Annual Kirk assembly to discuss gay ministers

Rev David Arnott
Image caption The Reverend David Arnott is the incoming moderator for the assembly

The Church of Scotland's General Assembly is under way in Edinburgh.

Among topics to be considered is the ordination of gay ministers - one of the most divisive issues faced by the assembly since it first met in 1560.

It follows the appointment of the Reverend Scott Rennie to Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009.

The meeting will also discuss reaching out to people who have no desire to go to church, by attending events such as the Rock Ness music festival.

The Kirk wants to consider how to engage with 90% of the Scottish population who currently do not attend worship.

Council convener, the Reverend Mark Johnstone, said the church was focusing on outreach, rather than methods which invite others to come to them.

He added: "Rockness is one option which church officials are considering to explore further.

"We would like to approach the Rockness organisers for informal discussions but we must stress these plans are at a very early stage."

He said the church may also attend Cowal Highland Gathering, claimed to be the largest Highland games in the world.

Other issues under discussion include solar panels on church roofs, and an incentive scheme for newly-qualified ministers to go to rural congregations.

Society's margins

The incoming moderator for the Kirk's annual business meeting is the Reverend David Arnott, 65, who has taken over from the Reverend John Christie.

The meeting, which runs until 27 May, was formally opened with Mr Arnott being sworn into office.

The former chaplain to one of Scotland's toughest jails said there would be several important issues for commissioners to decide at this year's assembly.

Mr Arnott, who has ministered in St Andrews, the Lothians and Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison, said: "The topics at this year's assembly reflect how the church interacts with society.

"Several debates show the church's great concern for those on the margins of our society.

"Several debates will concentrate on the constant need there is in the church to be re-examining how we can be 'church' in the 21st Century."

On Sunday, regular morning services will be held at St Giles' Cathedral and Greyfriars Tolbooth, and a free public event showcasing the "best of the Church of Scotland" is to start at 1300 BST in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens.

Mr Arnott said: "Roll Away the Stone in Princes Street Gardens, on Sunday afternoon, will offer a wonderful opportunity to showcase so much of what the church is about .

"We hope church members and passers-by alike, will take time to enjoy this exciting event."

Monday has been set aside for commissioners to discuss a church report on the issue of same-sex relationships and the ministry.

It comes after the topic hit the headlines two years ago with an attempt by traditionalist members to block the appointment of openly-gay minister Mr Rennie.

The assembly voted in support of the minister, following a lengthy debate, but called for a special commission to study the general issue "for the sake of the peace and unity of the church".

This year's Lord High Commissioner, the Queen's representative at the General Assembly, is Lord Wilson of Tillyorn.

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