, with all the harmful psychological impact that has. In a sense such people, who are often young and enormously vulnerable at the time they seek this help and counsel, are victims as well as the heterosexual spouse they marry.

          As for evangelical women who marry SSA guys – (and by no means all women are averse to this course!) well, such men are often attractive, sensitive, personable. The women are told by “those who know” that their future spouse has or can change with the love of a good woman – and they believe it. Only years of real experience teach both partners the reality of the situation.

          I would say in such a situation that both are victims to an extent and if both have compassion for each other and the relationship is strong, then a marriage can sometimes survive. I don’t think there should be any question of “blame” placed upon either partner when it doesn’t.

        • Oh, and you also say of a gay person being blamed for “vows they couldn’t fulfill.” How do you know that Rennie couldn’t fulfill his vows? Perhaps he said to his wife, “I can and will stay with you despite my sexuality” and she said , “No, I’ve met someone else.” ( I don’t know by the way – it is just a scenario!) Who would be “to blame” then ( if we are going to go down the path of attributing blame, which I wouldn’t personally!)

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