AN Aberdeen congregation has become the latest to break away from the Church of Scotland in the growing row over the ordination of gay ministers.
Members of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen’s Union Street will hold their first service as a separate congregation in a city centre hotel next month following the official resignation of the church’s minister, the Rev Dominic Smart.
Gilcomston Church is less than a mile from Queen’s Cross Church which sparked the church schism by inducting the Rev Scott Rennie as the first openly gay minister in the Church of Scotland.
The new church will hold its first service on 10 March at the Copthorne Hotel in Huntly Street.
Mr Smart said: “We wait to see how many people will be there from the present Church of Scotland congregation but we expect a substantial majority. In the meantime we’ve continued to have cordial and constructive discussions with Aberdeen Presbytery’s Special Committee.”
He said the Kirk’s stance on gay ministers was a “probably just a stretch too far in the breadth of the Church of Scotland.”
Mr Smart, who has been the Minister at Gilcomston since 1998, added: “We believe it was taking th Kirk away from what the Bible teaches quite clearly.
“Our decision to leave was the culmination of careful study, sincere discussion and prayer over the past four years. We have weighed up many different options and believe the decision we have reached has the most integrity.
“We are looking forward to the first chapter in the life of our new congregation. We will join another denomination in due course but are not rushing into a new affiliation. Our heartfelt priority is
to continue our wide-ranging work and worship in Aberdeen’s city centre communities.”
Gilcomston South Church can trace its origins to a “chapel of ease” which existed in the centre of Aberdeen in the late 18th century. The 1,300-strong congregation left the Church of Scotland in 1843 during the Disruption and worshipped for a time in the “Church of the Original Seceders in Skene Square” A site for a new church in Union Street was then chosen and the present church building was opened in September 1868 by the Moderator of the Free Church Assembly.
Gilcomston United Free Church returned to the fold in 1929 to become Gilcomston South Church of Scotland following the union of the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland.
The church almost closed during the Second World War but its congregation was transformed following the appointment of the Rev William Still, who served as minister from 1945 to 1997. Mr Still was the longest-serving minister in the Kirk when he retired on his 87th birthday. The Rev George Cowie, Joint Presbytery Clerk of Aberdeen and Convener of the Special Committee of Presbytery, said: “We are sorry and saddened when any minister or members feel they have the need to leave the Church of Scotland but we are thankful for the way both the minister and congregation of Gilcomston South have conducted themselves in this difficult time,
“We have been talking to the minster and representatives of the congregation and continue to do so. These talks have been cordial and gracious on both sides.”
He added: “Each congregation is different and any agreement reached with the minister and members of Gilcomston South will reflect the particular situation there. In this case, the Presbytery has yet to determine the future of the continuing Church of Scotland congregation, but it remains committed to providing for those who wish to remain members of the Church of Scotland. In the meantime we are working together in the hope of reaching a suitable solution and we are encouraged by the graciousness of these proceedings.”