Kirk minister to address Highland Pride festival

A Church of Scotland minister will highlight the importance of challenging “hatred, discrimination and exclusion” when he addresses a LGBT+ festival in Inverness this weekend.

Rev Peter Nimmo said he accepted an invitation to be a keynote speaker at the opening of Proud Ness in a “gesture of solidarity and support” for people who have felt they have been discriminated against and misunderstood by the Church.

The minister of Old High St Stephen’s Church in Inverness said it was an “honour” to be asked to take part in the event on Saturday because he believed that everyone, regardless of who they are, is of equal worth.

Rev Peter Nimmo
Rev Peter Nimmo

Mr Nimmo will be speaking in a personal capacity and his gesture follows a decision made by the General Assembly in 2017 to endorse a call on the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels against gay people and apologise individually and corporately, while seeking to do better.

Proud Ness includes a parade which will start at Falcon Square, where the minister will address the crowd, head along Inglis Street and High Street to the Town House, then across the bridge and along the river to Eden Court theatre.

Organised by Highland LGBT Forum, which campaigns for the fair treatment of all LGBT people, the main event is being held at Eden Court and an after party will take place at the Mercure Hotel.

A spokeswoman said up to 2,000 people are expected to take part in the parade.

Support

Mr Nimmo was invited to speak at the event before it emerged that a petition calling on Highland Council to prevent Proud Ness from taking place was started by a local man, who claimed the event went against his religious beliefs.

“I was asked by the event organisers to say a few words at the start of the parade in order to show support for the LGBT community in Inverness and the Highlands,” said the Kirk minister.

“I feel honoured to be invited and pleased to hear that a number of clergy from the Church of Scotland and other denominations will be attending.

“I would encourage as many ministers as possible to come along.”

Mr Nimmo, who was ordained in 1996 and has served churches in Edinburgh and Glasgow, said he had been involved in several Highland LGBT Forum events over the years.

He took part in a seminar on LGBT and faith matters in 2012 and spoke at a vigil following the shootings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016.

Equal worth

Mr Nimmo said: “The General Assembly passed an important motion in 2017 and it is in that spirit that I look forward to attending Proud Ness in a gesture of solidarity and support for a group in society who have, too often, been discriminated against and misunderstood.

“Whatever our religion or worldview, each of us should search our consciences, search our beliefs, and ensure that we do speak up against hatred, discrimination and exclusion.

“And we might, for the sake of love, need to change our attitudes and take care with our words and our actions if we are to truly show that we believe that every person, whoever they are, is of equal worth.”

In August, Rev Scott Burton of St Matthew’s Church in Perth became the first Kirk minister to formally open a LGBT+ parade in Perth.

Rev Scott Burton
Rev Scott Burton

In May this year, the Church of Scotland moved a step closer to allowing all ministers and deacons to conduct same-sex marriages should they wish to do so in the future.

The General Assembly voted 345 by 170 to instruct the Legal Questions Committee to prepare legislation with safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act.

The committee will report its findings to the General Assembly of 2020.

Opt-in

Rev Mark Malcolm, minister of Chryston Parish Church in Glasgow, is a member of evangelical Kirk group, Covenant Fellowship Scotland.

Reacting to the vote in May, he said: “From those of us who want to uphold the traditional and orthodox teaching of the Church, it is possibly as good an outcome as we could expect.

“Looking into the future, I think what is likely to happen is instead of the default position of the Church being orthodox and traditional, it will be revisionist .

“And you will have to opt-in to the orthodox position rather than holding that position.”