An Aberdeenshire church has voted to break away from the Scottish Episcopal Church, because of its teachings on equal marriage.
The Scottish Episcopal Church has been facing a backlash since a 2017 decision to embrace same-sex marriage, angering evangelicals and conservatives by becoming the first mainstream branch of Christianity in the UK to allow same-sex weddings
The body faced a controversial ‘punishment’ from the global Anglican Communion, while a number of local churches have moved to break away to maintain their anti-gay marriage teachings and traditions.
The fallout continued this week, as Westhill Community Church in Westhill, Aberdeenshire overwhelmingly voted to break away from the Church.
On January 17, 87 percent of parishioners voted for a break from the Scottish Episcopal Church, in a decision supported by Rev. Ian Ferguson.
Split caused by ‘direction’ of Scottish Episcopal Church, says pastor
Speaking to The Press and Journal, Rev. Ferguson said: “I’m deeply sad that this stage as arrived it breaks my heart. I have been in the SEC for a number of decades and I certainly didn’t want to be in this position.”
He added: “It’s too early to say at the moment what’s going to happen next. We’ll continue to be Orthodox Anglicans and we will not be creating another denomination.
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“We are just trying to get our heads around the vote because it’s still very fresh.”
Ferguson, one of the more vocal opponents of same-sex marriage within the church, stressed there were multiple issues behind the decision.
He said: “People have different kinds of concerns about all kinds of things, and it’s not just one thing.
“This has been an ongoing matter where a number of us throughout Scotland have been concerned about the direction the SEC has been going in.”
Ferguson had also opposed the 2018 appointment of Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney Anne Dyer, who is the church’s first female bishop and a supporter of equal marriage.
Scottish Episcopal Church ‘saddened’ by vote for split
Bishop Dyer said in a statement: “The congregation of Westhill Community Church is a much loved and valued part of our diocese, and I am deeply saddened that they have indicated that they want to pursue potential separation from the Scottish Episcopal Church.
“I will continue to work with Westhill as we begin discussions to enable this potential separation, and will continue to pray for the Rector, Vestry and congregation members in the weeks and months ahead.”
The Primus of Scotland, Bishop Mark Strange, said: “I have been informed that Westhill Community Church, Aberdeen has voted to prepare to leave the Scottish Episcopal Church, and therefore the Anglican Communion. I have received that news with great sadness and will pray that, painful though this process will be for the Church and for the local Diocese and wider community, we will all remember that we are all striving to serve as disciples of Christ.
“We will continue to pray for unity and understanding as we strive to further the mission of God to our nation and around the world.”