ONE of the world's most outspoken evangelical leaders has lent his support to a congregation facing eviction by the Church of Scotland after it quit the Kirk in protest over gay ordination.
Dr Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, has voiced support for the 500 worshippers at St George's Tron in Glasgow and their minister Dr William Philip, who faces losing his home, and has called on the Kirk to halt its legal action.
In a letter to The Herald, Dr Jensen describes the failure to reach a solution as a "shame" and urges the Kirk to mediate with the congregation, the first full body of traditionalist minister and parishioners to leave en masse over the issue of gay clergy.
Dr Jensen is a controversial and influential figure among global conservatives and has been quoted as saying that "the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary so-called heterosexual man".
He is a leading force in the conservative Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
Dr Jensen said: "Those who wish to stay true to the traditional and fundamental teachings of the Bible and the Church are not only being forced to leave denominations because of their convictions, but are being denied the capacity to continue a ministry where they have always belonged."
The call for mediation came after the Kirk issued a further eviction warning to the Glasgow congregation, with claims that it owes the parish £1 million.
The Kirk insists St George's Tron has still to pay back the loan it got to help the £3m refurbishment of the landmark church. The congregation said the figure is half of this, and it can't afford to make the payment.
Sir David McNee, a high- profile member of St George's Tron Church and former Chief Constable of City of Glasgow Police – later Strathclyde Police – said the parish would struggle to pay back the loan.
Sir David said: "St George's Tron office bearers will not be able to meet future installments, since members of the congregation can hardly be expected to provide still further finance for a building the Church of Scotland has now chosen to evict the congregation from."
A Church of Scotland spokesman said in a fresh statement: "The Church of Scotland is trying to be Christian and fair about this matter.
"We have only initiated legal action to recover our congregational records – they rightly belong to the continuing Church of Scotland congregation and not the new congregation.
"However, we hope that even now the former minister and members will reconsider their position or allow the necessary transition to proceed without recourse to further litigation."