By Hilary White

EDINBURGH, May 29, 2009 ( – Archbishop Desmond Tutu has endorsed the decision of the Church of Scotland to appoint an openly active homosexual to the ministry. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, known as the Kirk, in a vote on Saturday of 326 to 267 confirmed the appointment of Scott Rennie, an openly active homosexual, as the minister of Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen.

On Wednesday, Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Prize-winning Anglican Bishop Emeritus of Cape Town, in his address to the General Assembly, said that he found it amazing that churches are discussing “who goes to bed with whom” when people are dying of starvation, AIDS and in wars.

Rennie told the BBC News on Sunday night that he did not think that this vote is the “end of the row” within the Church of Scotland. “The Church is on a journey of discovery, of talking with each other about homosexuality.”

The General Assembly later voted for a two-year moratorium on any more ordinations of homosexual ministers and agreed not to discuss the issue publicly during that time.

Tutu compared the ordination of homosexuals to that of women in the Anglican Communion, saying, “I would find it impossible to stand by when people are being persecuted for something about which they can do nothing – their sexual orientation.”

Scott Rennie’s story is similar to that of US Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, whose confirmation as bishop of New Hampshire was the starting point for the ongoing crisis in the Worldwide Anglican Communion. Robinson had at one point been married and had two children. Rennie was also married for five years and has one daughter. Ruth and Scott Rennie separated and divorced and Scott Rennie is now in an ongoing relationship with another man.

Ruth Rennie told the Scotsman newspaper that those who opposed the election of her former husband as the minister of Queens Cross “lacked compassion.” “In his ministry,” she said, “Scott is a naturally sensitive and caring person, and what he has faced up to has probably made him an even better pastor.”

In 2008, after Scott Rennie told the congregation of Queen’s Cross that he is an active homosexual living with another man, they elected him as their minister by 140 votes to 28. This selection was later upheld by the Presbytery of Aberdeen by 60 votes to 24. This made Rennie the first openly homosexual minister to be confirmed in the Kirk.

The decision, however, was later contested by a group of 12 ministers and elders in Aberdeen and the question was deferred to this year’s General Assembly, the highest court of the church and its governing body, which met from May 21-27.

As with many mainstream Protestant denominations, the Kirk is experiencing deep divisions over the issue of homosexuality. In 1994, a report from the Kirk’s Panel on Doctrine, endorsed unanimously by the Panel’s working party, concluded, “Cohabiting couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual, may well display all the marks of loving, faithful and committed partnership, and should not be thought sinful.”


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