South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has applauded the Kirk for approving the controversial appointment of a gay minister to a north-east church.
The world-renowned religious leader said upholding Scott Rennie’s move from Brechin Cathedral to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen was “merciful”.
Archbishop Tutu said he related to 37-year-old Mr Rennie’s struggle over the last five months due to his own battle against apartheid that penalised people for “something about which they could do nothing about”.
The Nobel Peace Prize recipient said: “I would find it impossible to stand by when people are being persecuted for something about which they can do nothing – their sexual orientation.
“I find it a little difficult to understand, when from all that we know about our Lord, he would have been on the side of the oppressed and on the side of those in the minority.”
Archbishop Tutu, who addressed the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland yesterday, said he found it amazing that churches are discussing “who goes to bed with whom” when people are dying of starvation, Aids and are involved in conflicts.
In a call for unity, he told commissioners, who are divided over Mr Rennie’s appointment, that there are “no outsiders” in the church family.
“We are all children of our heavenly father, the rich, the poor, the lame, the blind, the clever, the not-so-clever, the white, the black, the red, the yellow,” he added.
“The Palestinian, the Israeli, Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush. Lesbian, gay, so-called straight – all.”
Archbishop Tutu received a standing ovation, and many delegates said his address was the highlight of the event which finished yesterday.
Kirk moderator Bill Hewitt told Archbishop Tutu, who was awarded an honorary degree from Edinburgh University yesterday, he was an irrepressible, inspirational and noble voice.
Meanwhile, a minister has claimed Kirk members appalled by the controversial decision to appoint Mr Rennie are considering joining the Free Church of Scotland.
An evangelical minister said last night the decision was the “lowest point in living memory” for conservative Kirk members.
They are of the opinion that active homosexuality is contrary to the teachings of the Bible.
The minister, who asked not to be named, said: “People up and down the country feel awful about what has happened.
“If the Free Church of Scotland made agreeable noises I, and many others, would be willing to sit down and listen because of all the hurt people are feeling.”
Many Free Church of Scotland ministers and members signed an online petition that opposed Mr Rennie’s appointment.
Aberdeen University theology professor John Swinton has been appointed to a special Kirk commission which will examine the issue of inducting and ordaining homosexuals into the ministry.