Kirk appeal for unity and respect as sexuality debate begins

By staff writers
May 20, 2013

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Lorna Hood, has called for respect for the wide range of views among Kirk members.

In a sermon this morning at the General Assembly, the Church’s supreme court, just before the start of a landmark debate on potential ordination of ministers in same sex relationships, Ms Hood urged the 723 General Assembly commissioners (delegates) to unite.

The Church of Scotland, also known as the Kirk, is Scotland's largest Protestant denomination, and sits in the Presbyterian tradition. It is designated a 'national church', but it is not established in law and under the Crown, as the (Anglican) Church of England is south of the border.

Ms Hood deliberately brought forward the 'Sharing of the Peace' in Assembly worship today, a stage of the service in which members of the Church traditionally shake hands with both friends and strangers around them, declaring: “The peace of God be with you”. This usually happens at a later stage in the service after communion.

The Moderator explained: “By seeking first to love one another as Christ loves us we do not ignore our differences but we do commit ourselves to resolving them without destroying one another and the Church Christ died for. And that can be messy and frustrating and at times discouraging and disappointing."

She continued: “Of course our convictions are important....a church without convictions, even differing convictions lacks integrity. But our convictions must never become blind passion or dare I say lead us to separate one from another."

Ms Hood went on: “[Catholic spiritual writer] Henri Nouwen, in his book, Can You Drink the Cup?, wrote that 'Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope'.

"He goes on to compare community to a large mosaic... with little insignificant pieces of all shapes and colours. As individual stones we can do nothing with them but compare them and judge their beauty and value. When however all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic representing the face of Christ who can question the importance of any one of them. And if one of them, even the least spectacular is missing the face is incomplete.

"What picture will we paint? Love one another as I have loved you, by this the world will know you are my disciples. Can it be any other?”

Earlier in her sermon at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, Ms Hood commented: “Today we know that not only our own church but other denominations are listening and watching – indeed many outside the church and in different parts of the world are listening and watching. Whatever the decisions we make our motives and conduct will be scrutinised and debated. [There will be] inches of column space, letters of comment for and against.

“But what is commented upon, what journalists and others write about is yet to take place. The paint has yet to go on the canvas. The colours and hues still to be decided. What picture will we paint? How will we define ourselves? What distinguishing characteristics will we emphasise?”

The Kirk has now begun to consider a lengthy report from a special Theological Commission examining questions of theology, scriptural authority, law and church order in relation to the further ordination of ministers in same sex relationships.

Several years ago the Aberdeen Presbytery, using proper procedure, confirmed the call to ministry of Scott Rennie, an openly gay man.

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The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is meeting in Edinburgh from 18-24 May 2013. Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow and consultant Carla J Roth are there all week, reporting, liaising and commenting.

* Ekklesia reports and commentary from the 2013 Kirk General Assembly, plus those from 2012 and 2011: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/kirkgeneralassembly

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.