The Church of Scotland is to continue to invest in oil and gas companies after commissioners at the Kirk's annual General Assembly rejected calls to withdraw its funds.

The decision, by 303 votes to 263, came after an impassioned debate over climate change and whether the Church's existing position  - of engaging with oil and gas companies while continuing to invest - is working.

Proposing the move to disinvest the Reverend Gordon Strang of Cromdale Kirk in Strathspey said the outcome of engagement with companies had been disappointing and more urgent action was needed. 

"Fossil fuel companies are investing $4.9 trillion extracting new oil and gas reserves. For all the engagement taking place, little or nothing is changing. These companies are showing no intention of moving away from being anything other than oil and gas companies," he said. "By investing in  them we are actively contributing to climate crisis. We do not have to invest to engage with them."

His call was supported by many commissioners including the Rev Peter Johnston of Ferryhill in Aberdeen, who said that until recent years his congregation had always placed a jar of crude oil on the annual harvest table. "We are in a different place now. Today we are much wiser about the effect we  are having on the planet's climate. We know better," he said.

But Catherine Alexander, chair of the Church Investment Trust, said engagement was working. "I believe [disinvestment] is the wrong way to influence change," she  said. 

She said talks between Christian investors and industry had resulted in changes linking executive bonuses to progress on targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. Meanwhile if jobs are  lost in the industry it could force people to food banks, she said.

Rev Gordon Craig, chaplain to the oil and gas industry said concerns were being heard in the industry. "People are taking notice," he said. Meanwhile he said commissioners voting for disinvestment might be guilty of hypocrisy. "Every time we use our car instead of walking to the shops or put our heating  up a little higher than it should be we are participating in this disaster," he said. "It is too easy to blame the oil and gas companies." 

A subsequent vote to congratulate Greta Thunberg and other young people campaigning on climate change was heavily defeated after the convener of the Church and Society Council the Rev Dr Richard Frazer said it was inconsistent. "I just can't see the point in doing this when we have just agreed what we have just agreed," he said.