THE openly gay minister whose appointment threatened to split the Church of Scotland has backed moves to allow same-sex marriage and described the "epiphany moment" he decided to confront his sexuality.

The Rev Scott Rennie, who was previously married to a woman, says he “fought and fought” with the knowledge he might be gay until his thirties, admitting he found it harder to reconcile himself with the truth than to tell church leaders.

In a rare interview, he said there remains a “huge climate of fear” about sexuality within Christian churches, but he says he has never felt his personal life compromises his religious beliefs.

Mr Rennie, minister at Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen, voiced his support for same-sex marriage, which is under consultation by the Scottish Government, saying the basic tenets of marriage such as love and support within all relationships should be “celebrated”.

Mr Rennie said: “I had always worried I might be gay.

“Growing up it worried me greatly given the kind of [working class] background I came from.

“I worried about it all through growing up, all through my teenage years, but I fought it, fought it, fought it.

“But after the breakdown of my marriage and my mother’s death, I was in my early thirties, you know, when you reach that lowest possible point in life and everything you know has come crashing down around your head.

“That was really when my struggle with my sexuality ... I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

“I was off work ill and was listening to Radio 4 and I was making a coffee and there was a psychologist on and she said a phrase and it was an epiphany.

“She said the things that people run from in their lives are the very things that run their lives. That was for me a real epiphany moment. Today is the day I start the rebuilding and I must be honest from here on in.”

Mr Rennie said the reaction from his ex-wife, family and friends was “amazing” and said he never felt his sexuality was in conflict with Christian beliefs.

He said: “I’ve always felt very at peace with God. It was myself I wasn’t at peace with and the world around me.”

In May, the Church of Scotland ended a two-year ban on congregations appointing gay ministers in one of the most significant moves in its 451-year history.

The Kirk’s leadership agreed to allow gay ministers who were ordained before May 2009 – when a temporary ban was imposed after the controversy that followed Mr Rennie’s appointment to Queen’s Cross Church.

Mr Rennie added: “At the end of the day on this issue there is a diversity of opinion both within my own denomination and within others. We just have to learn to disagree.

“There is a huge climate of fear still in the churches about sexuality, about the freedom to be honest.

“I certainly didn’t feel able to talk to anyone within the ministry, which is very sad and not a terribly great thing.

“You can’t underestimate how difficult it is to be open and honest. A lot of people just don’t feel safe and that’s a terrible, terrible indictment.

“In 100 years’ time, I would venture a guess that it won’t be such a big issue.”

A consultation on the issue of same-sex marriages and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships was launched by the Scottish Government at the beginning of the month.

Mr Rennie said: “Marriage like most institutions has been changing.

“In my own religious tradition the theme is one of covenant and love and support.

“The sharing of these things should be greeted and celebrated.”