Women in call for Kirk to elect its first female moderator

A group of the most prominent women in the Church of Scotland yesterday issued a letter calling for the appointment of a female moderator of the Kirk's general assembly.

Among the 140 signatories were at least 20 ministers and a number of deacons who expressed their surprise and regret that even though women have been eligible for the post since 1969, a man has always been elected.

The women, including Lady Marion Fraser, chairwoman of Christian Aid, and Anne Mulligan, president of the governing body of all deacons in the Church of Scotland, call for the church to move towards a time where "all actually means all".

The letter, sent to The Herald, the Kirk's board of practice and procedure, and the committee that elects moderators, has been distributed in advance of a meeting to start the process of nominating people for the position ready for an election later this year.

Kathy Galloway, first female head of the Iona community, organised the round-robin note. She said she received a flood of calls and e-mails when she embarked on the enterprise, including a number from supportive men.

Ms Galloway said: "In a church that is two thirds women and where women do all these different things and have distinguished themselves considerably in civic society, it seems anomalous to say the least that we are in this situation."

There is usually a handful of candidates nominated for the post and women have been nominated in the past, but never voted in.

Last October, Margaret Forrester was passed over for the job in favour of Iain Torrance, sparking criticism.

Marjory MacLean, secretary to the moderator, said at that time: "The gender of the candidate was certainly not the basis of the decision."