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Highland area as big as Wales 'down to one Kirk minister'

An area of the Highlands and Islands greater than Wales now has only one active full-time Church of Scotland parish ­minister, it is claimed, as disquiet over the issue of gay ­ordination grows.

The resignations this week of Reverend David Macleod from Lochcarron and Reverend Roddy MacRae from Glenelg and Kintailchurch are the latest amidst concern over moves within the national church to allow the appointment of ministers in ­same-sex relationships.

Both have expressed grave concern over what they perceive as the Church of Scotland's continuing drift from the Bible.

The Free Church of Scotland is to welcome them into the fold after they applied to join it, bringing the total number of ministers who have done so to 10.

The Free Church said the latest resignations mean the Church of Scotland has only one active full-time parish minister covering Assynt, Wester Ross, Skye, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Harris.

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."

Mr Macleod said that over the past few years he had found himself to be less theologically aligned with the Kirk.

He said: "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."

Mr 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."

Doctor George Whyte, acting principal clerk of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: '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 1400 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."

He said the Church of Scotland recently re-affirmed its commitment as a national church, ensuring all the people of Scotland have access to the services the church offers.

Earlier this year it emerged that membership of the Kirk had fallen below 400,000 for the first time, although figures within the Church have dismissed any link to the gay ordination issue. There were thought to be almost 50,000 fewer Kirk members in 2013 than three years ago.

The row became a major issue for the Church after openly gay minister the Reverend Scott Rennie was appointed to Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009.

Members of the Church's General Assembly voted in May for presbyteries to debate whether congregations can opt out of its traditional stance and appoint gay ministers.

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