Around half of High Church quits Church of Scotland amid gay minister row

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About 250 worshippers have left one of the largest congregations in the Church of Scotland amid a row over gay ministers.

In May last year, the Church of Scotland voted in favour of proposals that would allow gay men and women to be ordained. Legislation will be drafted this year.

The High Church consulted on a split following the May vote.

Now the members, around 250 of them, have left the High Church, noting its “continuing departure from Biblical teaching.

The members will now attend the Free Church congregation which worships in a primary school.

Former session clerk fro the High Church, Christopher Martin, told STV: “Sadly our congregation could simply not identify with the general direction the Church of Scotland is headed in, and the sensible option was to leave.”

The Free Chuch minister Reverend David Meredith is the chair of a working group looking to deal with those wishing to join the Free Church.

He said: “We are conscious that the process of disengagement from the Church of Scotland has been a painful experience but we hope we can offer a home which presents a Biblical vision for contemporary Scotland.”

John Cunningham, the interim session clerk at Stornoway High Church, said: “We are saddened that some have chosen to leave. We still regard them as our brothers and sisters in Christ and wish them well in the path they have chosen.

“Almost 100 will continue to worship in Stornoway High Church where services have been held since 1909. There is a sense of peace among those who remain.”

In an official ballot, 236 members of the High Church voted to leave the congregation and 103 voted to remain. A further 121 did not respond.

They are objecting to the direction of the debate sparked by the appointment of openly gay Reverend Scott Rennie to Aberdeen’s Queen’s Cross Church in 2009.

Reverend Rennie’s appointment led to a two-year moratorium on new openly gay ministers.