I have been so saddened by the fact that a small minority within the Church of Scotland has mounted a campaign against Queen's Cross Church, Aberdeen's decision to appoint its new minister, on the grounds that they can't accept that he is living with another man.
I know Scott Rennie, the minister in question. He is one of the kindest and most compassionate people I have ever met and he is so well suited to the job he's doing. I wonder how many of the people who have signed the online petition against him have actually taken the time to meet him and get to know him.
When I went to University, 24 years ago, I went as a committed Christian. It didn't take long, away from my somewhat sheltered background, for my beliefs to unravel and the major catalyst to that was the intolerance within the Christian Union to my gay friends. It was clear that they weren't welcome just on the basis of their sexuality. That seemed fundamentally unfair to me and I ultimately decided that if you had to be like that to be in the Church, then I wasn't going to bother, thank you very much.
From what I remember of the accounts in the Bible, Jesus just called people to him. He didn't go into their backgrounds or sexuality or private life. He put himself out there to be followed by whoever wanted to.
There are people within the Liberal Democrats with whom I have some basic differences on issues. I know that I am very much in the minority on some of them too. There's room within our core values and philosophy for all points of view and I don't really see why the Church of Scotland should be any different.
The good thing is that it is only a very small minority of people who have become involved in the campaign against Scott. I heard some very wise and accepting views expressed by members of the clergy and the church alike on a Radio Scotland phone in this morning and I am sure that they will prevail at the General Assembly vote later this month.
I think that one of the interesting things that Scott was quoted as saying in the newspaper article was that gay Christians could feel isolated from both communities -sometimes the Church couldn't handle people being gay, but also some elements of the gay community couldn't handle Christianity. If they've had a bad experience, the latter is hardly surprising. It's people like Scott who can help bring both together. It's as unfair to expect someone to ignore their spiritual beliefs and needs as it is to expect them to deny and suppress their sexuality.
I remember all the angst and pain of the ordination of women debate within the Church of England. It was very difficult for the brave women who sought ordination and who had to endure some pretty unacceptable discrimination. Nearly 20 years on, women priests are accepted and respected within their communities, churches and dioceses.
Let's hope that it doesn't take that long for gay and lesbian clergy in all churches to feel that they can be open about their sexuality if they want to without fear of recrimination.
Update: Have a look at Lallands Peat Warrior's views on this and on religion in general.
Update 2: Mr MacNumpty has now put up a thoughtful post asking why Scott Rennie bothers and being glad that he does.
Update 3: This issue really is inspiring some good quality stuff. Today's offerings come first from the ever wise Cicero.
Then a very moving account of his own experience coming to terms with his sexuality within a conservative religious environment from my friend Stephen. It made me cry.
There is also now a Facebook cause in support of Scott. I didn't start it, and I don't know the person who did, but it's growing fast.
Update 4: A blog post from one of Scott's fellow Church of Scotland's Ministers expressing hope that the Assembly will support Scott.