By Brian Donnelly, Herald Scotland
TWO of the wealthiest Church of Scotland congregations are quitting the Kirk just weeks before the General Assembly over the issue of gay ordination.
The move is a new cash blow with the two congregations contributing £315,000 between them to the Church.
One of the congregations has already left, with the second negotiating terms.
The departure of St Catherine's Argyle, in the leafy Grange district of Edinburgh, and New Restalrig in Willowbrae, also in the Scottish capital, comes as almost 1000 key figures are due to gather for the annual meeting of the Church in the city in May.
The two confirmed breakaway congregations are in the "higher givings bracket" and so among the wealthiest in terms of donations.
Reverend Robin Sydserff, minister at St Catherine's Argyle, is understood to have strong support in his congregation – which generated income of £200,000 a year – in objecting to the direction of the debate over the issue sparked by the appointment of openly gay Reverend Scott Rennie to an Aberdeen church in 2009.
A move was made to allow the ordination of gay ministers at the General Assembly last year, sparking a number of resignations by congregations. Reverend David Court, formerly of New Restalrig, whose congregation donated £115,000 a year, has also now officially signed off, or demitted, from the Kirk and has become a member of the Free Church of Scotland.
His flock of more than 100 now worship in a mission hall in Craigentinny in the city, with New Restalrig under the guidance of locum minister Reverend Peter Nelson.