Members of a church congregation are facing one of the most difficult tests of their Christian faith.
The 450 people of all ages on the roll of Larbert Old Parish have to decide if they follow their minister, the Rev. Andrew Randall, and more than two-thirds of the Kirk Session, to establish a new church.
It follows a recent decision by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to move towards the formal acceptance of ministers in same-sex relationships.
In two years time the Presbytery of Falkirk, which oversees the parishes within its boundaries and has pastoral responsibility for parish ministers, will, like others the length and breadth of Scotland, decide whether to accept the motion agreed by the majority of delegates at this year’s General Assembly. If that is the case, congregations will be able to call a minister who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight.
However, Mr Randall has joined a growing number who feel unable to remain within the church.
Last week, he intimated his decision to quit the Larbert Old charge that he took up almost five years ago and resign as a Church of Scotland minister.
He said: “Over several years, it has become increasingly clear that our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not shared by most of the denomination to which we belong.
“Following the decision of the General Assembly over two years ago to move towards the formal acceptance of ministers in same-sex relationships, the minister and elders of Larbert Old have been giving much prayerful thought and discussion as to whether we can remain in the Church of Scotland given its departure from clear biblical teaching.
“The recent decision to allow individual congregations to call ministers in same-sex relationships, far from being a compromise, is a complete rejection of the authority of God’s word.”
Mr Randall added that it had not been an easy decision to arrive at but he and 14 elders felt they were “unable in good conscience to remain in the denomination”.
Although some have seen the stance taken by the General Assembly as a compromise, Mr Randall rebuffed this saying: “It made a clear decision, in principle, to allow something which the Bible rejects.”
Along with 13 of the current elders, he plans to establish a breakaway church in the Larbert area.
He added: We’re sad that these steps have been necessary, but excited at the opportunity to do something new. We believe that through this, we will be able to reach more people with the good news of Jesus.”
A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: “We believe that the fundamental decision taken at the General Assembly to uphold the traditional doctrine on same sex relationships while making room for individual Kirk Sessions to have the option of calling a minister in a civil partnership is enough to keep most of our members within the fellowship of the Church and we will find ways of continuing our ministry to them and to the parishes we serve.”