Protest over appointment of gay minister spreads to isles parishes

The international protest over the appointment of a gay minister to a Church of Scotland parish in Aberdeen has spread to Shetland with some parishioners boycotting their local kirk.

The revolt is believed to centre around Cunningsburgh but the first known protest was back in May at the Uyeasound kirk in Unst when author and retired teacher Frank Renwick, Baron of Ravenstone, stood up to announce that he and his wife Eyvor would no longer be attending.

Cunningsburgh and the South Mainland is where the Reverend Charles Greig preaches. He is clerk to the Presbytery of Shetland and was one of the delegates from Shetland who attended the church’s General Assembly in Edinburgh in May where a vote took place to confirm the appointment of the openly gay Rev Scott Rennie as minister of Queen’s Cross in Aberdeen. Rev Greig was accompanied by two other local ministers, Magnie Williamson and Tom McIntyre,
and three church elders from Shetland.

The Shetland Times was unable to speak to Rev Greig this week to confirm the size and spread of the boycott although it is apparently not being experienced in parishes such as Lerwick.

Mr Renwick, when asked for a comment on the issue, did not feel qualified because he is actually a supporter of the Free Church of Scotland.

He said he only attended the Uyeasound kirk each week because it is his local, adding: “I did obviously feel very strongly … but I have had my problems with the Church of Scotland long before that.” He said the kirk had been departing from its traditional standards of the faith for a long time. “This was just the latest step in the downward path.”

The appointment of an openly homosexual minister has caused a split in the Kirk between those accepting of gay rights and those demanding no departure from centuries of Protestant tradition.

An online petition opposing Rev Rennie’s appointment was signed by over 12,000 people, including over 1,000 ministers from various churches.

When he was selected in January it provoked an objection from some ministers and elders in Aberdeen because the church had yet to decide a policy to alter its historic position that “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, when they take up the subject of same-sex activity, present it as a wrong choice”. The matter was referred to the General Assembly for a decision.

Rev Rennie’s first service on Sunday went without protest at Queen’s Cross except for a placard nailed to the door the previous night. He was previously minister of Brechin Cathedral and at one time was married to a woman.


Add Your Comment
  • Peg Young

    • July 11th, 2009 15:44

    It is stories like this that sadly remind me of some of the reasons I left Scotland many years ago. It is ironic to me that those who claim to be Christians seem to conveniently forget some of the statements in the book which they say guides them.

    According to Genesis 1:24 we are all made “…in [God’s] image, according to [His] likeness…” By shunning homosexuals, those not on “the downward path” are surely turning away from God, are they not?

    Secondly, the founder of their faith is reported to have said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back at you.” (Matthew 7:1) That sounds very much like Karma to me, or as they say here in North America: “What goes around, comes around.” We should be careful what we wish for!

    From what I’ve read of scholarly interpretations of the Biblical references to homosexuality, the whole “abomination” thing seems to be more about misogyny than the idea of men loving men. For a man to be penetrated by a male was to be in the place of a woman–weak and womanish– and therefore considered unacceptable to society at the time of writing. Wasted seed and all that…..Of course, in today’s “liberated” world, such an argument would be considered ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

    When I hear the sanctimonious homophobic huffing and puffing I am reminded of Gertrude’s reply when asked her opinion of the play: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (Hamlet, III,2.) My response is always, “What is your problem….really? Why should it matter to you who someone else is attracted to–or loves– or sleeps with? What possible difference can it make in your life? ”

    I love my homosexual son as I love my other children, and wish for him all the rights that I enjoy. I worry for him more than for the others because of homophobia in all its forms. I wish for him a life of love, peace, and happiness as I wish for all people. I wish that people would focus on much more pressing issues like poverty, injustice or war instead of being hung up on who is sleeping with whom.

    The Bible can be used to support any argument, but to use it to malign fellow-humans is hypocrisy at its worst. Perhaps those upstanding Christians would be better served by a careful read of some Burns. “Holy Willie’s Prayer” and “To A Louse” might offer them the opportunity to gain some insight and the wisdom to cry:

    O wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!
    It wad frae monie a blunder free us
    An foolish notion. . . . (“To a Louse”)

  • Jamie

    • July 11th, 2009 18:54

    It is nice to see that in this day and age that there are still homophobic bigots alive and well in Shetland. it is about time you stopped living in the 18th century and rejoined reality.

  • Paula Stein

    • July 13th, 2009 16:44

    Tradition is a concept with tremendous weight and power. It is the foundation of who we are, the link to our ancestry and the promise that, as a society and culture, we continue into the future. For many people, tradition is the source of structure and law and identity; to some it is even more than law or identity, it is a religion in and of itself. Tradition, however, is a double-edged sword. Viciousness and war, like many other behaviours, is often rooted in tradition and justified because that is the way things have always been.
    Tradition roots us and grounds us and gives us hope because of who we were, but it also visits destruction upon us and denies change. It seems to me consummate foolishness to hold unyieldingly to tradition for its own sake, without regard for changes that have taken place in the world around us.
    The world is constantly changing. Change is the way of nature, and much as some individuals would like to hold mankind as separate from nature, it is not so. If the roots of our perceptions and traditions hold static, then we are doomed to destructive dogma.
    It is well past time that folks who hold fast to traditions that deny the divine in all our fellow human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation, let go of those malevolent precepts.

  • George Smith

    • July 17th, 2009 9:11

    Thanks for reminding me why, as a gay man, I left Shetland 12 years ago.


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