Kirk celebrates half a century of ordained women ministers

STANDING by the statue of John Knox, some women turned to face the figure of the preacher, imitating his raised arm gesture and cheering.

Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 9:27 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 9:31 am
Female Ministers and supporters processed up The Mound in Edinburgh to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women into ministry in the Church of Scotland.

Knox, a hero of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the ­Monstrous Regiment of Women in 1588, attacking female monarchs and arguing that rule by women was contrary to the Bible.

The Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood, a former Kirk Moderator, said Knox was “probably birlin’” at the gathering of women in the quad under his statue yesterday.

She was one of some 500 women, including almost 200 female Kirk ministers, who marched up The Mound in Edinburgh to the General Assembly building to mark the 50th anniversary of the decision to ordain women ministers in 1968.

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It may have been a poignant moment for some, but it was certainly a powerful symbol, not lest to those locals and tourists who watched on.

Yet even now in 2018, “Pockets of resistance” against appointing women ministers and elders still exists in parts of Scotland, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland heard yesterday.

The Highlands and north-west of Scotland have been identified as still being reluctant to appoint women as ministers and elders. Rev Morag Muirhead of Fort William Duncansburgh McIntosh Parish Church in Fort William, said that the “resistance” could come from both the old and young.

She said: “There are still a few who don’t have women elders, and some who won’t have a woman in their pulpit.

“The tradition in some areas is that the minister should always be a man and women shouldn’t speak, based on how they interpret parts of Scripture. 
“A lot of young folk are like that too.”

Rev Margaret Forester is one of six women who petitioned the Kirk to achieve the historic 1968 breakthrough, referring to herself as “007, Licence to Preach”. She said: “Effectively we were gagged by the Church we sought to love and serve but there is still much to be done. There are some congregations where there are no women elders.”

Rev Dr George Whyte, principal clerk to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, commenting on claims of Kirk discrimination against appointing women ministers and elders in parts of Scotland, said they understood the depth of feeling.

He said: “We do recognise that some women feel isolated.

“But the appointment of ministers is shared between the congregation and presbytery. Chosen change is better than forced change. Headquarters can’t issue instructions on these matters.”

The Kirk currently has 194 women ministers (25.7 per cent) and 753 male ministers.

The first female Moderator was appointed in 2004.

The fourth, appointed this month, is the Rev Susan Brown of Dornoch Cathedral in Sutherland, who grew up just a few miles away in Penicuik in Midlothian.