An openly gay minister on Sunday praised the decision of the Church of Scotland to dismiss a challenge to his appointment by religious conservatives — the latest case involving sexuality to create a division in the Anglican Communion.
The church's ruling body voted 326 to 267 Saturday to support the appointment of the Rev. Scott Rennie, 37, who was previously married to a woman and is now in a relationship with a man.
Rennie was first appointed as a minister 10 years ago, but has faced opposition since he moved to a church in Aberdeen, Scotland, last year. He has been unable to take up his post while the Church of Scotland considered appeals from his critics.
"I'm relieved, humbled, I'm obviously pleased and I'm really looking forward to going to be with my new congregation," Rennie told reporters on Sunday. "I've had a long time to wait, they've had a long time to wait and I'm just glad we can get on with life."
Protesters had lobbied the Kirk — the Church of Scotland's ruling executive — over Rennie's case, saying his appointment was not consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
"We are absolutely opposed to that on the basis of what God has to say about homosexuality in the Bible," said one opponent, Pastor Jack Bell of the Zion Baptist Church in Glasgow, Scotland.
The case has divided Scottish religious leaders and follows tensions within the worldwide 77 million-member Anglican Communion. About 900 elders and ministers took part in a debate on Rennie's case, but many chose to abstain from casting a vote.
Lengthy debate over sexuality issues
Anglicans have conducted a lengthy debate over sexuality issues since the Episcopal Church — the Anglican body in the U.S. — consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003.
Rennie said he believed religious conservatives were behind attempts to oust him from his post.
"The same talk was about when women were ordained, and I think that argument suits those that don't want any change," he told Britain's Sky News television on Saturday.
Following the vote to back Rennie, Scotland's Equality and Human Rights Commission said the Church of Scotland had proven itself to be "a modern church for a modern Scotland."
"We are certain that this decision will be welcomed by the majority of Scots and certainly the majority of Queen's Cross parish in Aberdeen who overwhelmingly demonstrated their support for Mr. Rennie," said Alyson Thomson, a commission spokeswoman.