THE congregation at the heart of a battle over the ownership of an iconic city church in Glasgow is to leave the building following a six-month stand-off with the Kirk.
• Congregation at centre of ownership row leaves Glasgow church after six-month stand-off
• Church’s minister has agreed to leave the building rather than face a long legal battle with the Kirk
• Dispute began when congregation of St George’s Tron agreed to secede from Church of Scotland over Kirk’s decision to allow ministers to be in same-sex relationships
The dispute began when the congregation of St George’s Tron agreed to secede from the Church of Scotland over the Kirk’s decision to allow ministers to be in same-sex relationships.
Sheriff officers entered the church building on Wednesday evening to issue Court of Session interim interdicts on behalf of the Kirk preventing the removal of any “heritable fixtures and fittings” and claiming ownership to ones already taken.
Now the church’s minister has agreed to leave the building rather than face a long legal battle with the Kirk. But speaking ahead of his final service on Sunday, he accused the Church of Scotland of “shameful” behaviour in negotiations over the Buchanan Street property, likening it to a “Soviet dictatorship”.
The Kirk says that church property such as paintings, seats and the church organ have been removed to halls in nearby Bath Street, where the 500-strong congregation will be holding its future services.
However, the former members have insisted that the items were gifts given by its members and owned outright by it.
The Kirk has also written to the charities watchdog OSCR to raise concerns about the actions of members while they were trustees of the Church of Scotland St George’s Tron charity.
It said that it appeared that many of the assets of the congregation, including large sums of money, may have been transferred to the Epaphras Trust, an organisation which shared a number of trustees with the former congregation.
The church is also said by the Kirk to owe almost £1 million in unpaid contributions and an outstanding loan to the Kirk.
The war of words continued yesterday, with St George’s Tron alleging that the sheriff court officer “stormed” a prayer meeting involving 100 people and “dragged out” its minister, the Rev Dr Willie Philip, to serve the court citation on him.
The Kirk denied this, stating that the officer stayed in the vestry while Mr Philip was invited outside to meet them.
Insisting that they were leaving the building now rather than face drawn-out court action, Mr Philip said: “The Church of Scotland has chosen confrontation over compromise and persecution over peace. Our lawyers have told us that they have never come across such aggressive and unreasonable dealings in any dispute, and that whatever such behaviour is, it is anything but Christian.”