By Sam McBride and Hilary Duncanson
Relations between Irish Presbyterians and the Scottish church from whence they came four centuries ago have been strained by the Church of Scotland decision to allow gay ministers.
On Monday the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly voted to permit its ministers to enter homosexual relationships – while at the same time reaffirming traditional church teaching that such relationships are wrong.
Yesterday (May 21) the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said that the vote would have implications for how the two churches relate to each other.
The two churches have not seen eye-to-eye on a number of issues in recent years as the Church of Scotland has adopted more liberal positions.
Presbyterian Moderator the Rt Rev Dr Roy Patton, who was present as a guest at the Edinburgh General Assembly – and who spoke strongly against the proposed change – said yesterday: “Presbyterians in Ireland will have difficulty agreeing with yesterday’s decision of the Church of Scotland which, pending a further decision next year, will probably allow for the ordination of actively gay ministers by 2015.
“While the Church of Scotland also reaffirmed its traditional belief of faithfulness within marriage between a man and woman and celibacy outside of that, which the Presbyterian Church would hold to, it is in danger of saying one thing while allowing congregations to do another.
“I respect the desire of the Assembly to find a unified position but think that the lack of clarity will make people, both church members and others, wonder exactly what the Church of Scotland’s position really is on this important issue.
“While a decision of the Church of Scotland has no standing within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Monday’s vote will clearly put further strain on the good relationships that we have traditionally and historically enjoyed.”