The Stornoway High Church is divided with half of its congregation set to quit the Church of Scotland over plans to allow gay ministers.

In May last year, the Church of Scotland voted in favour of proposals that would allow gay men and women to be ordained. Legislation will be drafted this year.

The High Church consulted on a split following the May vote.

The entire kirk session of the church, which comprises of church elders and leaders, resigned their posts, and 200 regular members are expected to follow suit and form a separate congregation.

Until it finds a new venue, the new church named the Stornoway High Fellowship will meet at a hired hall.

Speaking on behalf of the Fellowship, the former clerk of the High Church Christopher Martin said: “Everyone is very sad at having to leave. But they feel there is no option but to leave friends and the building in which they worship in for many years.

“This has been going on for so long and the Church of Scotland was not making any inroads feel there is no option.”

In an official ballot, 236 members of the High Church voted to leave the congregation and 103 voted to remain. A further 121 did not respond.

They are objecting to the direction of the debate sparked by the appointment of openly gay Reverend Scott Rennie to Aberdeen’s Queen’s Cross Church in 2009.

Reverend Rennie’s appointment led to a two-year moratorium on new openly gay ministers.