THE editor of the Church of Scotland magazine Life and Work, Mr R.D.

Kernohan, is to take early retirement this year, having become

exasperated by recent trends in the Kirk.

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Bob Kernohan will be 60 next January and has been editor since 1972.

The monthly magazine has continued to hold its circulation above 100,000

and is still in profit.

Mr Kernohan yesterday confirmed that his resignation had been accepted

by the board of communications and, pending approval by the personnel

committee, will take effect later in the year. He will concentrate on

freelance writing and broadcasting.

''It's time to go,'' he said. ''I meant to stay a few years and have

been happy for 17, or at least was until the anti-Thatcher frenzy began

in 1987.''

Mr Kernohan was often criticised by left-wingers within the Kirk.

Those critics, he says, ''have turned me from an old Conservative into a

reluctant Thatcherite. Only the glorious revolution in eastern Europe

and the year of culture have revived my enthusiasm this year. I find

myself entirely out of sympathy with the political line of Church boards

and committees, and have had enough of other quarrels that have nothing

to do with politics, such as the fundamentalist versus liberal divide,

the policy on Church unions, or the reluctance of the Kirk to welcome

Billy Graham.''

Mr Kernohan studied at Glasgow University and Balliol. He was with the

Glasgow Herald from 1957 to 1967, latterly as London editor, before

becoming director of the Scottish Conservative Central Office. He was

Tory candidate in Pollok in 1964, and is the author of several books,

including the Life and Work centenary book in 1979.

Mr Kernohan joined Life and Work after a long succession of ministers

as editors, culminating in the controversial sacking of the Rev. Leonard

Bell. He has consistently achieved a high profile for the magazine in

the public debate of issues.

The job entails being in the crossfire of a number of controversial

issues.

A current example, which Mr Kernohan emphasises has no connection with

his decision to retire, is the dispute which has arisen with the

organisers of a conference in Dunblane in April on ''pastoral approaches

to lesbian and gay people''. An advertisement for subscribers was

refused by Life and Work.

That decision is attacked by organiser Ian Dunn, in the pre-conference

mailing, as springing from Mr Kernohan's hostility to homosexuality. He

writes: ''Homosexual oppression relies on silence and fear.

Mr Kernohan responded: ''The decision was not mine, but a reiteration

of previous policy. We used to look at adverts relating to homosexuality

on an individual basis, accepting those offering information and

rejecting those which proselytised, but that broke down when a group

emerged calling themselves Gay Christians with a view of morality which

caused outrage in some Church members. Thus the committee was obliged to

decline adverts for the Gay Christian movement or similar bodies.

''It's not the subject that is banned, but advertising from a body

which is flaunting the standards of morality predominating in the

Church. It may go on, but that is no reason to condone it, rather as one

would disapprove of a club of Christian adulterers.''