There is something about gender and sexuality that seems to split asunder one church after another these days. Last year the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion failed to resolve profound differences over whether gays and women should be made bishops. This month the Catholic church in Ireland has been pilloried for years of mistreatment, including sexual abuse, of children in its care. This week, less dramatically, it was only some deft manoeuvring that kept the Church of Scotland in one piece.
The Kirk’s general assembly, the annual gathering of ministers and lay folk who dictate policy for the church as a whole, decided by 326 votes to 267 that an Aberdeen congregation had broken no rules in choosing the Rev Scott Rennie, a divorced father who lives with his male partner, to be their pastor. But it also said that no more gays should be ordained for two years, while a church commission ponders whether the practice ought in fact to be allowed. Mr Rennie claims that there are already “tens” of ministers who dare not admit openly to being gay.