A COMMUNITY church congregation threatened with eviction after quitting the main body of the Kirk over the gay ministers row has claimed the needy will suffer most if its ministry is thrown out.
The members of St George's Tron Church in Glasgow – the first whole congregation to leave the Church of Scotland over homosexual ordination – fear their unique position in the heart of the city that has allowed them to help thousands of addicts, alcoholics, asylum seekers and immigrants from all over the world will be lost if they have to leave the site.
The congregation believes it has a right to the historic church building but the Church of Scotland, which legally owns the property, said it also has a duty to provide ministry from the church – with the premises and the minister's manse required to do so.
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Terry McCutcheon, a congregation member and former drug addict, said he might not have survived the downward spiral of addiction if it had not been for the Tron.
The 38-year-old was found on the street by Tron outreach workers and now runs his own "street church" drop-in for those with social problems who might not seek formal help.
Mr McCutcheon said: "I was in the same position – I was picked up off the street 11 years ago. The work we do is vital to the city centre. I'm a Glasgow boy, and I can tell you Glasgow needs what we have to offer.
"If people come here for help and we can't help we can point them in the right direction – whether its where there's a food bank or whatever.
"The door is always open. Anyone can come in here. But at the moment we don't know where this church is going to end up."
Qualified secondary teacher Katie Piggott, 31, is the church's international helper who runs a free English-language school for around 50 students a week. She said: "Many people who have come here have left their family and their home and we have to make the transition as smooth as possible for them.
"People have said this is their family away from their own family.
"We couldn't do that without the church volunteers and moving the congregation would significantly curtail a lot of what goes on here."
The Church of Scotland has claimed the congregation still owes it around £1 million after a previous loan, some of which was used to restore the landmark building, and other debts.
Rev William Philip, the church minister, said he was dis-appointed the Kirk had rejected a handover payment of £1m.
Mr Philip – who said the Kirk had received the building free in the 1930s from the old borough – added that the prospect of having to leave the manse was a cause of distress to his wife and two teenage daughters.
He said: "It is hard for my children when they go to school and their friends are seeing headlines that they are going to be thrown out of their house. We hope that reason and good sense will prevail."
The Kirk said that it only asked for the manse back after the minister rejected a deal to lease the property in Drumbreck.
Leading Church figures said members of Glasgow Presbytery had pleaded with the Tron to stay within the Kirk.
Rev John Spiers, convener, Glasgow Presbytery Cohesive Group, said: "There is a gaping hole in our family. They chose to walk way."
Rev Dr Grant Barclay, convener of the Council of Assembly of the Church, said the Kirk has a duty to hold properties, including churches and manses, in trust for the good of the parish.
Mr Spiers and the Rev Dr James Jack, chairman of the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland, said in a letter that Glasgow Presbytery "firmly believes it is possible to build a thriving Church of Scotland congregation in the best traditions of St George's Tron, respecting the tradition of conservative evangelical preaching and compassionate service to the city centre.
"Therefore there can be no question of the General Trustees allowing this building to be appropriated by the new congregation."