THE rift within the Church of Scotland over the ordination of openly gay ministers has deepened, with two more congregations threatening to leave the Kirk.
Stornoway High Church has made it known it is considering leaving over the General Assembly's historic move towards letting openly gay people become Kirk leaders.
Meanwhile, St Kane's Church, at New Deer, Aberdeenshire, is also considering its relationship with the Kirk, as it "grieves" for what it sees as a departure from the teachings of the Bible.
The Stornoway congregation will meet to vote on their future in a secret ballot on 28 June. While it is believed the kirk session was unanimously in favour of an in-principal split from the Kirk, the final decision rests with the wider congregation.
Its interim moderator, the Rev Andrew Coghill, was among the first Kirk members to state that he intended to leave the Church over its decision.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the St Kane's congregation, session clerk Elsie Foubister said gay people should not hold leadership posts "without evidence of repentance and change in their lifestyle".
She wrote: "We affirm that sexual relations between people of the same gender are contrary to the will of God, and that whilst they should be pastorally cared for, they should not hold any position of leadership without evidence of repentance and change in their lifestyle.
"We grieve over the apparent departure of the Church of Scotland from these scripture truths."
The parish gave notice that it would "take steps to disengage" from the Church of Scotland unless there was a return to biblical teachings.
St Kane's minister, Pastor Paul Reed, who is on holiday, wrote in the church's current newsletter: "Over the coming months, I believe we will be challenged again as a Church family. Whatever lies on the horizon, I would trust that we never ever lose sight of the Call to Worship".
The General Assembly voted in May to set up a theological commission to examine the implications of allowing the appointment of openly gay ministers. It will report back in 2013. It also moved to allow openly gay ministers ordained before 2009 to continue to remain in their positions or move to other churches.
The decision was triggered by the appointment of openly gay minister the Rev Scott Rennie to Queen's Cross in Aberdeen in 2009.
Last week, the Rev Dominic Smart, minister at Gilcomston South in Aberdeen, said his parishioners disagreed with the General Assembly's decision and the 380-member congregation was expected to formally vote on the matter on 27 June.
A Kirk spokesman stressed no decisions had yet been taken.He said: "We have already recognised that the decision taken by the General Assembly last month will have caused hurt to some people within the Church.
"It would be disappointing if any congregation felt the need to leave the Church when no final decisions have been taken and the Church has agreed to hold more dialogue on this issue leading to a further report which will not be heard until 2013."