THE eleventh Church of Scotland minister – and the first from the Highland capital – is to defect from the Kirk, which has been divided over the gay clergy row.
Rev Andrew McMillan, a former Royal Marine Commando and Strathclyde police officer, will join the Free Church.
He claims his resignation centres on a series of “unbiblical decisions”.
The 38-year-old said the CoS had “unchurched itself” and he was increasingly disillusioned by divisions over a number of issues, including proposals to remove Christian worship from state schools.
He said: “As someone who holds firmly to the teaching of the Bible, there is no way I can remain in the Church of Scotland with any real integrity.
“By walking away from the Bible, the Church of Scotland is setting itself on a fatal course and sadly it appears increasingly likely there will be further deviations in the years ahead on moral, theological and ecclesiastical affairs.
“My call to ministry was to tell people that salvation is to be found in Jesus, not to waste it fighting a denominational war.”
As a relatively young minister, he said he did not wish to spend his future struggling amidst the Kirk’s “downward spiral”.
He will depart from Dalneigh and Bona Church of Scotland at the end of February, and is set to establish a new church in the west of Inverness with the Free Church in March.
It is understood that some of the Dalneigh and Bona congregation and Kirk Session are highly likely to join him.
Mr McMillan told his congregation of his resignation at Sunday’s services, and informed Inverness Presbytery representatives last week.
He will become the 11th Church of Scotland minister to defect to the Free Church since 2011.
Rev McMillan added: “It has become more and more clear that my understanding of the nature of the Scriptures – which is entirely in line with Christian faith throughout the last 2,000 years – is simply not shared by the vast majority of the Church of Scotland, which has chosen to listen to the spirit of the age rather than the Spirit of Christ.
“And again for example, over the next few weeks the Scottish Parliament will be considering the contentious matter of assisted suicide.
“In times past, it would be a no-brainer that the Church of Scotland would unanimously oppose the deliberate killing of an innocent life – as the sixth commandment says ‘do not kill’.
“Regrettably, even on such a basic issue like this there is deep division amongst ministers.”
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He said the Free Church had demonstrated a desire to remain unswerving in its commitment to the Bible, “whilst at the same time trying to ensure that the Good News of Jesus Christ is advanced in our contemporary, secularised culture.
“This is exactly why it’s the best place for me to continue as a servant of God’s word in ministry.”
After being converted whilst serving in the military, Andrew became a member then elder in his local parish church in Denny, before sensing a call to ministry.
He trained at the University of Edinburgh, before being ordained to Dalneigh and Bona at the beginning of 2012.
A Free Church of Scotland spokesman said: “The Free Church has been looking for a long time to plant another church in the west of Inverness, and we are delighted that Rev Andrew McMillan will lead this work.
“We are very much saddened by the present circumstances in the national church, but we are thankful that ministers of the calibre and standing of Andrew are coming on board.”
At the end of last year, Inverness East Church of Scotland minister Rev Prof Andrew McGowan revealed that he had already lost many members to the Free Church.
Professor McGowan added that he feared that more members would leave, along with ministers, if the Church of Scotland continued on its present trajectory in ignoring Biblical teaching.
As well as the ongoing row over gay clergy and same-sex marriage, the Church of Scotland was heavily criticised last year by its own evangelical wing after the Kirk submitted joint plans to MSPs along with the Humanist Society Scotland, which sought to remove Christian worship from state school assemblies.
It is believed that the Kirk could also be considering its position on assisted suicide at May’s General Assembly.
The acting principal clerk of the CoS, Rev Dr George Whyte, issued the following response to the departure of Mr McMillan.
“The Church of Scotland is saddened by Rev Andrew McMillan’s decision to leave his charge in Inverness. Arrangements are already in place to support the congregation at Dalneigh and Bona.
“The Church of Scotland has engaged in a careful theological debate on the subject of ministers in civil partnerships and the overture on this issue will be debated at the General Assembly in May. It would be wrong to pre-judge the outcome of that debate.
“At present, from the 800 ministers within the Church, 18 have chosen to leave over this issue. In many cases these congregations have enjoyed a renewal in commitment and energy. In two weeks, the congregation at Stornoway High Church will welcome their new minister. This has been made possible by the new unity of purpose the members have experienced since they themselves went through a painful split.
“The Church of Scotland is a national Church, and is engaged in wide ranging debate on matters both practical and spiritual relevant to the life of our nation. It is implausible and indeed untrue that the Church proposes to remove Christian worship from state schools. The Church will not shrink from its responsibilities to carry out God’s work in a way which brings his spirit and message into the lives of its members and wider society.”