The Church of Scotland is part of the Presbyterian tradition. A gay clergyman, Scott Rennie, was recently appointed to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen, but the bigger news is that his appointment was affirmed this past week by the churchwide assembly. “In a ground-breaking move, the church’s ruling body voted by 326 to 267 in support of the Rev. Scott Rennie, the church said in a news release Sunday,” according to CNN.
In his blog, Madpriest, (an Anglican priest in England) commends the Scots for putting principle ahead of concerns over possible schismatic fallout.
What really struck me about how the Scots handled this potentially damaging matter was this. Although the reactionaries, as reactionaries are wont, immediately played the schism card at the start of the troubles, the elders of the Church of Scotland pretty much ignored it. When they came to debate the matter they concentrated on theology and the constitution of their church not on pragmatic issues concerning the future of their church. They consistently refused to be blackmailed or intimidated.
As my own church (ELCA) prepares for contentious consideration of gay clergy issues this summer at their churchwide assembly, church unity is often raised as a reason against affirming gay clergy. The fractious experience of the Episcopal church is cited as an example. But, the polity over principle argument merely postpones and does not resolve the issue, and is inherently unfair. Neither Martin Luther nor Martin Luther King shied from the unsettling consequences of their actions, and kudos to the Scots for their courage.
In his latest post, Madpriest suggests a movement is afoot by some dissenting Church of Scotland congregations to withhold funds from the churchwide organization.
Tennesee Presbyterian minister John Shuck suggests this morning that the celebrations over the Church of Scotland sitituation may have been premature. While the ordination of gay clergyman Scott Rennie stands as reported, other actions by the church body are less progressive:
John Knox struck up the alleluias too soon it appears. The Church of Scotland (behaving like all superstitious and fearful cults–like the PCUSA) gave into its homophobic element. I praised it yesterday for approving an openly gay man as minister. The backlash has begun.
Instead of outright rejecting a motion similar to the PCUSA’s G-6.0106b (effectively banning gays without mentioning them), the General Assembly decided to set up a commission. From the BBC:
At its General Assembly in Edinburgh, it was decided instead that a special commission should be set up to consider the matter and report in 2011.
There will be a two-year ban on the future ordination of gay ministers.
Church of Scotland has avoided a potentially damaging debate about whether gay people should be allowed to become Kirk ministers.
“Avoided a potentially damaging debate” says the news. Potentially damaging to whom? Those of us who have watched commission after commission in the 35 year struggle in the PCUSA know what these commissions end up doing.
The Church of Scotland will experience a shit storm of fear-mongering for two years. At the end of this time, the beleaguered commission will come up with some report. It makes no difference what the report will say. Fundamentalist forces will wrest control and tell the same lies and offer the same threats that have been made here for the past third of a century. Then they will come up with some horrific rule (just like G-6.0106b).
The Church of Scotland will be no further ahead then than they are now.
It was fun for a day.