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Kirk facing multi-million pound fight over gay split [Herald, The (Scotland)]
[May 28, 2011]

Kirk facing multi-million pound fight over gay split [Herald, The (Scotland)]

(Herald, The (Scotland) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) THE Church of Scotland has been plunged into a potentially crippling multi-million pound dispute over ownership of its churches as traditionalist ministers rally to quit after the pro-gay ordination vote.

The Kirk fears a "land-grab" by evangelical parishes after this week's historic decision at the General Assembly on homosexual and lesbian ministers A similar conflict in a separate denomination resulted in an 11- year court battle amid claims one congregation locked out another from their place of worship.

Pockets of Kirk members are already switching to other churches and each congregation thinking of quitting will be scrutinising its title deeds.

While the swing away from the Kirk will hit the more traditional north first, the wave will soon reach the central belt and the largest presbyteries such as Glasgow, Hamilton and Edinburgh.

It is believed many evangelicals opposed to homosexual and lesbian ministers will quit and push to keep their places of worship.

Although it is unclear at this stage how many will split from the main body of the Kirk over the issue, the Church's own special commission found 20% of its leaders said they would feel compelled to leave.

Ivor MacDonald, minister at Kilmuir and Stenscholl Church in the presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye, raised the point at the hearing of the General Trustees report on the last day of the assembly yesterday.

Mr MacDonald did not say if his flock was planning to join another denomination, such as the more traditionalist Free Kirk as others in the north of Scotland have already indicated.

Roddy Macrae, minister of Glenelg and Kintail of the same presbytery, said he will resign and called on evangelicals to "stand up together".Lochcarron and Skye, with a total of nine congregations with 784 worshippers, has maintained a traditionalist stance and triggered the debate in 2009 after the appointment of the Kirk's first openly gay minister, the Rev Scott Rennie, in Aberdeen.

Some of the 2500 churches in Scotland are held in legal trusts and transfer will cause a conflict.

Rev Stephen Reid, chairman of the Forward Together evangelical movement, said Mr MacDonald "would be going back to the north-west and will be asked questions" by his congre- gation. He said: "The north-west is probably the place where the question is most urgent. I know there are groups of people leaving since 2009 and there will be more. For them it is an urgent issue." The Free Church and the Free Church of Scotland Continuing are still locked in legal dispute over ownership of property since those two groups fractured around 2000.

In 2009, Lord Uist ruled in favour of the Free Church keeping ownership of a church and manse in Broadford on the Isle of Skye in a feud over properties, but it is still in the courts.

Yesterday's motion-mover, Mr MacDonald, is also a member of the 62-strong Fellowship of Confessing Churches, which opposes gay ordination. His simple question said: "Are there any circumstances in which the general trustees would allow the congregation to leave with its buildings?" The Rev Dr Jim Jack, chairman of the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland, the body which controls the estate, said each church's title deeds were different and each case would be heard on its merits.

He said: "It doesn't matter where the deeds are, it depends on what they say, that's why we can't blanketly say everybody can take their buildings." (c) 2011 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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