Minister fails to win walkout support

Staying with national body...Kirkmuirhill ChurchStaying with national body...Kirkmuirhill Church
Staying with national body...Kirkmuirhill Church
NOT enough of the flock of Kirkmuirhill’s controversial minister are willing to follow him out of the Church of Scotland.

aAn attempt by the Rev Ian Watson to lead his congregation en masse out of the national kirk in protest at its tolerance of openly gay clergy has failed.

At Sunday’s service the minister revaled that a ballot of the 282 congregation members had won a majority of those voting supporting his plan to defect as a congregation from the Church of Scotland - but not by a sufficiently large enough margin to make such a defection constitutional.

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The ballot showed there were 114 church members willing to follow him out of the kirk with 104 voting to stay put; 60 failed to return ballot forms and there were two absentions.

Being a former United Free Presbyterian Church before it joined the Church of Scotland in the 1920s, the Kirkmuirhill church has a unique constitution which allows for the congregation’s defection to another denomination should a two-thirds majority vote for it.

The ballot failed to reach that target and some are now suggesting that another reading of the special rules under which the 1920s merger took place says that an even higher level of support for a defection of a three quarters majority would actually be required.

All this leaves Mr Watson and his followers with the question of what to do next?

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Although he has yet to respond to a Gazette invitation to comment on the weekend ballot result or his future plans, the minister has, in the past, expressed a desire to join the Free Church, with its total prohibition of gay clergy.

For more on this, pick up a copy of this week’s Carluke and Lanark Gazette.