Church told “get a grip” in row over unmarried minister

© Steven Brown

The Church of Scotland has been told to “get a grip” after an unmarried reverend was unable to fill a ministerial vacancy in Fife.

Congregations in Freuchie and Falkand had been looking forward to welcoming former NHS hospital chaplain Rev Sandy Young as their new minister at the start of the month.

But Rev Young stepped down at the last minute, citing personal reasons.

It is understood he was prevented from taking up the post because of church rules requiring ministers who are living with a partner to be married or in a civil partnership.

One parishioner, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The Church of Scotland have to get a grip. We’re not living in the 19th century any more.

Freuchie and Falkland interim moderator David Murdoch said: “I urged the congregations… to look to the future in faith, to move forward with hope and to support and love their new minister and their fellow members in the linked charges.

“Sadly that latter point was rendered impossible after I received an email from Rev Sandy Young while in Tenerife withdrawing his acceptance of our call for personal reasons.

“How saddened I was and I know that those of you who heard him preach as sole nominee will feel the same.”

Mr Murdoch, who has been in post for three years, has since stood down.

It was recently decided in Freuchie and Falkland that interim moderators should serve for shorter periods because of the workload involved.

The Courier was unable to contact Rev Young, who was formerly lead chaplain at the Lothian University Hospitals NHS Trust.

And St Andrews Presbytery would not comment on Rev Young’s reasons for withdrawing his application.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “There was an applicant for this part-time position who during the process decided to withdraw. The congregation wishes the person well.”

Clarifying the church’s stance on unmarried ministers, the spokesperson added: “The Church of Scotland requires its parish ministers to adhere to church common law, tradition and practice.

“A parish minister who plans to live with a partner should either be married, or in the case of same-sex relationships in a civil partnership.

“Under church common law, unmarried parish ministers are expected to remain celibate unless and until the relationship is regularised.”