BY LISA FALCONER
Two Wester Ross Church of Scotland ministers have announced their decision to join the Free Church —leaving just one man to cover most of the west Highlands and Islands.
The move by Rev David Macleod (40) from Lochcarron and Rev Roddy MacRae (44) from Glenelg and Kintail means Portree’s Rev Sandor Fazakas has to cover Wester Ross, Skye, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Harris and Assynt – an area bigger than Wales —by himself.
The departures are another blow for the Kirk amid a dispute which can trace its roots to the appointment of openly gay minister Scott Rennie to a church in Aberdeen in 2009.
Announcing their resignations last Sunday, Revs Macleod and MacRae both expressed concerns with the Church of Scotland. Rev Macleod said: “Over the past few years I have found myself to be theologically less and less aligned with the Church of Scotland. I find myself now to have more in common with other denominations.
“The decision to demit has not been a decision I have rushed or taken lightly. I say this with a heavy heart and with much grief but I do not believe that I can continue in the context in which I find myself.”
Rev MacRae added: “The Church of Scotland often says it is a ‘broad church’, but it has become clear to me that it is not broad enough for Bible-believing Christians.
“I have been wrestling with this in prayer for quite some time now, and although I have a heavy heart, it makes sense to join a denomination with like-minded people where I can be fully supported.”
Both men have now applied to join the Free Church. A Free Church of Scotland spokesman said: “Although we are saddened by the present circumstances in the Church of Scotland, we are happy to provide a home to those who wish to leave.
“We hope that any newcomers to the Free Church will find their new surroundings refreshing and trust they will share our dynamic, vibrant and contemporary mission.
“Over the last five years we have seen a rise in the number of people attending our services, with a particular growth in the number of under 30s. Who says Scotland isn’t interested in Biblical Christianity?”
Church of Scotland acting principal clerk, George Whyte, commented: “It is always a matter of regret when a minster decides to leave the Church of Scotland, and we understand this is not a spur of the moment decision. We wish both ministers well, and we are grateful for the continued support of the congregations, who are remaining in the Church of Scotland.
“The Church has almost 800 ministers who serve nearly 1,400 congregations. We are working hard to find replacements for vacant charges, including those in the North West Highlands and the Western Isles. We are continuing to provide active support for the congregations, who are still carrying out the work of the Church week in and week out, until new ministers are found.”
If accepted, Rev David Macleod and Rev Roddy MacRae will bring the total number of former Church of Scotland ministers who have joined the Free Church to 10.