Scotland: Charity regulator called in to settle gay clergy row

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The charity regulator has been called in to settle a divide between a Kirk, and the Church of Scotland, arising from the issue of allowing gay clergy to serve.

On Sunday, St George’s Tron Church in Glasgow, held its last service as part of the Church of Scotland, after having announced its decision to separate itself back in June.

The decision to separate came from the fact that the General Assembly ruled to allow gay clergy, and caused a schism, as arguments over the assets within the church, and who they belong to, arose.

The Tron Church, Glasgow was the first Kirk to split from the Church of Scotland over its decision to appoint openly gay members of the clergy.

Authorities from the Church said they called in Sheriff’s officers because it had become “apparent that many items had been removed from the building that we believe belong to the Church of Scotland.”

Some members of the 500-strong congregation have been highly critical of the move to call in Sheriff’s officers, accusing the Kirk of “persecution” and “intimidation”.

The Church released a statement denying the accusations. It said “the claims made by the former minister and his supporters are extreme.

“To claim that the Church of Scotland is persecuting them, intimidating them and acting like a dictatorship does not stand up to examination.”

The Church went on to say that it had written to the office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) regarding a transfer of assets to the Epaphras Trust, a pastoral training and poverty relief charity which works in Africa and Asia.

It states: “To claim that the Church of Scotland is acting in a heavy handed manner is, in our opinion, merely an attempt to divert attention away from the real issues here.

“These are nothing to do with differing theologies, but about ownership of charitable assets, and the questionable financial management of the former congregation – in particular the legality of the transfer of assets of the Church of Scotland to the Epaphras Trust before the individuals chose to leave the Church of Scotland.

“We have therefore written to OSCR to raise our concerns about the legality of this, as we consider we have a duty to do under charity law.”

The issue arose because last year, the Kirk’s General Assembly decided to accept gay clergy if they had declared their sexuality and were ordained before 2009.

St George’s Tron Church announced in June that, after twelve months of thought and prayer, its 500-strong congregation had to separate from the Church of Scotland over its decision, which it said had “marginalised the bible.”

The General Assembly then established a theological commission on the issue, attempting to find common ground between traditionalists and liberals.

The commission will report in 2013 before a final decision is made on gay ordination.