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Christian charity under fire for biblical marriage stance

July 2019

Andy Bathgate
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Scripture Union Scotland has come under fire from within the Scottish Kirk because of the charity’s theological stance when hiring volunteers.

Rev. David Young, minister at Helensburgh Parish Church, told the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, ‘A member of my staff was told she would not be welcome in helping to lead a Scripture Union group because she is in a same-sex marriage’.

He claimed it was not an isolated incident, with another youth worker stating the charity’s values statement was harming the Kirk’s relationship with schools.

Rev. Young went public with his comments in The Times, claiming ‘deeply Christian people with demonstrable records in working with young people’ were being discriminated against.

SU Scotland’s ethos statement for volunteers is in accordance with laws that permit Christian organisations to hire staff that accord with their strongly-held religious beliefs.

The statement says, ‘In our present culture we feel the need to emphasise SU staff and volunteers display distinctiveness in the area of sexual purity, avoiding even a hint of sexual immorality’.

Andy Bathgate, chief executive of SU Scotland, told Evangelical Times, ‘We welcome the opportunity to have further conversations with the Councils of the Church of Scotland to explain our position following the discussion that took place at their General Assembly.

‘Although recently we clarified our ethos statement for staff and volunteers, this didn’t mark any change in our approach. We have always been open about the fact that we are a Christian charity and it is our expectation that those who volunteer on our behalf share our Christian beliefs and values’.

He added, ‘We give young people opportunities and a safe space to explore and consider Christianity for themselves and to try a range of activities and holidays where they have fun and make lasting friendships’.

In a separate incident, another Church of Scotland parish church in Dumfriesshire has faced a backlash for maintaining the biblical position that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Glencairn and Moniaive parish church and Dunscore parish church share a minister. After the incumbent’s retirement, the churches considered whether to allow those in a civil partnership or same-sex marriage to apply for the position.

While Dunscore was in favour, Glencairn and Moniaive was not, which meant the status quo remains.

According to The Christian Institute, people took to social media to vent their anger against Glencairn and Moniaive. One wrote, ‘Absolutely despicable that anyone’s marital status should even be requested upon submitting a job application’.

Organisations with a distinct religious ethos can be exempt from some employment discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010.