Williams urges gay ordination opponents: Stay with The Kirk

(Photo: Reuters / Yui Mok / Pool)The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is embraced at the Assembly Hall of Church House, after a vote of the General Synod of the Church of England in London November 20, 2012. The Church of England voted against legislation that would have allowed the ordination of women bishops, the culmination of more than 10 years of divisive debate, after the proposal failed to win the backing of lay members.

A number of evangelical congregations within the Church of Scotland have threatened to break away due to opposition to the ordination of gay ministers.

The general assembly of the church is to vote on whether to permit the ordination of gay ministers at its May 18 to 23 general assembly in Edinburgh.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has however, urged those congregations considering such a measure not to "walk away" over the ordination of gay ministers.

"The impulse to walk away, while deeply understandable, is not a very constructive one," he told the newspaper Scotland on Sunday on May 5.

Williams' remarks follow earlier reports by the newspaper that the national Church of Scotland, which is independent of State control, is facing a breakaway by up to 50 congregations if its general assembly votes to allow the ordination of openly homosexual ministers.

Two congregations and a number of church ministers have left over the gay ordinations, which they believe, is against biblical teachings and others are threatening to leave to join the more socially conservative Free Church.

Williams stepped down as the spiritual leader of the 80-million worldwide Anglican at the end of 2012, but among other duties, he has become the new chair of Christian Aid, an organization that fights against poverty and for development.

"The things which bind Christians together are almost always more profound and significant for themselves and the world than the things that divide them.

"When you do walk away from other Christians you are in effect saying well, either I can do without you or I've got nothing to learn from you. That can't be good for us. You may disagree, you may think somebody else is tacitly perverse, but you might want to hang in there with them."

The Church of Scotland, also known as The Kirk, is a Presbyterian church and not part of the Anglican Communion, but it works closely with Christian Aid, and Williams is visiting Scotland as chairman of that organization.

In Scotland on Sunday Williams said he said it would be "inappropriate to comment on a sister church with its own issues," noting however that the Church community is part of a wider family and there is a case for keeping it together.

While Williams was Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion was dogged by the threat of schism by churches over the issue of the ordination of homosexual clergy, with especially strong opposition coming from churches in some African and Asian countries.

There are churches with strong ties to the Church of Scotland in countries as Malawi and Zambia with strong opposition to same-sex marriage.

"We are stuck with each other, in a very important way. If we believe as I do that God calls us into the church, rather than choosing to sign up, then God's calling us to find our way in the company of these people however obnoxious some of them may seem. You don't agree with all the members of your family, but it's a family."

Around 42 percent of Scotland's 5.3 million people claim an affiliation to The Kirk, but less than 10 percent are pledged members of the church.

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