Evangelical ministers have seized on new figures showing divisions within presbyteries over gay clergy, claiming it is only a matter of time before a “steady” steam of people leave the Kirk.
The Rev Douglas Cranston, acting director of the Forward Together group, said the so-called mixed economy proposal would “establish a situation which is too broad for many people to stay with any kind of integrity in terms of their faith”.
Unofficial figures obtained by the Press and Journal show 30 of 45 Kirk presbyteries with voting powers have opte in favour of a policy that would give congregations the freedom to appoint a gay man or woman if they wished.
A total of 14 have rejected it, with the Presbytery of Perth voting tomorrow.
The proposal will be referred to the General Assembly in May for final approval.
Of those presbyteries in favour, the vote was 24-21 in Gordon, 29-26 in Moray, 15-11 in Sutherland, 45-29 in Aberdeen, 38-14 in Kincardine and Deeside, 13-12 in Caithness, 15-11 in Orkney and 10-9 in Shetland.
The proposal was rejected by mainly Highland presbyteries – including Lochcarron and Skye by 12 votes to two, Inverness by 49-13, Ross by 38-5, Lewis 19-0 and Buchan 40-19.
The debate was triggered by the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009.
Mr Cranston said: “This proposal is establishing a situation which is too broad for many people to stay with any kind of integrity in terms of their faith.
“That is a great sadness because a broad church should not be fundamentally dividing the Church in such a way.
“The departure will be steady and almost unnoticeable until the full effects are suddenly noticed through finance and church attendance.”
But the Rev Lindsay Biddle of gay rights Christian group Affirmation Scotland said she was “heartened” so many conservative presbyteries had backed the proposal.
“The actual head count for the popular vote is going to be different than the presbytery vote but it does not matter how close it is – if the presbytery passed it, it passed it,” she added.
Ms Biddle said gay ministers were “tired of living in the closet” and the only group that would be split by the outcome would be conservative Kirk members.
A Church of Scotland spokesman said the official outcome of the votes would be announced in the new year.