THE congregations of two Edinburgh churches are planning to leave the Kirk in protest at moves to allow the ordination of openly gay clergy.
The elders of Holyrood Abbey Church, on London Road near Meadowbank Stadium, have made overtures to the Church of Scotland’s leaders to start the process of leaving and yesterday it also emerged that the minister and elders of St Catherine’s Argyle Parish Church of Scotland in the capital are also seeking to break away.
The strongly evangelical congregation of Holyrood Abbey Church will vote on a split within the coming weeks. The decision was announced by the church’s minister, the Rev Philip Hair, in a sermon on Sunday.
Yesterday he said: “It is with great sadness and sorrow that, following the recent decision of the General Assembly on same-sex relationships and the ministry, the elders have come to a common mind, unanimously so, that we should begin the process which will lead to us leaving the denomination.”
Mr Hair added that the 200-strong congregation would vote on the elders’ decision within “a few weeks time”.
Yesterday it emerged that St Catherine’s Argyle Parish Church of Scotland is also set to leave the Kirk.
A statement from its Kirk Session, issued to the congregation on 26 May, said: “The General Assembly has decided, in principle and in practice, to permit those in same-sex relationships to serve as ministers, and so has decided, in principle and in practice, to depart from the Bible and the gospel. It is with great sadness, therefore, that our minister and Kirk Session have come to the decision that we now need to begin to consider how we might leave the Church of Scotland.”
The congregations look set to follow those of Gilcomston South in Aberdeen, and St George’s Tron in Glasgow out of the Kirk. Further congregations across Scotland are expected to hold similar votes.
The Kirk’s General Assembly voted last month to consider a move that, while affirming its traditional stance on sexuality, would allow congregations to appoint an openly gay minister who was in a civil partnership.
The compromise proposal, brought by the outgoing moderator, the Very Rev Albert Bogle, has split the traditionalist wing of the Kirk, with hard-line evangelicals insisting any shift from “Biblical truth” is unacceptable.
A final vote on the move is expected on to take place at the General Assembly in 2015.
The clerk of Edinburgh Presbytery, the Rev Dr George Whyte, said that while it had been aware the Holyrood Abbey Church leadership was concerned about the issue, this was the first mention of its congregation leaving.
He said: “I did anticipate it would be a step too far for some and for those who do think that, they have to face the fact that the Church has gone in a direction that they don’t like, and they have to find a place in, if you like, the broader world of the Christian church, where they feel they can be with some integrity.”
The row was sparked when the Assembly upheld the appointment of the openly gay Rev Scott Rennie to Aberdeen Queen’s Cross Church in 2009.