A group of evangelical Christians have been forced to apologise to a gay minister for a smear campaign mounted against him.

'Forward Together', an evangelical movement within the Church of Scotland, admitted spreading misinformation about the homosexual minister and his estranged wife.

The group told its members that minister Scott Rennie had left his wife and daughter to move in with another man at the manse in Aberdeen.

Douglas Cranston, chairman of Forward Together, admitted this was wrong.

The U-turn comes after Mr Rennie, who is hoping to become the new minister at Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen, took exception to the comments and instructed his solicitors to act accordingly.

The evangelical group are opposed to Aberdeen-born Mr Rennie, 37, being appointed the new minister at the church in the city's west end because he has openly admitted that he intends to live in the manse with his new partner, known only as David.

In communications to members Mr Cranston stated: "It is difficult to understand what would constitute an unacceptable lifestyle in terms of our ordination of vows if a man who leaves his wife and child and sets up home with another man as his partner is deemed acceptable in this ministry."

But the minister's solicitors informed the group's chairman that Mr Rennie's wife had, in fact, actually left him. Furthermore, he did not meet his new male partner, a moral and religious education teacher at a secondary school in Aberdeen, until two years later.

The evangelical group were then forced to make an apology to the minister.

In a statement the group said: "Forward Together apologises unreservedly for giving the impression that Mr Rennie left his wife and child for his present male partner and for any distress this may have caused Mr Rennie, his wife and his family."

The group also paid Mr Rennie's small legal costs.

But church group Affirmation Scotland said the apology did not go far enough.

Chaplain Lindsay Biddle said: "Scott Rennie is a strong and brave individual with a lot of integrity and, rather than damaging him, this episode reflects badly on Forward Together."

Mr Rennie was divorced by the time he came to terms with his sexuality, which he says has made him better at his job because he understands the complexity of real people's lives.

Some of the 12 Aberdeen Presbytery members who are trying to block his appointment to the Queen's Cross Church are members of Forward Together.

The Kirk's General Assembly is still debating whether to allow Mr Rennie, who is minister of Brechin Cathedral, to be appointed to the Aberdeen church on May 23.

The Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye have launched a motion calling on the Kirk "not to accept for training, ordain, admit, readmit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage between a man and a woman."

However, the congregation and kirk session of Queen's Cross Church have been fully supportive of the gay minister's appointment.

Forward Together spokesman Ian Watson said an "honest mistake" had been made.