Gay clergy row: Tarbert church votes to quit Kirk

Around 10 of 1400 congregations are considering leaving, according to the Church of Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow
Around 10 of 1400 congregations are considering leaving, according to the Church of Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow
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ANOTHER congregation has voted to leave the Church of Scotland (CoS) in protest at the decision to permit gay clergy.

Members of the Tarbert Harris CoS in the Western Isles are the latest to quit the Kirk over the controversial issue.

They follow in the footsteps of the High Church in Stornoway and two congregations on mainland Scotland who had already voted to leave the church.

The row is set to benefit the Free Church of Scotland which is in discussions with a number of those wishing to defect from the CoS – and has already recruited five ministers from the Kirk as a result.

Donald John Morrison, session clerk at Tarbert, said: “At a congregational meeting of the Tarbert Harris Church of Scotland a considerable majority of those present gave their support to the kirk session in its decision to consider how the congregation might dissociate from the Church of Scotland and associate with another Presbyterian denomination.”

The congregation of the High Church in Stornoway had unanimously agreed this move, although a spokesperson for the Church of Scotland said no

formal notice from any congregation had yet been received.

A Free Church spokesman said: “By voting for political correctness over faithfulness to the Bible, it can be no surprise that the Church of Scotland has jeopardised its own future.

“Thousands of people – in the Central Belt as well as the Highlands and Islands – will be considering whether they can remain in fellowship with, and also contribute financially to the work of, ministers in same-sex relationships.”

He said a working group from the Free Church had spoken to a range of different parties, with the “aim to work with

fellow Christians wherever we find them”.

Sources have claimed the gay minister row could make the Church of Scotland “extinct” in the strictly Presbyterian Western Isles.

And the Free Church said it had seen many former elders and members of CoS join them so far, with a source adding: “Whilst it’s not a pleasure to see growth through troubled waters elsewhere, it’s not exactly surprising.”

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: “Officials of the Church of Scotland are aware of discussions with all of these congregations and expect to be in direct touch with them in order to ensure that members are fully aware of the implications raised by their discussions.

“We hope that in explaining the decisions of the General

Assembly, members will feel able to remain within the Church of Scotland.”

Officials believe that the issue is still in its early days, and that many members of individual congregations voting to leave may still wish to remain part of the Kirk.

One stumbling block for congregations wishing to leave is that many of the church buildings are owned by CoS, so any congregation would have to relocate if they desire to leave over the gay clergy issue.

However, that is not the case in Tarbert, where the building is understood to be owned by the congregation.

The Church of Scotland has already declared it is “not in a crisis” over the issue, with a spokesman saying earlier this month: “Although we understand only around ten out of 1,400 congregations are considering leaving, we value the fellowship we share with all our members and would be sad if they left.”

Exit strategy

Stornoway High Church voted unanimously to quit.

Earlier this year, the minister and congregation of St George’s Tron Church in Glasgow left and the congregation of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen followed them.

Edinburgh’s Holyrood Abbey Church, below, has also begun the process and congregations at Kinloch and Lewis in the Western Isles, Kirkmuirhill in Lanark, and Logie and St Johns in Dundee may also leave.

Read more on the gay clergy row

Church of Scotland ‘not in crisis’ over gay clergy

Stornoway High Church breaks away over gay clergy row

Church of Scotland faces exodus over gay clergy