No split from Church of Scotland for time being

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Stornoway High Church will remain part of the Church of Scotland for the time being.

At a congregational meeting on Tuesday night, members were balloted on the question of whether or not to split from the denomination.

This action was in response to the decisions taken by the 2011 General Assembly to allow openly gay ministers ordained before 2009 to remain in their posts and to establish a theological commision, due to report in 2013, to consider the implications of allowing gay ministers to train.74 per cent of the High Church members balloted (162) voted in principle to withdraw from the Church of Scotland while 24 per cent (53) voted to remain.

The Kirk Session had previously set the threshold at 80 per cent for those voting as the mandate for ‘Withdrawal in Principle’.

Members were given a full opportunity for questions and discussion before votes were cast.

There were three spoiled ballot places.

A statement from the Kirk Session said: “The Kirk session views this result as an insufficient mandate on which to proceed further down the road of seperation (as a whole congregation) from the Church of Scotland as the 74 per cent voting for withdrawal failed to meet the necessary threshold and consequently they will not, as a Session, be pursuing this question further for the time being.”

A spokesperson for the Presbytery of the Church of Scotland in Lewis said this was a congregational and not a Presbytery matter.

In a previous statement the Presbytery stated: “The Presbytery of Lewis re-affirms its belief that the gift of sexual activity in God’s purpose is to be confined to a faithful marital relationship between a man and a woman.”However they urged all Kirk Sessions and congregations to remain united within the Church of Scotland during this forthcoming period.

“The Presbytery respectfully reminds all our people that no change to the Church’s historic position in respect of ordaining to office within the Church persons in a same sex relationship can be made prior to the Report of the Theological Commission, appointed by the General Assembly in May, to the General Assembly in 2013.

“Furthermore any decision taken at that Assembly, involving a radical departure from the historic position of the Church on this matter, would subsequently require, under the Barrier Act, to be sent down to Presbyteries for final ratification.”