St George's Tron congregation leaves over gay rights

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St George's Tron Church
Image caption,
The St George's Tron congregation voted to secede from the Church of Scotland in June

The congregation of a Glasgow church has held its final service before leaving the Church of Scotland.

St George's Tron Church took the decision over the Kirk's acceptance of gay ministers.

The dispute between it and the Church of Scotland has led to a bitter dispute over assets.

Church authorities believe they are owed almost £1m by St George's Tron. Sheriff's officers were sent there on Wednesday to recover church property.

The Glasgow congregation described the Church's of Scotland's actions as "heavy-handed", claiming the sheriff's officers served papers during a prayer meeting.

Agnes Brough, the children's and youth worker at the church, said it was "very sad that the situation has come to this".

She said: "We as a congregation feel very strongly that the Church of Scotland has walked away from God's word and we weren't prepared to walk away with them.

"So, as a church family, we voted to walk away from the Church of Scotland and sought to find some way that we could continue to make good use of this building.

"We're a big congregation, there are lots of things going on, not only on Sundays but all week, and we really wanted to continue serving the city of Glasgow from here."

She described the events of the past few days as "troubling".

She added: "We had been planning a phased exit from the building. We've been served with court papers - that was upsetting.

"We've got really mixed emotions because we're sad to leave a building that means a lot to us, and more importantly, was a useful building - we'd spent money to make it useful.

"But we do go forward with confidence, we've got somewhere we could meet in the meantime. It'll be a squash, it'll be uncomfortable but we're willing to do take for the sake of the Lord Jesus."

Reverend Stuart Smith from the Church of Scotland defended the issuing of court papers.

He told the BBC: "Nobody was dragged out of a prayer meeting, there was no violence, shouting or anything that could be misinterpreted as aggressive.

"It was a simple measure taken by the Church of Scotland on the understanding that items belonging to the church had been removed and we were anxious that ownership could be clearly established for anything else that belonged to us, before any further steps were taken by either party."

Common ground

The General Assembly - the Church of Scotland's governing body - decided in 2011 to accept gay ministers, provided they had declared their sexuality and were ordained before 2009.

Rev Dr William Philip, the minister of St George's Tron, has described that decision as having "marginalised the Bible, the written word of God".

In an attempt to find common ground between liberals and traditionalists, the General Assembly established a theological commission on the issue. It will report in 2013 before a final decision on gay ordination is taken.

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