Minister urges Kirk: Rent out buildings

St James' Church, Portobello, Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow
St James' Church, Portobello, Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE Church of Scotland should consider letting out its unused properties to members who leave its congregations, a Free Kirk minister has said.

Rev David Robertson, minister of St Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, urged the Kirk to “come to a sensible arrangement over the use of redundant church buildings” and lease or rent unused buildings for Christian worship rather than selling the properties for flats or other commercial purposes.

Congregations and ministers who have opted to leave the Kirk in the past two years in protest at the ongoing controversy concerning the ordination of openly gay ministers have been hard-pressed to source usable properties to meet in.

Rev Alberto de Paula, the Kirk minister of Broughty Ferry St James, and members of his congregation have become the latest to leave the Church.

Rev Robertson said they now faced real difficulties trying to find alternative accommodation.

He said: “It is unfortunate that Alberto and the elders and members who are leaving with him will have to find a new building in Broughty Ferry in which to worship.

“The Church of Scotland is contracting and the presbytery is reorganising the parishes in Broughty Ferry with fewer ministers.

“I would doubt if the Church of Scotland really need the St James building.

“I would have thought they could lease or rent the church building to Alberto de Paula and his congregation so that it can continue as an active place of worship.”

A Church of Scotland spokesman said, that where possible, the Kirk would examine any request on a case-by-case basis.

He said: “The Church of Scotland is always open to constructive discussions with other denominations on the use of redundant buildings and we have several recent examples, in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, where mutually satisfactory arrangements have been reached. Every case is discussed on its merits.”

However, the spokesman said that the Free Kirk minister was being presumptuous in imagining that the Broughty Ferry church buildings would no longer be used.

“Mr Robertson is a little premature, however, in assuming that the St James Church buildings will be redundant,” he said.

“It is for the Presbytery of Dundee to decide if there will be a viable Church of Scotland remaining in that area after the departure of the current minister.

“Our experience elsewhere has shown us that many members do in fact remain in such cases and we would seek to keep the buildings open for the continuing congregation.”

Rev de Paula has blamed the five-year row over ministers in same-sex relationships – following the appointment of gay minister the Rev Scott Rennie to an Aberdeen church in 2009 – and the Church of Scotland’s involvement with the Humanist Society as reasons for leaving the fold.

The divide over openly gay ministers has seen seven other ministers leaving the Kirk.