Congregations leaving Church of Scotland over gay ordination 'but no one's rejoicing'

A general view of the Church of Scotland Assembly hall in Edinburgh where gay ordination will be debated in MayPA

Two Edinburgh churches are leaving the Church of Scotland just weeks before the General Assembly votes on the ordination of homosexuals.

Reverend Robin Sydserff of St Catherine's Argyle said he and the elders had come to the decision because of what they regard as the Church of Scotland's "departure from the authority of the Bible".

The move, he said, had widespread support from within the congregation.

"Both our internal consultation over the past year and the Presbytery's formal consultation have indicated that our decision has the backing of the vast majority of the active congregation."

The congregation, which numbers over 100, is now meeting and worshipping in a mission hall in the Craigentinny area of the city.

Reverend David Court also moved his congregation from New Restalrig, Willowbrae, to the Craigentinny area. It is now operating as Christ Church Edinburgh.

Mr Court said the Church of Scotland's "drift away from the scriptures and away from orthodox Christianity" had been the "final straw".

"Ultimately, when you completely abandon the scriptures, if you abandon the framework of Orthodoxy, it leads you into nowhere. Effectively, there is nothing distinctive about the Church, it holds nothing valuable," he said.

"Once it undercuts the main foundation of its beliefs, then there's not much there."

The New Restalrig congregation has now been taken in by the The Free Church of Scotland but the mood is sombre.

Free Church spokesman the Reverend Iver Martin said: "Nobody is rejoicing over the circumstances that led to these departures. We have all felt the burden of the current situation, which is a sad one.

"The Free Church of Scotland is neither triumphalistic nor opportunistic in this respect. However when a group of people feel they have no option but to leave their denomination in favour of one which is bound to the scriptures, we would like to provide a spiritual home for any such people."

Speaking about the situation created by the Chruch of Scotland's upcoming vote, which is expected to result in the ordination of homosexual clergy, Rev Martin said: "The Church ought to be teaching principles that are very clear in the scriptures.

"When they teach the opposite, it puts their people in a very difficult position. Some of them feel they can no longer live in these circumstances."

While the challenges of departing from such a well-established and well-resourced Church network are considerable, Rev Court believes the decision is ultimately worth it.

In the Herald Scotland, Rev Court said: "There is of course a real materialistic challenge leaving the Church of Scotland with the stipend and the manse, but I don't regret my decision for a moment.

"I am free to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is a wonderful experience to be supported both by my congregation and my colleagues in the Free Church."