The Church of Scotland faces widespread division after a minister announced she would use her church to bless same-sex civil partnerships.

Aberdeenshire minister the Rev Kim Cran will risk the possibility of disciplinary action in order to bless four homosexual couples, Scotsman.com has reported.

Last year the Church of Scotland’s local branches, the presbyteries, voted to reject a declaration that would allow clerics to conduct ceremonies without fear of punishment.

Traditionalists, who fear that division over homosexuality would further weaken Presbyterianism’s influence in Scotland, have condemned the move warning that it risks splitting the Church.

Rev Ian Watson, secretary of the evangelical group Forward Together, told Scotsman.com: “to go ahead and mark a civil partnership with a religious ceremony shows contempt for the mind of the Church.”

Current legislation permits designated registrars to conduct civil partnerships but specifically bars churches from hosting them.

However, some couples have approached clerics to give their union church approval.

Cran has revealed that she has been asked to bless partnerships:

“As a parish minister, I have been approached by four couples, and I have the four dates in the diary for later this year. I plan to conduct the ceremonies,” she said.

A ruling permitting clerics from blessing civil unions without punishment was rejected last year by the Church’s General Assembly.

Around 80% of Scotland’s local presbyteries rejected the ruling, paving the way for disciplinary action should a complaint be made about a church-based civil union ceremony.

Cran, the minister of the chapel of Garioch and Blairdaff, in the Presbytery of Gordon, has previously argued that same-sex couples should be allowed to receive blessing from ministers.

“My views on this matter are well known. I believe in an open and inclusive church which does not turn people away,” she said.

Legal experts have suggested that ministers can avoid being disciplined even though the Declaratory Act has been rejected.

“From the point of view of writing rules and law, the overall effect [of not passing the Act] is that there is no effect on the rules. It will still basically be up to local presbyteries to decide,” a church spokesman told Scotsman.com

Cran’s decision to go ahead with her ceremonies is likely to incite considerable debate over the issue of civil partnerships in Scotland.