THE first Kirk congregation to quit over the gay clergy issue is to be taken to court after bidding to wrest control of its landmark worshipping hall.

The congregation of St George's Tron Church in Glasgow city centre have split from the main body of the Church of Scotland over gay ministers.

The Herald understands legal proceedings are inevitable over issues relating to title deeds and parish donations to the Church's administrative headquarters.

The finances of each parish are tied to the Kirk's central coffers but the custodians of the 17th century site are likely to claim their contribution is enough to earn ownership.

A source connected to 121 George Street (Kirk HQ in Edinburgh) said: "There are legal contracts involved. There are financial issues connected to congregational donations. This is not clear-cut by any means."

It comes after the Church allowed the Rev Scott Rennie, who is openly gay, to take up a post in Aberdeen. It has not ruled on whether to allow gay ministers to be newly ordained but is consulting on the issue.

In a letter in today's Herald, the Rev David D Scott, of the parish of Traprain in East Linton, said the decision by the congregation at St George's Tron Church was "premature" in the light of the fact that no ruling has yet been made.

He also described it as an "enormous breach of trust" by a minister and elders who have promised to "seek the unity and peace of this church".

A conflict in a separate denomination resulted in a lengthy court battle. The Free Church and Free Church of Scotland Continuing are understood to still be in legal dispute over ownership of property after those two groups fractured in 2000.

The Tron structure is 200 years old but the church has a Presbyterian history dating back to 1687. It recently had a £3 million refurbishment, with members of the congregation raising most of the money for the project. The congregation raises much of its £500,000 annual income.

In another letter in today's Herald, Dr Alexander Waugh wonders how the church's minister and elders could reconcile their decision with "ordinational commitments".

Letters: Page 19