The Church of Scotland is expecting a number of its ministers to come out as gay after last week’s historic vote to allow gay men and women to practice clergy.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (also known as the Kirk), voted 351 to 294 last week to allow openly gay men and lesbians to become ministers.

The decision has proven divisive in the Kirk, with evangelical ministers who oppose gay ordination threatening to resign.

Kirk officials claimed that a special commission into the issue of homosexuality revealed that there are approximately 40 gay ministers across Scotland. It was also said that up to 4,300 ministers, elders, deacons and key parishioners could leave the Kirk along with 100,000 parishioners over this decision.

Kirk leaders believe that now, many may come out as the ruling also decreed that gay clergy ordained before 2009 be allowed to stay in the church.

A spokesman said: “As part of the special commission report, it was estimated that the Church of Scotland had about 40 ministers who may be in that position.┬áIt is up to each individual as to how they want to proceed.”

A Highlands-based minister, Reverend Roddy MacRae, said he would be stepping down over the decision. Also, 120 Kirk leaders have signed a ‘Notice of Dissent’ over the issue.

This new tumult in the Kirk comes two years after the appointment at an Aberdeen church of the openly gay minister Scott Rennie.