A group within the Church of Scotland opposed to same-sex marriage has issued an apology after posting a statement about LGBT rights on Monday, the day following the massacre in Orlando.
Covenant Fellowship Scotland, a protest movement set up in 2014 to oppose the Kirk’s proposals to permit congregations to appoint ministers and deacons in same-sex relationships, said its statement was in response to the recent decision of the Church’s General Assembly to allow individual churches to call ministers in same-sex marriage.
The “post General Assembly statement” read: “We remain deeply saddened by the Church’s continued travel down the road of allowing Ministers and Deacons to live in same-sex relationships, having now extended this from civil partnerships to include same-sex marriage.
“Attempting to portray this as merely a ‘tidying up’ exercise to reflect civil law cannot be justified. Many in Assembly expressed great sadness that the Scriptural model of marriage as between one man and one woman has been abandoned in this way.
“We are very clear that, with the expectation of a report on same-sex marriage from the Theological Forum at the 2017 General Assembly, the voices of the significant proportion of members of the Church who are opposed to [same-sex relationships] have to be heard and acknowledged…”
The timing of the statement was described by one Kirk minister as “utterly incredulous”. While the group has apologised for the timing “being insensitive and inappropriate in the light of events in Orlando, Florida”, it has not removed the offending statement.
Commenting on the Orlando killings, Covenant Fellowship Scotland added: “There are many, many people hurting deeply at this time as the result of this violent and unjustified attack. Such violence against any human being is unacceptable and our response is a clear and unequivocal condemnation of these acts.” The group did not, however, specifically mention the LGBT community that had been targeted.
Rev Bryan Kerr, minister at Greyfriars, Lanark and a member of OneKirk, a network of congregations and church members who support same-sex marriage and which works towards “an inclusive, affirming and progressive church”, told The Herald he was shocked the statement had been put up so quickly following the Orlando tragedy.
Mr Kerr said: “We know there are different opinions within the Church of Scotland about inclusion, but for a group to publicly post a statement saying that they are saddened that the Kirk is moving towards full inclusion of LGBTI ministers and members the day after 49 people were murdered for being LGBTI is utterly incredulous.
“Right now we ought to be standing with the victims and families in Orlando. I am saddened and angry that within the Church of Scotland there exists a group who felt that making that statement here and now was a good idea.”
At the recent General Assembly, church commissioners voted by a margin of 339 to 215 to allow individual congregations to “depart” from official teaching and appoint clergy in same-sex marriages. The Church of Scotland will consider a report of the Theological Forum during next year’s General Assembly.